Negotiating Realtor Fees: 11 Expert Tips to Reduce Commission

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By Jamie Ayers & Steve Nicastro Updated January 8, 2024

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Negotiating a lower realtor commission – which currently averages 5.49% nationwide - can lead to big savings. 

Even trimming a small percentage off the agent's fee can have an impact. For example, reducing a realtor's commission from 6% to 5.5% on a $500,000 home sale would save you $2,500.

Unfortunately, negotiating a lower commission with a real estate agent isn't always easy. Only about 22% of recent home sellers discussed commission rates with their agent and managed to negotiate a reduced fee. [1]

This shows that while it's possible, it requires a well-planned approach and some negotiating skills to succeed. 

To help you navigate this process, we've compiled 11 expert tips to make negotiating more manageable.

One effective strategy to reduce realtor commissions is to use a service that negotiates commission rates for you. 

For example, Clever Real Estate can connect you to experienced realtors from well-known agencies like Keller Williams and RE/MAX. You'll get the expertise of top agents while paying only a 1.5% listing fee, about half the standard rate.

💰 Get a 1.5% listing fee — no negotiating required

11 steps to negotiate realtor fees

Jump to a negotiating tip

  1. Evaluate your negotiating power
  2. Find your area's average commission rate
  3. Shop around for the best value
  4. Make your house easier to sell
  5. Create value for the agent
  6. Offer a competitive buyer’s agent fee
  7. Work with an experienced pro
  8. Avoid unnecessary fees
  9. Sell and buy with the same agent
  10. Explore dual agency
  11. Be prepared to walk away

1. Determine your negotiating power with market analysis

In the current housing market, with higher interest rates and fewer active buyers and sellers, realtors may be more open to negotiating commissions. 

Joanne Cleaver, a former real estate editor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the author of a book on negotiating realtor commissions, emphasizes the importance of applying market trends to evaluate agent compensation. 

"Start by estimating how long selling might take (shorter for starter homes, longer for luxury properties), then calculate the typical commission an agent would earn and break it down into an hourly rate," she says. 

For example, a house expected to sell in two weeks might only take a realtor 30 to 40 hours of work. Earning a commission of $20,000 would equal an hourly rate of $500 to $667. 

This calculation helps you determine a fair fee to propose to your agent, relative to the standard commission. 

Factors impacting your negotiating power

Your home’s value. Higher-priced homes, especially in the luxury market, often attract lower commission rates without the need for negotiation. This is because even a smaller percentage of a high-value property can yield a substantial commission.  

A small slice of a $1 million pie could be a lot bigger than a large slice of a $350,000 pie — but both may take the same amount of time and effort to sell. Homes with a lower market value might not offer as much flexibility in rate negotiation.

Your home’s desirability. The appeal and condition of your home can influence an agent's willingness to negotiate their commission. 

If your home is desirable – well-maintained, in a prime location, or featuring popular amenities – agents might be more inclined to lower their rates to secure your listing. 

Homes that present challenges in selling, such as needing significant repairs or having unique features that might not appeal to the general market, could mean agents are less open to reducing their fees.

Your local real estate market. The state of your local real estate market is another crucial factor. In a seller's market, agents might be more flexible with their commission rates. The quick turnover of properties means they can afford to accept a lower rate for a faster sale. 

"For example, if properties in your area are selling rapidly, often within 30 days, the broker's marketing expenses are likely lower, which could be a point for negotiation," says Michael J. Vestuto, a seasoned real estate professional based in Las Vegas, NV. 

In slower markets, agents may reduce their rates to attract scarce business.

The sale season. The time of year you choose to sell your home can also impact your ability to negotiate commission rates. 

During peak selling seasons, when the market is bustling with activity, agents might have less incentive to lower their rates. During slower periods or in markets with low inventory, agents may be more open to negotiation to secure any available listings.

2. Know the average commission rate in your area

Real estate commissions can vary by state, city, and neighborhood. What's reasonable or a good value in one market may seem expensive in another. 

A clear understanding of the local average commission rate provides a solid foundation for your negotiations. This knowledge ensures that your discussions with potential agents are grounded in the realities of your local market, leading to more reasonable and agreeable terms.

» Find the average commission rate in your state

3. Shop around for the best possible value

The real estate market is filled with a diverse range of agents and brokerages, each offering unique pricing and service models. 

While some are firm on commission rates, others may be more flexible, adjusting their fees and services to better align with your specific requirements.

Consider exploring discount brokerages or agent matching services, which can provide built-in commission savings without negotiating. However, be mindful of potential differences in service quality.

Do your homework to find the right agent or service for you. Interviewing at least two to three agents or brokerages can help you gauge who offers the best combination of cost-effectiveness and quality service, ensuring you find the right fit.

💰 Sell with a top agent, save thousands!

Want to find a top local agent without overpaying on realtor fees? Clever negotiates 1.5% listing fees with top-rated realtors from name-brand conventional brokerages like Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and Berkshire Hathaway.

