Many agents who entertain the idea of cutting commission think, “Well, half a loaf is better than no loaf.” Husband-and-wife duo Carolyn and Paul Zweben completely disagree. Here are six pointers that’ll help you nix that thinking and win the full commission.
It might be hard to argue with that logic, particularly if the choice is between a full loaf and four-fifths or three-quarters of a loaf, rather than half — which is often the case.
But Rand, a managing partner at Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty, recently took the stage with a husband-and-wife agent team at Inman Connect to hash out the best ways to bag the full loaf.
Here are six pointers that Rand and Carolyn and Paul Zweben of Douglass Elliman had to share on how agents can defend their commission rates.
1. Give ’em the silent treatment
It can work with obnoxious children. So why not with cost-conscious sellers?
When a seller asks for a discount, try keeping mum. “Silence is excellent when it comes to negotiating,” Paul said.
Deploy the silent treatment, and you might find that the commission stingy sellers will cave rather quickly — apparently willing to trade potential commission savings for a merciful end to an awkward silence.
Remember the old adage about samurai in the rain, Rand said: “The first to move betrays weakness.”
2. Cast a commission discount for a listing agent as a deterrent to buyer’s agents
When Carolyn is asked to come down from her typical rate, she makes a habit of presenting the seller with all the comparable listings that their home would compete against.
She will then explain that, should she cut her commission, the share of her commission offered to buyers’ brokers for bringing a buyer to a sale would fall below a competitive level. That could cause buyers’ brokers to favor similar listings that promise them higher commissions over the seller’s home, she explains.
“Talk about it from the perspective of incentivizing buyers’ agents to visit the property,” she said.
The assumption baked into her suggestion is that listing brokers must always split their commission 50-50 with buyer’s brokers. That’s not necessarily the case, however.
For example, a listing broker could offer the going rate to buyer’s brokers — say 3 percent — while reducing the fee they pocket from the deal, say, from 3 percent to 2.5 percent.
Many low-fee brokerages make a habit of doing this, so they can offer commission savings (though, by no means, savings overall — low-fee agents may or may not negotiate poorly) without potentially motivating buyers’ brokers to steer their clients away from the low-fee brokerages’s listings.
3. Pretend the seller is on a date with someone else
Rand met his wife when she was on a date with someone else, he explained, eliciting chuckles from the crowd. When he realized this, he decided not to cramp his competitor’s style.
But he wasn’t about to throw in the towel.
“Listen I’m going to leave,” he said, he told his future bride. “But I want you to know that I want my night.”
He apparently did, and marriage apparently followed.
So what’s the real estate takeaway here?
Say a seller has unrealistic expectations about how much they can net from a transaction — reflected, perhaps, by a demand for a steep commission discount and insistence on a list price for above market value — and say this seller mentions that there are other agents who are ready to accommodate both these demands.
Rand suggested that agents might want to use the technique he used to hook his mate.
“You should hire someone to do it,” Rand said an agent could tell a seller who’s mentioned she has other agents waiting in the wings. “But if it doesn’t work, I want to be the guy that you call in six months.”
4. Explain why you deserve more than discounters
If a listing agent under pressure to cut their rate is told about other agents who are willing to do so, Carolyn advised, where appropriate, pointing out aspects of your service that your competitor lacks.
For example, if your main competition is a team, and that team’s leader delegates many tasks to underlings, whereas you or your team does not, bring it up, Carolyn said.
5. Pre-print your commission rate in your listing agreement
When an agent lays down their listing agreement on the living room table, the line stating the commission rate should not be blank, Rand advised. It should be pre-printed with your rate.
While commissions can be negotiable, agents are perfectly within their rights to represent their commissions as set in stone, Rand said.
6. Make a connection ASAP
Agents should forge a connection with prospective clients as soon as they enter a home, according to Carolyn. It can be anything. “Whether that’s a kid connection, whether it’s a hair connection for women, you know, whatever it is,” she said.
If you build that rapport, Carolyn offered, “that’s half the battle.”
“People feel less inclined to try to take your money when they like you,” she noted.
In the end, handling discount requests comes down to confidence, according to Paul.
“Go in, believe in yourself, and be prepared to walk away if you have to,” he said.