Despite the title of Robert Irwin’s new book, real estate agents have nothing to fear from “Sell Your Home and Save Thousands on the Commission.” At first I thought it was about how to sell a home without a real estate agent. Wrong! Then I thought it was about how to cut the realty agent’s sales commission when listing a home for sale. Wrong again.
This is actually a very educational book for home sellers about how real estate sales agents earn their sales commissions. Prolific real estate author Robert Irwin, who has written about 50 mostly superb real estate books, explains how typical residential sales commissions are split among the listing brokerage and the selling brokerage, and the individual listing and buyer’s agents. Most home sellers are not aware of these realities.
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He then explains the possible adverse consequences for home sellers who try to negotiate downward the customary sales commission rate, typically around 6 percent of the home’s sales price in most communities.
Irwin goes into considerable detail to emphasize that cutting a listing commission to perhaps 4 percent or 5 percent of the sales price often results in no sale because most homes are sold by buyer’s agents, not the listing agent. Even if the home appears in the local MLS (multiple listing service), he explains that when a buyer’s agent sees only a 2 percent or 2.5 percent sales commission to that agent, the home will be shown last, or maybe not at all, to prospective buyers.
One topic Irwin comes down especially hard on is the issue of “administrative fees” up to $500, which some brokerages charge home sellers on top of the sales commission. The author explains the seller’s sales commission is adequate compensation, and the brokerage owner should not attempt to extract any additional fees from sellers. I couldn’t agree more.
The book contains one chapter about selling a house or condo without a listing agent. But realty agents have nothing to fear because Irwin writes in vague generalities about all the detail work involved in home sales without enough specifics to enable a homeowner to make a successful sale without professional help.
The author tackles the issue of so-called discount brokers head on. He emphasizes that discount brokers, who charge either a flat fee or a greatly reduced sales commission, usually provide less than full service to their home sellers. For the few home sellers who are willing to perform some sales tasks, such as holding open houses for buyers, this method might work. But Irwin is obviously lukewarm about listing a home with a discount broker.
This new book is especially strong about how home sellers should interview prospective agents to get their 90-day listings. Irwin suggests questions such as how long have you been selling real estate, were you active all that time, what is your commission split with your broker (the higher the percentage the more successful the agent, Irwin says), and what are the most recent homes you have sold?
Chapter topics include “Are You Paying Too High a Commission When You Sell Your Home?” “Following the Money Trail”; “Know What You Want from Your Agent”; “Discount Agents”; “Negotiating Rebates and Reduced Commissions”; “What About a Flat Fee?” “Basing the Commission Rate on the Sale Price”; “Basing the Commission on the Speed of Sale”; “Nine Strategies for Helping Your Agent”; “Paying Just for Services Performed”; “Selling on Your Own”; “Determining the Worth of Your Home”; and “Reducing Your Closing Costs.”
This is an excellent primer for home sellers who want to thoroughly understand the pros and cons of negotiating sales commissions, especially the drawbacks of commission cutting. The author provides an unbiased view of why most home sellers need a professional listing agent and how to get top-quality service from that agent. On my scale of one to 10, this excellent new book rates a solid 10.
“Sell Your Home and Save Thousands on the Commission,” by Robert Irwin (John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, NJ), 2004, $19.95, 215 pages; available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and www.amazon.com.
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