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Beyond the Headlines: Understanding How Proposed Changes in Real Estate Commissions Will Actually Impact You as a Buyer or Seller!

By now you have probably heard the news that there are changes coming in terms of how real estate commissions are paid.

This might sound exciting and like a potential game-changer for you as a home seller or buyer, with headlines proclaiming things like:

  • “Real estate commissions are being slashed!”

  • “Selling your house will now be less expensive!”

  • “No more paying 6% to real estate agents!”

But you are also probably not sure exactly what it all means, how it will work, how you will benefit from the changes, and what it will all mean for you throughout home buying and/or selling transactions.

Unfortunately, even if you ask some of the most informed agents on the planet, you probably are not going to get many answers, and if you do you may get somewhat different answers. It is not because agents don’t want to answer your questions; it is because they don’t even know exactly how the changes are going to work.

The settlement happened seemingly overnight. There was no advance warning or discussion with agents. They found out by reading a bunch of headlines you probably saw at the same time they did.

On top of that, most of the headlines are misleading, because nobody knows exactly how things are going to play out. Any claims that the media makes that commissions will be cut in half, or any specific number of dollars will be saved by consumers, remains to be seen. The changes might reduce commissions. On the other hand, they could increase them. As with many things the government or court system touches, there is always the possibility that it could create more issues than it solves.

But, for the time being, as much as you might want or expect your local agent to be able to give you specifics, please understand that they can only share how they and their broker are conducting business. For starters, it is a proposed settlement, not yet accepted by the courts, and if it is approved, the changes won’t start until July.

Here Is What Should Matter to Buyers and Sellers in a Nutshell!

Unless you are in the real estate business, you probably have no desire to read through all of the court documents or proposed settlement. You just want to know what changes will possibly impact you. So here is an excerpt from a National Association of REALTORS® press release, highlighting the changes that will most likely affect you:

“In addition to the financial payment, NAR has agreed to put in place a new MLS rule prohibiting offers of broker compensation on the MLS. This would mean that offers of broker compensation could not be communicated via the MLS, but they could continue to be an option consumers can pursue off-MLS through negotiation and consultation with real estate professionals. Offers of compensation help make professional representation more accessible, decrease costs for home buyers to secure these services, increase fair housing opportunities, and increase the potential buyer pool for sellers. They are also consistent with the real estate laws in the many states that expressly authorize them.

Further, NAR has agreed to enact a new rule that would require MLS participants working with buyers to enter into written agreements with their buyers. NAR continues, as it has done for years, to encourage its members to use buyer brokerage agreements that help consumers understand exactly what services and value will be provided, and for how much. These changes will go into effect in mid-July 2024.”

Again, unless you are in the real estate business, that may not even be all that clear of an explanation. So to put it in simpler terms:

  • Sellers and their agents won’t be allowed to offer a commission to buyers’ agents within their listing.

  • However, that doesn’t mean that a seller is not allowed to pay buyers’ agents a commission. It just can’t be published in the listing.

  • And buyers will now be required to sign a written agreement (Buyer's Representation Agreement) with an agent in order to work with them, which will likely require them to agree to a certain amount of compensation. That doesn’t necessarily mean the compensation has to be paid out of the buyers’ pocket; it could be an agreed upon amount that will be negotiated into the purchase price paid for through the proceeds of the sale.

Basically, it allows sellers to choose to not offer or agree to pay a commission to buyers’ agents when they list their house for sale, and allows buyers to choose to not work with a buyers’ agent when they buy, in hopes of saving money. But before you do that, there are some things you will want to keep in mind.

Here Are Some Things to Keep in Mind if You Are Selling a House…

  • It doesn’t mean that you can’t offer a commission to buyers’ agents.

  • Although you can’t publish how much you are willing to offer or agree to on your listing, in most cases, it will still benefit sellers to offer and be willing to offer commissions to buyers’ agents in order to get the most exposure for their home, and ultimately the best offers possible.

  • There is a good chance that buyer agent commissions will likely still be paid through the proceeds of the sale, as they have been for many years.

  • If you are selling to a buyer who doesn’t have an agent representing them, they will likely expect you to drop your price accordingly since you are not paying another agent. In other words, if your house was worth $300,000, and buyers perceive that a buyers’ agent commission would have been 3% — even though it rarely was in reality… but that is what the public and media have often perceived it to be — then the buyer will want a $9,000 reduction on your price below what they already want to negotiate as the fair market value.

