Tektonic US Real Estate Agent Commission Changes: Buyer and Seller fees explained

Following a pivotal antitrust lawsuit settlement, the landscape of US real estate agent commission, specifically how much commission do realtors (estate agents) make and the negotiation of estate agent fees, is undergoing significant changes that are slated to occur in July 2024. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has implemented new rules that modify the traditional commission fee structure, marking an end to the advertising of commission as a guaranteed percentage rate on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) [1]. This move directly influences both the property buying and selling process by altering how much do real estate agents make per sale, fostering a scenario ripe for negotiation and potentially reducing transaction costs for buyers and sellers.

These alterations to the real estate agent commission structure are set to have wide-reaching implications across the property market, not only adjusting the dynamics of negotiating estate agent fees but also reshaping the financial aspects of property transactions. Sellers and buyers now face a new reality where the commission rates are not set in stone, potentially lowering the cost of transactions in dollar amounts. This change could revolutionize the approach toward how properties are listed and sold, providing both parties increased flexibility and possibly better financial outcomes in their property ventures[1].

Understanding Commission Fees in Home Sales

In the realm of real estate transactions, understanding the dynamics of commission fees is crucial for both buyers and sellers. Traditionally, these fees are paid to real estate agents who facilitate the sale of properties. Typically, the seller pays the commission, which is a percentage of the sales price, and this amount is then divided between the listing agent and the buyer’s agent [3]. The commission fees generally range from 5% to 6% of the property’s selling price. For instance, if a home is sold for $400,000, a 5% commission would total $20,000 [6]. This fee covers various services provided by real estate agents, including marketing the property, hosting open houses, negotiating the sale price, and handling the necessary paperwork [3].

However, recent changes have been introduced following a settlement in an antitrust lawsuit involving the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This settlement will alter the traditional practice by eliminating the requirement for seller agents to list the commission on properties. Moreover, it mandates that buyer agents must have written agreements with the buyers [2]. These changes are intended to foster a more competitive and transparent environment, potentially reducing the costs of transactions for buyers and sellers.

It’s important to note that while the typical commission fees have been around 5% to 6%, they are negotiable and have been subject to downward pressure from market competition and regulatory changes. Recent data suggests that the average commission has decreased to about 2.4% for sellers [6]. This shift not only impacts the cost directly borne by the sellers but also influences the overall financial dynamics of buying and selling property, making it essential for parties involved to stay informed and negotiate effectively [3].

Key Changes to Commission Fee Structure

  1. Settlement Agreement Terms: The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has agreed to significant policy changes following a class-action lawsuit settlement. Starting in mid-July 2024, NAR will prohibit the inclusion of buyer agent commission offers in their MLS listings [7].
  2. Direct Negotiations for Buyer’s Agents: Under the new rules, homebuyers must enter into a written agreement with their agents, specifying the fees for their services. This change promotes transparency and empowers buyers to negotiate the costs directly with their agents [7][8].
  3. End of Seller-Funded Commissions: Previously, sellers typically covered the commission for both their own and the buyer’s agents. The new policy mandates that buyers independently compensate their agents, which could lead to more competitive pricing and potentially lower commission rates[6][8].
  4. Flexibility in Agent Compensation: The changes allow for more innovative payment structures. Agents might opt for flat-rate fees or hourly charges instead of the traditional percentage of the sale price. This flexibility could result in a decrease in overall transaction costs for buyers and sellers [2].
  5. Impact on Industry Dynamics: These reforms might reshape the real estate industry by influencing who can sustainably work as an agent. The new model requires buyers to be more deliberate in selecting and compensating their agents, likely intensifying competition among buyer’s agents [2].
  6. Potential for Lower Transaction Costs: The restructuring of commission fees is expected to lower the cost of real estate transactions. By decoupling buyer and seller agent fees and eliminating preset commission rates, the reforms could reduce transaction costs, possibly by significant dollar amounts, benefiting both buyers and sellers [6][2].

