How Do Real Estate Agents Get Paid? | ADHI Schools

Breaking Down How Real Estate Agents Get Paid

Published by Kartik Subramaniam

Reading Time : 3 minutes

Real estate agent looking at commission check

As a potential real estate agent it helps to understand how you will likely get paid for your time and expertise. I wanted to examine how agents commonly earn a living, how everything is split, and what's risks you take on as a real estate agent in hopes of a payday.

The Common Standard: Commissions

The most accepted way for real estate agents to be paid is to charge the seller a commission which is then split among the buyer's and the seller's agent. This amount is typically between four and six percent of the sale price.

Like most sale transactions, there are exceptions to this rule. Raw land sales, for example, sometimes can be as much as ten percent of the total sale price.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are agents and companies that will work for a flat fee that is substantially less than on a percentage basis. Compensation programs like this are generally more common in seller markets where there are far more buyers than listings for sale.

How Everything Is Split

There are a few caveats to note about this seemingly simple arithmetic. The agent does not get to keep all the commission because they must work for a broker in California who will certainly take some portion of the total commission.

When it comes to how brokers split the money with their agents, a lot of it depends on the agent's experience. A brand-new agent may agree to work for a much smaller percentage as a means of getting their foot in the door. A seasoned agent may take all of their commission and pay their broker a fee to rent their desk in the office.

When starting out in our real estate industry, you can expect to keep between 50 and 70 percent of the commission starting out and this should increase with sales volume and experience.

The Risks of the Agent

It's not always easy to see the risks that the agent assumes if you aren't behind the scenes. Not only do agents have to pay the MLS fees as well as the costs of their insurance and dues, but you’re also taking some of the responsibility for the sale.

For example, let's say the agent spends six months trying to sell a home. They've found an interested party, but the buyers haven't quite formalized their offer. If the seller gets cold feet at the last minute, the real estate agent will typically not be paid. (If the seller had received a formal offer and then refused though, then the broker may have still been entitled to their commission.)

These risks explain why some agents seek salaried positions in property management for example rather than be beholden to the commission. These jobs do exist although they are on the rare side. The vast majority of real estate agents are commission-only for the duration of their careers.

Agents do more than just showcase a property in its best light. The right agent can spot red flags before they turn into legal hassles, counsel sellers about the quality of the offers, and give buyers a better idea of when to jump at a deal. Their efforts are rewarded when the sale goes through, according to the terms of the listing agreement.

Hope this helps explain a little about the world of the agent. If you’re interested in taking real estate classes, please give us a call at 888 768 5285.



Kartik Subramaniam

Founder, Adhi Schools

Kartik Subramaniam is the Founder and CEO of ADHI Real Estate Schools, a leader in real estate education throughout California. Holding a degree from Cal Poly University, Subramaniam brings a wealth of experience in real estate sales, property management, and investment transactions. He is the author of nine books on real estate and countless real estate articles. With a track record of successfully completing hundreds of real estate transactions, he has equipped countless professionals to thrive in the industry.

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