Dear Zuess,

I lost another listing to an agent who offered to do it for a low commission!  This was a past client of mine and I am devastated. It’s happening a lot and I am very frustrated.  My broker says I can’t reduce my commission as 5% is their company policy.  I’m thinking of going to a more forward thinking broker or maybe getting out of the business altogether.  What advice do you have?



Dear Carmen,

Boy, do I hear your frustration!  But slow down – do you really want to quit?  When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And, the rest quit.  Going to a discount brokerage or getting out of the business is admitting defeat as a full service real estate professional.  Discount brokers have a place in real estate, but they are order takers and order takers don’t make a difference and they don’t get well paid.

A professional real estate agent is a valuable partner for people navigating the important and complex process of buying and selling real estate.  The top agents that I coach know that they are worth their full fees and are successful at showing consumers how it is in their best interest to hire a professional to get the best end results.  It’s not always easy.

Here are some important steps to help get you there:

Step One:  Be excellent at what you do.  That means having as much knowledge as you can acquire about the market, human psychology, sales and negotiation skills, legal matter, economic factors, financing, construction, marketing, or design.  The list goes on.

Commission negotiation is about helping your customers to see the value that you and your brokerage bring to the listing.

Step Two:  Believe that you are worth your fees.  If you don’t believe it, you will never persuade others to believe it.

Step Three:  Understand that the customer has a legitimate objection.  Paying thousands of dollars less in commission is very appealing.  They don’t understand that there are significant risks to entering the market without professional representation.

Step Four:  Create your own custom dialogues for discussing this topic in a listing presentation and practice these dialogues until they feel natural.  There is no one script that will work in all situations.  Always work to improve your sales and negotiation skills.  They are critical to your success in the real estate business. Learn everything you can.

Step Five:  Accept that if you are unable to negotiate a fair commission for yourself, you are likely unable to negotiate the best deal for the customer.

Commissions are negotiable and this is an excellent thing for our industry.  If you are excellent at what you do, you deserve to be paid more than mediocre colleagues.  Consider lawyers, would you pay for the best if the outcome really mattered?


Columnist, The Nature of Real Estate

Dear Zuess is a column dedicated to offering tips for real estate agents that want to know how to hold their own in commission negotiation. Do you have any real estate binds you’ve been in lately? Drop Zuess a line at