Get guaranteed full service for half the rate these agents typically charge. Schedule a free, no obligation consultation with a top local agent today!

4. Invest in your home to improve its appeal

Consider investing in pre-listing improvements to make your home more attractive to buyers. Simple enhancements like repainting, landscaping, or carpet cleaning can boost your home's appeal. 

By investing in these upgrades, you not only make your agent's job easier but also potentially increase your home's value. In return, your agent might be more inclined to negotiate a lower commission rate.

For a more comprehensive approach, consider paying for a pre-listing inspection before making any improvements. Identifying and addressing potential issues early can streamline the selling process and prevent delays or complications during negotiations.

5. Create value for the agent

Selling a house involves more than just listing it; agents invest time and often cover upfront costs like professional photography and marketing. When discussing commission rates, consider how you might help reduce these costs or add value in other ways.

For example, if you're indifferent to hosting open houses or creating 3D tours, let your agent know. Or, if you have connections, like a professional photographer friend willing to take listing photos, this could be a valuable contribution.

Keep in mind that the agent is looking to sell your home fast and for the best possible price. Opting out of essential services to cut costs might backfire, making them reconsider the partnership. It's about finding a balance that benefits both you and your agent.

6. Offer a competitive buyer's agent fee

A crucial aspect of selling your home quickly and at a desirable price is offering a fair commission to the buyer's agent. In most markets, that means offering to pay a 2.5 – 3% commission. 

It's estimated that around 90% of home buyers work with an agent. If the commission offered to the buyer's agent is not competitive, there's a risk that your home might be overlooked or even avoided. Although it's technically against the rules, some buyer's agents might focus on homes with better commissions.

To maximize your home's appeal and maintain a strong negotiating position on commission rates, it's wise to offer a fair commission to the buyer's agent.

Can you avoid paying a buyer's agent?

To bypass the buyer's agent fee, you can target unrepresented buyers. This scenario might occur if you already have a potential buyer in your network, encounter an interested party through social media, or find a buyer through other direct channels.

Another option is to consider selling to a company that buys houses for cash. These buyers don't need any real estate agent involvement, eliminating both listing agent and buyer's agent fees.

However, be aware that cash home buyers often propose lower purchase prices compared to the traditional market. Weigh the potential savings in commission versus a lower offer price to see if this route aligns with your goals. 

7. Negotiate with an established agent

Opting for newer agents, those with less than two years of experience, might not always be the most strategic choice.

Contrary to common assumptions, newer agents don't necessarily charge less. They often face higher brokerage fees and closer supervision, which can limit their flexibility in offering competitive commission rates, says Vestuto, the Las Vegas real estate professional.

"More established agents with less overhead and brokerage fees might be more flexible with negotiating commission rates," he says. 

Additionally, the limited experience of newer agents can be a big disadvantage. They might not have the comprehensive market knowledge, negotiation expertise, and established track record that seasoned realtors offer.

8. Avoid paying junk fees

Be vigilant about paying "junk fees" such as broker, administrative, or transaction fees, says Vestuto. They are added on top of the commission and can increase the total cost of selling your home. 

These types of fees are not mandatory and can often be negotiated. Here are some tips to avoid paying these fees. 

  • Ask questions in the interview. Don’t hesitate to ask why each fee is being charged and how it contributes to the sale of your home.
  • Negotiate. Remember, every aspect of the realtor's fee structure is open for discussion. If a fee seems unreasonable or unclear, discuss it with your agent or their broker.
  • Compare agents. When interviewing agents, ask about all potential fees. Choose an agent who is transparent about not only their commission rate, but all fees charged. 
  • Seek legal advice. If you're unsure about any fees, consider consulting a real estate attorney for clarification.
Working with a discount real estate brokerage like Clever Real Estate can save you all this work. Clever carefully selects agents based on their performance and commitment to transparency, ensuring you won't face hidden or excessive fees. 

Clever has also successfully negotiated a competitive 1.5% listing fee with top-rated realtors, offering you big savings without compromising on service quality.

» Find top local realtors

9. Sell and buy with one agent

Engaging the same agent for both selling your current home and buying a new one can be a smart negotiation tactic. This dual arrangement presents a more lucrative opportunity for the agent, as it doubles their potential earnings from you as a client.

In such scenarios, agents are often more open to discussing reduced commission rates. While they might accept a lower percentage for the sale of your home, the combined income from both transactions can still result in a large fee for them.

Finally, this approach also offers the convenience of working with a single professional who becomes deeply familiar with your preferences and needs. It can be a win-win situation for both the agent and their client. 

10. Explore dual agency

Dual agency, where one agent represents both the seller and the buyer in a transaction, can lead to reduced commission rates. In this setup, the agent earns the entire commission, incentivizing them to offer a lower combined rate.

This situation often arises when a seller finds a buyer independently or when a buyer without representation shows interest in your property. By handling both sides of the deal, the agent can streamline the process, potentially reducing costs.

However, dual agency comes with its own set of challenges, including potential conflicts of interest, as the agent must balance the needs of both parties. It's crucial to understand these risks, and it's worth noting that dual agency is not permitted in some states due to these complexities.

