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How Much Commission is Too Much?

Today I received an email from DR Horton offering 5% commission on select homes closing in the next 40 days:

What I’m wondering is at what point do commissions get so lucrative that it can severely influence an agent’s actions in representing their buyer?  Since discussing “usual” or “typical” commissions in a public forum can lead to antitrust issues, I won’t discuss numbers but I will say that 5% is above any buyer cooperative commission (buy-side only) that I’ve ever received.

For as long as I’ve been in the business (on my 8th year now!) I’ve heard grumblings of suspicion that some agents working with buyers put a bias towards listings that pay them higher commissions.  In many ways it makes sense – most agents are paid on commission only so selling a higher-priced listing or one with a higher payout does directly affect what they earn.  While it may make sense, steering a client based off of compensation reasons is unethical and violates Agency laws in Minnesota (and likely most other states too).  Needless to say, the influence is there and I have no doubt that some agents practice this, though I truly believe that most agents are true to their clients and don’t let a fatter commission check affect their representation of their client.

What concerns me here is that at some point the commission dollars get to be big enough that it becomes a much bigger enticement and therefore the chances of agent influence become higher.  Even if there is no true influence, the mere appearance of a conflict of interest becomes apparent.

On the flip side, this is a great marketing tool by DR Horton – they attract lots of interested agents to see if DR Horton has a house that fits their buyer’s needs since it would be a big fat payout for the agent.  DR Horton only has to pay that commission on closed sales that meet their rules, so a penney isn’t spent unless there is a result.  Also, since this is only for inventory/spec homes, what they’re doing is putting them on a kind of clearance sales so that they don’t have to keep paying the carrying costs for a vacant completed home.  Smart.

There are two sides to this – I’m curious on what anyone else may think about this.  Please comment!

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As a home seller, and regular reader, part of me wonders if this works? Not from an ethical Realtor position, but a selfish seller trying to move on. Or, an the flip, has this worked against us? We are located on the outskirts of the cities over the WI border and I can say we would be grateful for anything that would be a guarantee to work, but nothing to date has.


TwinCitiesRealEstateBlog.com is not a Multiple Listing Service MLS, nor does it offer MLS access.
This website is a service of Aaron Dickinson of Edina Realty, a broker Participant of the Regional Multiple Listing Service of Minnesota, Inc.