Aaron Wittenstein sometimes cuts his commission by a quarter or more if a seller client brings an unrepresented buyer to the closing table.
- Agents who decline to discount their commission if a seller client finds an unrepresented buyer tell clients such transactions create extra work.
- Others will agree to discount, but sometimes only if strict conditions are met.
“The way that I look at it is they should be compensated as the buyer’s agent because they did their job,” said the White Plains, New York-based Realtor.
Wittenstein doesn’t have to split his commission with a buyer’s agent in such deals. So even after discounting, he can walk away with 50 percent more than if the buyer had worked with a separate real estate agent.
But some agents disapprove of this approach. They say a transaction involving an unrepresented buyer comes with extra work, meriting twice the pay of a normal deal (which they receive if they keep their rate intact).
Other agents will agree to a discount, but only under certain conditions.
When a seller procures an unrepresented buyer, the scenario usually plays out in one of two ways:
- In states where the arrangement is legal, the listing agent may represent both the seller and the buyer.
- The buyer remains unrepresented and uses an attorney to perform some tasks that would normally be handled by a buyer’s agent.
Double the work
Neither situation entitles a seller to a reduced rate, some agents say.
Their job is to close a transaction, not attract a buyer, they say.
And even if they don’t represent a buyer found by a seller client, they’ll still have to do some, or all, of the work of a buyer’s agent — such as investing more time to handle inspection issues and communicating with loan officers and attorneys.
Agents can use this argument to quash the discount request before or after signing a seller client. If the seller has already contractually agreed to pay a certain amount, they can also cite the agreement as a last resort.
Lee Arnold, a San Marcos, California-based broker-owner, said on the Facebook Group Inman Coast to Coast that he will tell sellers, “Considering I will do double the work, I’ll need to be paid for the effort and liability of handling both sides.”
The case for discounting
But other listing agents are willing to bend.
Even if they represent the buyer found by a seller client, they’ll lower their rate — perhaps charging a 4 percent or 4.5 percent commission, rather than 6 percent.
Questions of fairness aside, expressing an openness to the arrangement may help agents win new business.
“It almost never happens anyway, but it’s a way to make them feel like they are negotiating a winning deal,” said Joe Phair, an Escondido, California-based associate broker, in the real estate Facebook group Lead Gen Scripts and Objections.
If agents choose to discount, they can agree to the arrangement with no strings attached.
Or they can stipulate some conditions, such as the following:
1. Only within a certain time frame
Some agents offer a time window for sellers to drum up a buyer in exchange for a discount. But when the window closes, sellers must pay the agreed-upon commission, even if they find a buyer.
“If they insist on the exclusion [in a listing contract that entitles a seller to a discount for finding a buyer], then there’s got to be some sort of time limit,” argues Phil Faranda, a Briarcliff Manor, New York-based broker-owner.
2. Only if the buyer is on a list
“Provide me with a list of names and numbers before the listing is active,” Tim Hawley, a Springfield, Missouri-based agent, tells some sellers. “If any of those become the buyer, I will lower the buyer side commission by 25 percent.”
3. Only if the buyer is perfect
Some agents will agree to a discount, but only if the seller has found a dream buyer.
“If you bring a fully pre-approved buyer who will purchase your house at full price without any contingencies, including inspections, we can work something out,” Lehighton, Pennsylvania-based Realtor Mary Zellner Rogal will say.
4. Only if the seller does extra work
“If he finds the [buyer,] I back off and wait. I don’t get involved. He has to negotiate, run the escrow,” said San Diego-based broker Jeremy Katz. “It’s less work: my marketing didn’t work and his did.”