For more detailed information on dual agency and its implications, research and understand the specific regulations and guidelines in your state.

» LEARN: Everything you need to know about dual agency

11. Be prepared to walk away (if necessary)

The goal of any negotiation is to reach a mutually agreeable outcome that benefits all parties involved. However, it's equally important to be prepared to walk away if the terms don't meet your needs or expectations.

Before setting firm boundaries or deal-breakers, ensure you're prepared to end negotiations if those lines get crossed. A bluff can backfire, leading the other party to push harder, and diminish your chances of reaching a satisfactory agreement.

Being able to walk away gives you a bit of an edge in negotiations. But, use this power wisely and with a bit of strategy. You've got to stand your ground on what you need, but also be ready to bend a little so everyone ends up happy.

How to ask a realtor to reduce commission

Discussing commission rates with your realtor can be a delicate matter. It's crucial to approach this conversation with the right timing, respect, and understanding. 

Here's how to effectively negotiate realtor fees while maintaining a professional relationship. 

Know the right time to negotiate. Timing is everything. Start the conversation about commission before signing any listing agreement. 

Typically, commission discussion happens either during your initial contact, an in-person meeting at your property, or after receiving a comparative market analysis (CMA) report. Wait for the agent to bring up the topic of fees, then get into the negotiations.

Maintain professionalism. Approach the conversation with respect and courtesy. Remember, you're dealing with a professional, so try to be polite and considerate in your request.

Acknowledge the agent's value. Realtors often incur out-of-pocket expenses for the services they provide and rely on commissions as their primary income. Recognize the value and effort they bring to the table, so they don't feel undervalued.

Share your circumstances. Be transparent about your financial situation and why a commission reduction would be beneficial. For example, if you need extra funds for a down payment on your next home, explain how a lower commission could help meet your financial objectives.

Be prepared for compromise. Enter the negotiation with an open mind and be ready to find a middle ground. While you might not get everything you ask for, a willingness to compromise can lead to a good deal for both parties.

Who pays realtor fees?

Sellers typically cover realtor fees for both their agent and the buyer's agent.

The current average realtor commission is 5.49%, split almost evenly between the listing agent (2.72%) and the buyer’s agent (2.65%). However, the total rate can vary between 5% and 6%, depending on market conditions and the property's location.

The commissions for both agents are usually included in the home's final sale price. For example, on a $500,000 home with a 5% total commission rate, the seller would pay the agents a total of $25,000 from the sale proceeds at closing.

Realtor commission changes may be coming

Currently, sellers typically pay commissions for both their agent and the buyer's agent.

However, a November 2023 lawsuit could change this practice. The lawsuit found the National Association of Realtors (NAR), Homeservices of America, and Keller Williams Realty guilty of misleading sellers into paying high commissions.

The lawsuit argued that the current system places the financial burden of the buyer's agent commission on sellers, potentially against their interests. The ruling suggests a possible shift to buyers paying their agents' commissions. 

No immediate changes are expected. We'll continue to monitor the situation and provide updates.

» READ MORE: Backgrounder Q&A: National Association of REALTORS

How much can I save by negotiating realtor commission?

Commission reductionSavings
.25%$1,250
.50%$2,500
.75%$3,750
1.0%$5,000
$500,000 home sale price example

Even a 0.25 to .50% reduction in your realtor's commission rate can translate into thousands of dollars of savings, so it's worthwhile to try to negotiate. 

For example, reducing the total commission down from 5.50% to 5.00% on a $500,000 home sale would save you $2,500

Most agents have conversations about compensation with their clients and are open to negotiating. 

Additionally, discount services like Clever and Redfin, with built-in low rates, are continuing to gain market share and reshape consumer expectations about what a realtor’s services should cost. Clever, for example, offers a 1.5% listing fee.

As a result, many agents and brokers are becoming increasingly flexible on pricing and service structures — particularly when looking to attract sellers with desirable properties in high-demand markets.

Try our calculator to see how much you could save by paying a lower realtor commission.

FAQ

What percentage do most realtors charge?

The average real estate commission is between 5–6%, with half going to the seller's agent and half to the buyer's agent. However, real estate commission fees vary by state. Find average commission rates in your state here!

Can you negotiate real estate commission fees?

Yes, realtor commission fees are negotiable. However, your ability to negotiate realtor commission depends on a lot of factors, including where you live and how easy it will be to sell your home.

What is the average real estate commission rate?

The national average realtor commission is 5.37%. It's typically divided between the listing agent (2.72%) and the buyer’s agent (2.65%). However, the total rate can vary from 5% to 6%, depending on factors like the property's location and condition.

What is the lowest commission a realtor will accept?

The lowest commission a realtor will accept depends on the individual agent and their brokerage's policies. However, some discount real estate brokers guarantee a listing fee as low as 1.5%.

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Article Sources

[1] National Association of Realtors – "Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report". Pages 131. Updated 2023.

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