Understanding Real Estate Commissions

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Whether you’re planning to buy a home or sell your current one with the help of a real estate agent, it is important for you to understand what commissions are and who pays for them.

A real estate commission is a fee typically paid by the seller for the services of both the listing agent (also known as the seller’s agent) and the agent that represented him (known as the buyer’s agent). This commission is usually 6% of the paying price and is given once the deal has been closed and the payment, whether they be in full or partial, has been given by the buyer. It’s not directly given to the agents but instead passes through the brokers they work for.

Listed below are certain factors that influence how much a real estate commission is:

Experience – agents who have only been in the real estate industry for a short while will get lower rates than those who have been in it for long. Meanwhile, top agents may get 100% of the commission fee and just give their broker a desk fee.

Locality – the real estate market may either be moving slowly or fast-paced in different states or localities, and the agent’s commission sways with the state of the market. Another thing is that it’s common for the listing agent to be paid more than the buyer’s agents in some states. Buyers should acquaint themselves with local co-brokerage fees so that they would know if the agent working for them is paid less than the local custom.

Agreement between parties – the percentage of the split in commission is based on the discretion of the real estate agent parties. There are also instances when the seller or the agent will negotiate on the percentage of the commission.


1. Familiarize yourself with the different people you will have to transact with – Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, real estate agents are the ones who you would most likely interact with the most during the process because they act as your representative to the other part. it’s good to know each person and their specific role during the sale of the property. Here is a brief description of each type:

  • Broker – Brokers rank higher than agents in that they take an exam for licensure with stricter requirements such as completion of eight-level and at least two years of real estate experience. They can choose to either operate on their own or hire agents and they are responsible for the actions of the agents they hire.

  • Agent –  Agents are also licensed by the state, but unlike brokers, they cannot work independently and must be employed by a broker. There are agents which work exclusively for each party in the transaction — listing agent for the seller, and buyer’s agent for the buyer. It’s important to note that it is not legal in the 50 states for a dual agent, or an agent who represents both the buyer and the seller, to operate.  

     2.  Know the local rates – As what’s stated beforehand, there are several factors that affect commission. But just to arm yourself with more knowledge, it’s best to acquaint yourself with the standard rate of the area where you wish to buy or sell your home.
     3. Know what a buyer’s agency agreement is – This is an agreement between a buyer and a licensed brokerage firm or a real estate agent that stipulates both of the parties’ commitment to the sale and to assure the agent or the firm that they will be duly paid after closing. Standard forms of agreement vary per market and brokerage firms.