Impact on Home Sellers

  1. Reduced Commission Fees: Home sellers stand to benefit significantly from the NAR’s rule changes, which could lower commission fees and result in higher net proceeds from sales. This change is due to the shift in how commissions are structured, allowing sellers more leeway to negotiate better rates with their agents [13][15][2][6][16].
  2. Direct Compensation Negotiations: The new regulations facilitate home sellers paying their agents directly. This alteration moves away from the traditional inclusion of commission fees in listing prices, potentially lowering the overall cost of selling a home [2].
  3. Empowered Negotiation Abilities: With the requirement for buyer agents to have written agreements with their clients, sellers gain an advantage in negotiating commission rates directly with their agents. This setup could lead to more competitive commission rates and cost savings for sellers [2].
  4. Potential for Lower Buyer Agent Commissions: The restructuring may ignite a ‘price war’ among buyer’s agents, potentially driving commissions below the 4% mark. This competitive environment could further reduce the financial burden on sellers [6].
  5. Increased Control Over Sale Offers: Sellers may now have more influence over the total offer from buyers since buyer agent commissions are no longer tied to the listing price. This change could lead to better financial deals for sellers [2].
  6. Savings from Not Paying Buyer-Agent Commissions: The shift in commission payment responsibility could mean considerable savings for sellers, as they might no longer have to pay for the buyer’s agent commission [7].
  7. Enhanced Transparency in Transactions: The changes aim to clarify the actual costs buyers are covering, as commissions have traditionally been included in the home’s sale price. This clarity could benefit sellers by making transaction terms clearer and more negotiable [4].
  8. Alternatives to Traditional Commission Payments: Sellers now have various options to reduce commission costs, including selling without an agent, negotiating lower rates, or using discount agents. These alternatives can significantly decrease the overall expenses associated with selling a home [6].

The recent changes in real estate commission structures are poised to provide home sellers with multiple financial and strategic advantages, enhancing their ability to maximize returns from property sales.

Impact on Home Buyers

  1. Out-of-Pocket Commission Expenses: Homebuyers may now face the challenge of paying their agent’s commission directly, which could be particularly daunting for those already managing substantial upfront costs like down payments [7].
  2. Changing Agent Engagement: The new commission structure might lead some buyers to engage real estate agents only towards the closing stages of buying a home or possibly forego hiring agents altogether [7].
  3. Rise of Discount Brokers: As buyers look for cost-saving opportunities, discount brokers, who offer services for a flat fee, might see increased popularity, providing an economical alternative to traditional percentage-based commissions [7].
  4. Enhanced Negotiation Power: Buyers will have increased leverage to negotiate their agent’s fees, potentially lowering the overall costs associated with purchasing a home [2].
  5. Seller Concessions: In negotiations, buyers might request concessions from sellers to cover the buyer agent’s fee, shifting some financial burden back to the sellers [7].
  6. Flexible Fee Structures: With the ability to negotiate directly, buyers might opt for alternative payment arrangements with their agents, such as flat-rate or hourly fees, which could make the buying process more affordable [2].
  7. Increased Buyer Savviness: The new rules require buyers to be more informed about the services they receive from their agents and what they are willing to pay, promoting a more transparent agent-client relationship [2].
  8. Direct Payment Responsibilities: If the trend moves towards buyers paying their agents directly, this could lead to significant changes in how agent fees are structured, potentially lowering transaction costs [6][7][14][13][2][12][11].
  9. Potential Federal Rule Changes: There’s a possibility that future regulations could allow buyers to include agent commissions in mortgage financing, easing the initial financial load [6][7] [14][13][2][12][11].
  10. Long-term Market Impact: While immediate effects on home prices are unclear, the industry might not see significant price adjustments in the near term [2]. However, the increased competition among agents could lead to more favorable conditions for buyers over time [2].

