Editor’s note: This month, Inman News is focusing coverage on the issue of compensation in the real estate industry. Share your views: Click here for more details.


With all apologies to vegans and commission surgeons, I love going into full-service butcher shops.

To begin with, the butcher is a seasoned professional who is able to discuss not only all cuts of meat, but how to prepare them. If I want a piece of meat cut a certain way, the butcher obliges. And if only a half pound of ground meat or two sausages are needed, he’ll gladly ring it up. It’s also nice to find choice and prime cuts of meat (as well as free-range poultry) that are rarely available in the supermarkets.

Do we pay more for a prime cut of meat?

Of course we do, and that is expected. But remember, I can also buy a scoop of ground meat or a single chicken breast without ringing a bell at the supermarket meat counter and waiting for an attendant to break open packages to repackage my smaller needs. In the Krogers and Safeways and Piggly Wigglys across the country, we generally buy meats pre-packaged (or repackaged, as occasionally happens).

Real estate services aren’t much different, no matter how we slice, dice and digest the different commission models.

To begin with, the 6 percent commission tradition (and that’s all it is) is a floater that may stick if market conditions warrant.

In our San Diego real estate market, I have seen 1 percent sales commissions (think single sausage) during the roaring seller’s market, and everything up to 7-plus percent when buyers are king. It’s also a free market where both home sellers and buyers can choose whatever cut or slice of service they want — along with agent expertise.

Want a multiple listing service-only listing? It’s there, for a prepaid price. Want MLS exposure and signs? Also available for prepaid prices. Want all of that plus advertising, open houses, broker open houses, errors and omissions insurance, risk management, blog articles and that ultimate full-service clause: "agent-to-accompany-on-all-showings"? Available, too. Want a contingency listing, where the agent is paid only if the home sells? Commonly available.

Granted, there are few standalone butcher shops these days, and most full-service butchers are now housed in upscale grocery markets.

But somewhere in this butcher-shop analogy is a truth regarding the raging arguments about real estate commissions: There’s room for all. Some consumers shop price only. Some want no fat, while others demand prime service — and are willing to pay for it.

As for me, I still have an affection for the full-service butcher who knows my name, is helpful at refining my choices, skillful at trimming the fat, and knows how to expertly package the purchase.

Roberta Murphy is a Realtor for San Diego Previews in Carlsbad, Calif.


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