You’ve got so many things to think about when you’re buying a home, especially when it comes to costs. While coming up with your down payment and closing costs tend to absorb most of a buyer’s financial headspace, there’s another major cost you should think about: real estate commission fees.
Usually, the seller pays real estate agent fees — but not always!
In this post, I’ll talk about real estate commission fees, how they work, and why you pay them. Let’s get started!
What Are Real Estate Commissions?
Real estate fees are how agents make money when helping you buy or sell your home. Unlike most jobs, real estate agents almost always work on commission. They don’t clock in and clock out and make a base wage. Their salary is dependent on whether or not a transaction is completed.
Who Pays Real Estate Agent Fees?
Who pays real estate agent fees — and how much — are sometimes negotiable depending on the market and your unique situation. If the market is competitive, buyers can offer to pay the fees for the sellers to tip the scales in their favor, or sellers can suggest it to leverage a better deal.
Vancouver also has no standard fee, so every agent and brokerage firm sets their commissions. Most commission rates are 7% for the first $100,000, then 2.5% for anything more than that. This commission gets split up 45/55% between the buyers and sellers agents, respectively, and their brokerage offices.
In Greater Vancouver, the breakdown is usually:
For example, if you’re buying a home for $600,000 and your real estate commission fees follow this structure, then:
$3,125 (100,000 x 3.125%)
$5,812.50 (500,000 x 1.1625%)
$3,875 (100,000 x 3.875%)
$6,687.50 (500,000 x 1.3375%)
$7,000 (100,000 x 7%)
$12,500 (500,000 x 2.5%)
So if you’re a seller and a buyer offers you $10,000 less but agrees to pay the real estate commission fees, you’ll actually make $9,500 on the deal.
How Do Real Estate Commissions Work?
When a seller first lists their home, they form a listing agreement with their real estate agent and agree on the fees for the seller’s and buyer’s agents and the total gross commission. This is predetermined before the buyer even gets involved. When a buyer signs a purchase and sale agreement, it solidifies how much each agent will make based on their decided commissions.
In other words, the listing Contract defines the commission percentage (ex. 3.125% and then 1.1625% for the buyer, and 3.875% and then 1.3375% for the seller). Meanwhile, the purchase and sale agreement determines the home selling price and, by extension, the amount each agent and their brokerage firms will make.
While fixed split commission fees like the example above is the most common fee structure in Vancouver, it’s not the only one. Here are two other fee structures you may be able to negotiate:
- Flat Fee Commission: Instead of agreeing to pay a percentage of the selling price, a seller can agree to pay a specific commission fee, regardless of what the home sells for. For example, if you agree to pay $20,000 (split up between both agents and their brokerage firms), you’ll pay that amount whether your home sells for $600,000 or $1,000,000, and everything under, over, and in between.
- Service Fees: While rare, some agents may agree to an hourly rate or flat fee to cover material costs, gas, and other realtor-related costs. They can accept a lower commission fee upon closing in exchange for paying these fees upfront.
What If an Agent Represents Both the Buyer and the Seller?
If an agent represents both parties (a.k.a. dual agency), they would keep the entire commission. However, this is a rarity in Vancouver because it represents a conflict of interest. When one agent holds all of the negotiating power, it’s not a guarantee that they’re acting in the best interest of their clients.
There are only three exceptions to this rule:
- The property is somewhere remote
- There’s a lack of real estate professionals where the property is located
- It’s not possible for the buyer and seller to have different agents
Why Do You Pay Real Estate Agent Fees?
As mentioned before, real agent commission fees are how agents get paid, and you get a lot for them! In addition to your agent’s knowledge and expertise, these fees typically cover:
- Listing your property
- Photography and video tours
- Time spent staging and running open houses (as a seller)
- Finding and attending open houses (as a buyer)
- Negotiating on your behalf
- Navigating all of the paperwork
- Any errors made on any paperwork
- Cost of gas, going out for food or drinks to discuss options
- And much more
What If You Decide to Buy a Home Without an Agent?
You can try to buy a home without a real estate agent, but we wouldn’t recommend it. First off, buyers don’t usually pay real estate commission fees. You can argue that a buyer indirectly pays for it because it’s part of the home’s purchase price, but without someone to negotiate on your behalf, you could end up buying the house for way more than if you had an agent.
Even if you are a good negotiator, you don’t know what you don’t know. Most real estate agents have taken part in hundreds of transactions. They know what to ask for, where there’s wiggle room, and what your rights and entitlements include. That knowledge is invaluable.
Agents also have access to the multiple listing service (MLS), which provides tons of data about homes. Some sites can give you access to basic data like listing prices and days on the market. Still, real estate agents get complete access to tons more helpful information that can factor into your asking price and contingencies (a.k.a. your terms and conditions that must be met for the transaction to close).
Real estate agents are also in charge of all things marketing. Odds are they’re experts at this process or have a network of excellent professionals, like real estate photographers, staging experts, etc., that they frequently team up with. Doing your own marketing can be stressful and time-consuming; if you’re not great at it, you risk undervaluing your home.
Also, without an agent in your corner, you’ll be liable for any mistakes you make. The real estate process is daunting by design, and between all of the paperwork and legalese, you may risk making mistakes without even knowing they’re mistakes.
Buying or Selling With Kim Lee
Now that you understand who pays real estate agent fees, you can focus on other aspects of the home buying or selling process. While no one enjoys paying fees, agents are definitely worth their commission.
If you want to learn more about real estate agent fees or how we can help you buy or sell your next home, send us a message!