Implications for the Real Estate Market

  1. Increased Buyer Involvement: The recent changes are expected to encourage buyers to become more discerning in their choice of agents, potentially heightening competition among buying agents as they strive to attract clients [2].
  2. Specialization and Service Quality: There could be an emergence of agents specializing in highly competitive properties, which might lead to enhanced service quality and more competitive pricing for buyers [2].
  3. Reduction in Agent Numbers: The settlement may lead to a decrease in the number of real estate agents, attributed to lower barriers to entry and changes in commission structures. This could result in a marketplace with more experienced and dedicated professionals [2].
  4. NAR’s Diminishing Influence: The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has faced significant challenges, including internal scandals and increasing competition from new groups like the American Real Estate Association (AREA), which could weaken NAR’s longstanding influence in the industry [2].
  5. Innovation in Fee Structures: New business models may develop, offering varied fee structures such as flat fees or hourly rates, potentially leading to cost savings for clients and a more diverse service offering from agents [17].
  6. Potential Market Disruption: The total commission pool could shrink significantly, from $100 billion to $70 billion, influencing the financial landscape of real estate transactions and possibly benefiting buyers and sellers with lower transaction costs [5].
  7. Political and Economic Repercussions: A decrease in NAR membership could lead to reduced political influence for the organization, altering its ability to impact real estate regulations and policies [13].
  8. Enhanced Market Competition: The settlement is likely to foster genuine competition in the market, paving the way for new players and potentially more consumer-friendly business models in the real estate industry [14].

By addressing the implications of these changes head-on, the real estate market is poised to become more competitive, transparent, and possibly more affordable for consumers, aligning well with the broader trends of transparency and consumer empowerment in various sectors.

In Summary

Through an in-depth exploration of recent changes in real estate agent commission structures, it’s clear that the landscape is undergoing a transformative shift that promises to alter the dynamics between sellers, buyers, and agents within the marketplace. These reforms, sparked by the settlement in an antitrust lawsuit involving the National Association of Realtors, aim to dismantle the traditional commission fee model, introducing a more competitive and transparent environment. With potential reductions in transaction costs for both buyers and sellers, though not quantified within our analysis, the move towards negotiation and flexibility in commission rates signifies a promising step towards more equitable real estate transactions, highlighting the necessity for parties involved to stay well-informed and proactive in leveraging these changes to their advantage.

The broader implications of these adjustments are profound, initiating a ripple effect that might extend well beyond mere cost-saving benefits. They encompass a redefinition of agent roles, possibly enhancing the quality and specificity of services provided, while simultaneously fostering an environment ripe for innovation in fee structures and transaction processes. This evolving scenario not only encourages a more discerning engagement from buyers and sellers but also hints at a future where the real estate market aligns more closely with contemporary expectations of fairness, transparency, and efficiency. As the industry moves forward, the potential for these changes to cultivate a more competitive marketplace and a culture of empowerment among consumers could redefine the essence of buying and selling property.


[1] – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLLi0BVC9_Y
[2] – https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/mar/24/us-housing-market-real-estate-agents-rule-change
[3] – https://myhome.freddiemac.com/blog/selling/understanding-commission-when-you-sell-your-home
[4] – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s03OGTnNq3Q
[5] – https://finance.yahoo.com/news/realtor-commission-change-delivers-a-boon-to-homebuilders-a-blow-to-real-estate-platforms-130043155.html
[6] – https://www.bankrate.com/real-estate/real-estate-commissions-lawsuit-impact/
[7] – https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/national-international/6-commission-fees-for-real-estate-agents-are-going-away-what-to-know-about-the-new-rule/5238942/
[8] – https://www.bankrate.com/real-estate/real-estate-commission-changes/
[9] – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6b3MDIGGnJk
[10] – https://www.washingtonpost.com/home/2023/11/02/real-estate-commissions-explained/
[11] – https://www.marketwatch.com/story/three-ways-the-realtor-commission-settlement-affects-people-looking-to-buy-and-sell-their-homes-6de461ab
[12] – https://www.morningstar.com/news/marketwatch/20240323259/how-the-realtors-commission-settlement-affects-people-lo-homes
[13] – https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-real-estate-commission-changes-could-make-buying-and-selling-a-home-cheaper
[14] – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-new-era-commissions-change-your-real-estate-costs-dr-axel-po8df
[15] – https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2024/04/25/real-estate-changes-commissions/
[16] – https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/changing-real-estate-agent-fees-will-help-all-buyers-and-sellers-will-help-some-more
[17] – https://awealthofcommonsense.com/2024/03/real-estate-commissions/

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