The recent NAR settlement clearly states that the MLS is prohibited from publishing a buyer-agent commission paid by the seller.

It means we might be hearing more commission talk, not less, as listing agents take responsibility for publishing the buyer-agent rate their sellers are offering.

It won’t last for long.

Many have speculated that the residential resale business is heading the way of commercial agents – an arena that has never had an official MLS, and where each listing agent decides their own policy on how to pay the buyer-agents.

Go to Loopnet or Crexi, the two commercial real estate websites of last resort (where agents put their listings after they have exhausted their stable of waiting buyers).  You’ll read about cap rates, FARs, NOIs etc. but you won’t find ANY mention of a buyer-agent commission unless desperation is in play.

Why is that?

They want you to make assumptions (in order):

  1. No commission is being offered to buyer-agents.
  2. Some commission might be offered, but you have to call to find out.
  3. The commission they offered over the phone won’t change.

Those are some hasty conclusions, and don’t be surprised if they are a moving target. Even when it gets down to putting terms in writing, the listing agents want to commit to a commission rate “as stated in the listing agreement” and hope you don’t ask questions. One agent this year said that the commission was on a sliding scale, depending upon how much I offer – but wouldn’t commit to any hard numbers.

Residential listing agents have always loved being vague so nobody can ever pin them down about keeping their word. When they figure it out that they don’t have to publish any commission rates, soon all will be offering zero (or close) to the buyer-agent – and will only acquiesce if they have no other offers.

A bad market will fix it though.

If the political hysteria over the next seven months freezes up the market, the motivated sellers and listing agents will be forced to pull out all the stops to make a deal – including the offering of a generous commission to buyer-agents. We haven’t seen a buyers’ market for 10+ years, so many won’t remember – but sellers will want to try everything else before they lower their price.

But will it come to that?

Probably not, because they will wait it out instead, and we’ll look up next year to see who is left! It won’t be the buyer-agents though. They are walking dead men, and by this time next year, single agency (buyers going direct to the listing agent) will be emerging as everyone’s solution.

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