Know these 7 things How do real estate agents get paid?

Real estate agents are professionals who help people buy, sell, or rent properties. They provide valuable services to their clients, such as market analysis, property valuations, negotiating deals, and helping with paperwork. But how do real estate agents get paid for their services? In this article, we will explore the various ways in which real estate agents are compensated.

How do real estate agents get paid?

Commission-Based Model

The most common way real estate agents get paid is through a commission-based model. Under this model, the agent receives a percentage of the sale price or rental price of the property. The commission rate can vary, but it is typically around 5% to 6% of the sale price for residential properties. This commission is usually split between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent, with each receiving a percentage.

For example, if a home sells for $500,000 and the commission rate is 5%, the total commission would be $25,000. If the buyer’s agent and seller’s agent split the commission equally, each would receive $12,500. The commission is paid by the seller in a home sale transaction, and by the landlord in a rental transaction.

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It is important to note that the commission is only paid if the transaction closes. If the property does not sell or rent, the agent does not receive a commission. Therefore, agents work on a contingency basis, meaning they are only paid if they successfully close a deal.

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Flat Fee Model

In addition to the commission-based model, some real estate agents work on a flat fee model. Under this model, the agent charges a flat fee for their services, regardless of the sale or rental price of the property. This model is more common for rental transactions than for sales transactions.

For example, an agent may charge a landlord a flat fee of $1,000 to help find a tenant for their rental property. This fee is paid upfront and does not depend on the rental price of the property. Similarly, an agent may charge a tenant a flat fee to help them find a rental property.

Hourly Rate Model

Another way real estate agents can get paid is through an hourly rate model. Under this model, the agent charges an hourly rate for their services, similar to how a lawyer or accountant charges for their time. This model is less common in real estate than the commission-based model, but it can be useful in certain situations.

For example, an agent may charge an hourly rate to provide consulting services to a client who is interested in buying a property but does not need assistance with the transaction. The agent may provide market analysis, property valuations, and other advice to help the client make an informed decision. The client would pay the agent for their time, rather than a commission based on the sale price of the property.

Dual Agency

Another way real estate agents can get paid is through dual agency. Dual agency occurs when an agent represents both the buyer and the seller in a transaction. In this situation, the agent is paid the full commission, rather than splitting it with another agent.

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Dual agency can be controversial because the agent has a conflict of interest. They are supposed to represent both parties equally, but it can be difficult to do so. Some states have laws that prohibit dual agency, while others allow it with certain restrictions.

Referral Fees

Real estate agents can also earn money through referral fees. A referral fee is paid when one agent refers a client to another agent who successfully closes a transaction. The referring agent typically receives a percentage of the commission earned by the agent who closes the deal.

For example, an agent in New York may refer a client to an agent in California who successfully sells their property. The California agent earns a commission on the sale and pays a referral fee to the New York agent for the referral.

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Referral fees can be a lucrative source of income for agents who have a large network and are able to refer clients to other agents in different regions. However, it is important to note that referral fees are subject to laws and regulations in different states and countries.

Salary or Retainer Model

While less common, some real estate agents are employed by a brokerage firm and receive a salary or retainer fee. In this model, the agent is typically responsible for a specific geographic area or type of property and receives a steady income regardless of the number of transactions they complete.

This model is more commonly used for commercial real estate transactions or high-end residential properties where the commission-based model may not be suitable. However, it is less common in the residential real estate market.

Factors that Affect Real Estate Agent Compensation

The amount of money that real estate agents earn can vary greatly based on a number of factors. Some of the factors that can affect agent compensation include:

Location: Real estate agents in high-cost areas such as New York City or San Francisco may earn higher commissions due to the high cost of living and property values.

Type of property: The type of property being sold or rented can also affect agent compensation. Luxury properties or commercial properties may have higher commission rates than standard residential properties.

Agent experience and reputation: Experienced agents with a strong reputation in the industry may be able to command higher commission rates or fees due to their expertise and network.

Market conditions: The state of the real estate market can also affect agent compensation. During a strong seller’s market, agents may have more leverage to negotiate higher commission rates. Conversely, during a buyer’s market, commission rates may be more competitive.


In conclusion, real estate agents can earn money through a variety of compensation models, including commission-based, flat fee, hourly rate, and referral fees. The commission-based model is the most common and is based on a percentage of the sale or rental price of the property. However, agents may also work on a flat fee, hourly rate, or salary/retainer model depending on the situation.

The amount of money that agents earn can vary greatly based on factors such as location, type of property, agent experience, and market conditions. It is important for agents to understand the different compensation models and be able to negotiate effectively to ensure they are fairly compensated for their services.

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