Real Estate Agent Commission Explained: How Much Commission Does a Realtor Make?

Written By
I. Mitic
September 27,2023

The housing market has recently been experiencing almost unparalleled levels of volatility. With seemingly ever-escalating real estate prices, many individuals are actively seeking methods to reduce their expenses.

Where a lot of people first turn to is usually the often-misunderstood realm of real estate agent commissions.

In today’s article, we’ll discuss how real estate agent commissions work, break down their calculations, and arm you with negotiation tactics. For those poised to make a smart move in their upcoming property dealings, consider this your essential playbook.

What Is a Fair Commission for a Real Estate Agent, and How Is It Calculated?

Real estate commissions represent the fees charged by agents for their professional services. This fee is predominantly a fraction of the property's selling price and is settled during the closing phase.

While 6% is often cited as the standard commission, it's most definitely not a fixed figure. Variables such as market dynamics and the agent's professional standing can influence this rate.

To provide a broader context, in 2023, the median annual earnings for U.S. real estate agents hovered around $94,495, according to Indeed.

The commission is generally derived as a percentage of the property's final sale price. For instance, for a property selling at $200,000 with a 5% commission, the agent's earnings would be $10,000. 

For properties at the lower end of the price spectrum agents might prefer a flat fee, perhaps around $2,500 for homes which are priced below $100,000. 

Some agents also employ a hybrid model, blending both percentage and flat fee structures.

It's crucial to remember the fact that commissions are flexible. Before formalizing any agreement, ensure the clarity on the commission structure.

Who Foots the Bill: The Buyer or The Seller?

Conventionally, the seller bears the cost of the commission bill for both agents involved. However, market conditions can and have altered this norm before.

In a buyer-centric market, where property listings outnumber potential buyers, it's not uncommon for buyers to bear a portion or the entirety of the commission. In scenarios where a single agent represents both parties, the commission is usually shared.

Ultimately, deciding who should pay this fee is negotiable, so if you're planning to invest in real estate, make sure to discuss this issue with your agent before entering into a contract.

Strategies to Lower Real Estate Agent Commissions

While commissions are inherent to real estate transactions, they can also be substantial. However, with the right strategic approach, you can also mitigate these costs:

  • Engage with Low-Commission Agents: Some agents offer services at a reduced commission, often around 2-3%
  • Negotiate Proactively: A constructive dialogue with your agent can lead to a mutually beneficial commission structure.
  • For Sale By Owner (FSBO) Approach: As per the National Association of Realtors, 10% of 2021's property sales were direct by owners, making FSBO a real option for those that have no issue with finding a buyer on their own.

Other Costs Associated With Real Estate Transactions

While the commission earned by a real estate agent is often the most discussed fee in property transactions, it's merely the tip of the iceberg. 

There are several other costs intertwined with real estate dealings, which is why it's crucial for investors to recognize that these seemingly minor fees can, in totality, have a pronounced effect on their financial bottom line.

Title Insurance

Title insurance serves as a protective shield for both the buyer and the lender against potential losses arising from title defects. This policy, issued by a title insurance firm, assures that the property's title is devoid of any legal encumbrances or claims.

For buyers, this translates to peace of mind. Should any discrepancies arise with the property's title, the insurance company shoulders the responsibility for rectifications or associated legal costs. 

Lenders, on the other hand, are safeguarded against potential defaults by borrowers, with the insurance company stepping in to cover losses.

While sellers typically bear the cost of this policy at closing, there are instances where the buyer might be required to cover a portion or the entire premium.

Escrow Fees

Escrow fees are another pivotal aspect of property transactions. These fees are directed to an impartial third party responsible for safeguarding funds or documents during the transaction process.

The role of the escrow company is multifaceted. They ensure both the buyer and seller fulfill their respective commitments promptly. This encompasses verifying essential documents, overseeing the monetary exchange, and ensuring the deed's proper recording at the county level.

Conventionally, both the buyer and seller equally share the escrow fee. In most cases, this amounts to 1-3% of the total value of the property for sale. Though it might seem inconsequential, it's important to recognize the value escrow services add in ensuring a transparent and secure transaction.

Loan Origination Fees

This fee is levied for the processing of a loan application and is typically a fraction of the loan's total value. Charged by the lender, it's settled during the closing phase. 

Much like the real estate agent's commission, the loan origination fee is open to negotiation. Proactive borrowers might even secure a waiver or a reduced fee in certain scenarios.

It's important to note that the loan origination fee is one among several potential charges when getting a mortgage. 

Hence, it's advisable to request a comprehensive fee breakdown from your lender prior to finalizing the loan, as loan origination fees go higher with more expensive real estate purchases.

Tips for Finding a Good Real Estate Agent Who Fits Your Budget

Identifying an agent who aligns with your financial goals is paramount. Here's a roadmap:

  1. Research: Understand your requirements and then shortlist agents who fit the bill.
  2. Referrals: Leverage recommendations from acquaintances who've recently transacted in real estate.
  3. Interviews: Engage with potential agents, probing about their experience, fees, and offerings.
  4. References: A competent agent should willingly share testimonials from satisfied clients.
  5. Trust Your Instincts: Your comfort with an agent is paramount. Trust your gut feeling.

Wrapping Up

Real estate agent commissions, while integral to property transactions, can be navigated smartly with the right knowledge and approach. By understanding their dynamics and being open to negotiation, you can ensure a financially sound transaction.


What percentage do most realtors charge?


The standard commission for a real estate agent hovers around 6%. This commission is typically divided between the buyer’s and seller’s agents, with each receiving approximately 3%. However, in competitive markets or unique situations, this rate can be negotiated.

What is the largest US real estate company?


Keller Williams Realty, a renowned franchise with a rich history that stretches back almost 40 years, holds the title as the preeminent real estate company in the U.S. Its expansive reach is evident with a presence in numerous countries, anchored by more than 700 offices and a dynamic team of over 100,000 professionals.

Do real estate agents get paid if they don’t sell?


Real estate agents predominantly earn through commissions, which means they're compensated only when a property is sold. While some brokers might offer a minimal salary, the lion's share of an agent's income is derived from commissions. This underscores the importance for agents to be selective about their listings and to invest effort in sales.

About author

For years, the clients I worked for were banks. That gave me an insider’s view of how banks and other institutions create financial products and services. Then I entered the world of journalism. Fortunly is the result of our fantastic team’s hard work. I use the knowledge I acquired as a bank copywriter to create valuable content that will help you make the best possible financial decisions.

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