Sometime this month I will be receiving my first three-digit commission check.
It is my reward for helping a buyer find a great deal on a home. The home was slightly overpriced on our MLS, but my client got it at a bargain price. That means he will pay very little for it, and the payout percentage offered to the buyer’s agent is the smallest I have ever seen.
I have heard of the three-digit commissions but I have not yet seen my own name on one of the checks.
There doesn’t seem to be a relationship between the pay and the amount of work in a single real estate transaction. I showed my buyer several properties before he decided to make an offer, and I showed the unit that he made the offer on three times. One of those times my showing interrupted a brief visit from my brother.
I know I made more than minimum wage and that some people work a full 40-hour week for less. But if it were not for the satisfaction I got from helping a buyer get a bargain, I would be pretty frustrated. I take more risks than someone who works for someone else, and I generally work more than 40 hours a week.
There have been a couple of articles about commissions lately on Inman News. I am not sure I will ever fully understand why the pay we get when working with buyers is based upon how much money they spend instead of on how much time we spend with them and for our expertise, skill and experience.
An agent gets paid the same way — on the basis of property value — on her first transaction and on her last one, even after decades of experience. I have watched my income go down with home values even as I gain more experience and skill. It does make me my question my business choices and acumen.
Earlier this week I sold a home that was priced slightly above the local median home price for my area. The payout for the buyer’s agent was below average, but the amount of effort I put into it was above average, including parts of my holiday weekend. I know from experience that I could have put just as much or more work into it and have ended up with nothing to show for it.
While I find both of these sales personally rewarding, together they are barely enough to pay the bills for one month.
What could I have done for a better outcome? The advice that’s given to agents always suggests that it is up to us to make money, and that if we are not making enough it is our own fault.
Maybe it is because both buyers found me through my blog, which is social media. Maybe if I had found them through cold calling or an open house they would have spent millions.
There are a couple of things I have learned during my life as a Realtor. One is that hard work does not always result in more money and that there is an element of luck, even in sales. It is possible to do all the right things and have the home burn to the ground before the closing or have a buyer who loses his or her job before the final underwriting approval on the mortgage.
I also know that we are more likely to get paid by working than by doing nothing and that there is always something new to learn or to try, and that sometimes luck can be a good thing and prospecting should never stop. There are always people who can make a living and more by selling real estate, and there is always a much larger group of people who fail to make a living at it. We pay attention only to those who are successful, and we ignore the rest.
If you receive commissions this month, congratulations. You can say that it is all because of your real estate selling skills, or you can acknowledge that you worked hard, did all the right things and were lucky.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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