  • There could be more risk and lawsuits that could directly involve you and your property. Dual agency, which is when an agent represents both the buyer and the seller, is one of the leading causes of lawsuits in the industry. This new way of doing business with dual agency could create a lot more situations where consumers don’t have their own independent representation, which could lead to either the buyer or seller feeling like their interests weren’t entirely represented. Of note, dual agency is not allowed in Texas. Instead a broker must act as an Intermediary. According to TREC, an intermediary is a broker who negotiates a real estate transaction between two parties when a broker, or a sales agent sponsored by the broker, has obtained written consent from the parties to represent both the buyer and the seller. Ask for a detailed explanation of how either of these would work in your real estate transaction and be sure you get everything in writing to protect you throughout the process.

Here Are Some Things to Keep in Mind if You Are Buying a House…

  • The way buyers’ agents have been paid is a result of originally trying to protect buyers decades ago. Years ago buyers didn’t have an agent dedicated to representing their interests, and were often unaware that the seller’s agent didn’t actually represent their interests as well. So rules and laws were passed to change that, and listing agents were compelled to offer buyers agents a percentage of the commission if they represented a buyer on a house they were listing. This gave buyers more choice in who represented them, and the ability to compensate their agent without having to pay out of pocket. So, for many buyers, this is not that great of a change for you unless you cherish the idea of representing yourself and figuring out how to do everything that needs to get done, or just trusting that the seller’s agent will be able to truly represent your best interests as well as the seller.

  • You will now have to choose a buyer’s agent and sign an agreement with them. This has always been an option, and it could be argued that it should always have been required, but most buyers’ agents didn’t want to seem too pushy or aggressive, so they never asked for one. Now you will need to sign a Buyer's Representation Agreement to work with them.

  • Don’t expect agents to be willing or able to work for a much lower commission than they have been working for in the past. According to recent data from the National Association of REALTORS®, the average agent earns between $44,951 and $58,528. And they work long and hard to even earn that much. There is rarely a day off, let alone a vacation, and they easily work more than 40 hours per week. Will you be able to find an agent who will work for lower rates? Perhaps. But as is the case in any industry, sometimes going with the lowest cost option ends up costing you more in the end.

  • While you may expect sellers to drop their price because they don’t have to pay a buyers’ agent, don’t be surprised if they dig in their heels and expect to get as much or more than similar houses have sold for recently. They will still be basing the market value of their house off of data that had buyer agent commissions factored in.

  • If you go it alone, go in knowing that finding the right house, understanding market values, negotiating the best deals, and handling everything involved throughout the process from contract to closing is not as easy as it may sound. There is more to buying a house than just finding it online, making an offer, and then going to a closing. You will have to do the work your agent would have done, and know what needs to be done in the first place. The sellers’ agent won’t be doing the work of the non-existent buyers’ agent.

While it is impossible to predict exactly how everything will play out, those are a few things to keep in mind whether you are buying or selling.

The best thing to do if you are curious or concerned about the coming changes is to reach out to your local agent and ask them for their perspective, insights, advice, and to keep you in the loop as the changes get finalized.

The Takeaway:

While the headlines about changing real estate commission structures might sound exciting and like a potential game-changer for you as a home seller or buyer, they are misleading, because nobody knows exactly how things are going to play out. While it is true that commissions may shift, the details remain uncertain.

If the proposed settlement is accepted by the courts, sellers won’t be able to advertise agent commissions, however they will still be allowed to offer them, just not within their listing. In many cases this will still benefit the seller to do so in order to get the most exposure for their house, and sell it for the most money possible.

Buyers will be given the option to not work with a buyers agent, however that could come with some unexpected downsides and difficulties, and may not produce the savings they anticipate. Fortunately, you will still be able to hire your own representation, and have an agent looking out for your interests and helping you through the process.

If you are thinking about buying or selling and want to discuss your specific situation, contact us! We will share our insights, how we do business with buyers and sellers, can help you maximize your return-on-investment from your real estate transactions, and would be honored to assist you!

Disclaimer: This blog post, any associated blog posts, and our website are not designed to and do not provide medical or legal advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or services to you or to any other individual. Through this series, the associated blog posts, and our website, and linkages to other sites, Transformation Advisory, LLC DBA DFWREAdvisors Group, provides general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in the series, the associated blog posts, this website, or through linkages to other sites, is not a substitute for medical, legal, or professional advice or care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, call, consultation, or advice of an attorney, mortgage professional, real estate professional, medical professional or other licensed services provider. Transformation Advisory, LLC DBA DFWREAdvisors Group is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of action, or treatment, or diagnosis, or any other information, services, or product you obtain as a result of reading this series, the associated blog posts, this website, or through its linkages to other sites.


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