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The short answer is no, buyers don’t pay realtor fees. If you’re a buyer, you’re likely saving for a down payment and closing costs already, so the good news is that you don’t have to worry about saving additional funds for a real estate agent. 

However, it’s important to note that real estate commission is typically included in the home price, meaning the home sale price may be slightly marked up to include the realtor fee. So although a buyer doesn’t pay their realtor directly, they end up contributing when they purchase a home. 

If buyers don’t pay real estate commission, who does?

The seller, not the buyer, is the one that pays real estate agent fee, also referred to as real estate agent commission. However, since sellers take realtor fees into account when they set their listing or asking price, the seller doesn’t necessarily have to dig into their own pockets to cover it. The agent fees are simply subtracted from the money the seller receives once the home has sold. The commission is then distributed between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. (Real estate agents also a cut to their broker, the person who is licensed to operate and runs the real estate brokerage.)

→ Learn more in-depth about how much real estate agents make

When do you pay the real estate agent?

The seller pays the agent their commission fee on closing day, unless they have an alternate agreement. The closing day meeting signifies the end of the real estate transaction. It’s where closing costs are paid, the title is transferred, and any details regarding the mortgage are discussed. As part of closing, the real estate agents involved will offer their congratulations to the buyer and seller, and accept their commission. After closing, the home officially belongs to the buyer.

→ Learn more about who pays closing costs

How much are realtor fees?

Realtor fees vary slightly by agent and location, but a typical commission rate falls between 5% and 6% of a home’s sales price. Some less experienced agents have lower commission fees, while more experienced agents may have higher commission fees. The total commission is typically split 50/50 between the seller’s agent (also called the listing agent) and the buyer’s agent. (Dual agents, who represent buyer and seller, would get the entire commission. Dual agency isn't legal in all states however.)

When you choose a listing agent, they will explain their fee structure and include them in the listing agreement, the contract you sign when you agree to work with a realtor. Make sure to ask about their fees upfront so you feel comfortable with your agent and the price you set for your home.

→ Here’s what to ask a real estate agent when you’re selling your home

Is real estate agent commission negotiable? 

Yes, real estate commission is negotiable. However, the commission typically covers the marketing for the house (including photography, staging, and advertising) and the agent’s services (like showing the house and negotiating with buyers). 

If you negotiate a lower fee, it’s possible that your house won’t receive as much advertising support or other services. If you’re okay with this, let your agent know. They may not be willing to negotiate, but it’s always okay to ask. With dual agents may also be willing to charge a slightly lower commission fee since they're the sole agent involved in the transaction.

There are several situations that make it easier to negotiate a lower commission fee, mostly when your property or situation is attractive for a real estate agent. 

When to negotiate real estate agent fees

  • You’re working with the same agent more than once. If you offer your agent repeat business by agreeing to work with them to sell your house and buy your next one (or sell several properties), they may be more willing to negotiate.
  • You’re working with a friend or a new agent. If you know a real estate agent personally, they may be more likely to negotiate their rate in order to work with you. Alternatively, consider working with an agent that has less experience. New agents often charge less.
  • You’re foregoing services. Real estate agents and/or their brokerage cover all marketing expenses up front since they don’t get paid until the home sells. Examples of marketing expenses they may cover include paid advertising, a walk-through video, or a virtual 3D tour. If you’d like to reduce their efforts to save money, let them know you want to remove some services to lower the cost.
  • There is high demand in your neighborhood. If your neighborhood has proven high demand, your agent may feel more confident that your house will sell quickly and at an attractive price. This means they won’t need to spend as much money on marketing or show the house as many times, so they might be willing to lower their fee.

Although we don't recommend, you can negotiate fees with your agent by opting for a net listing. The agent's fees may be lower than the standard 6% but you could also end up paying them much more.

What are low commission real estate agents?

A low commission real estate agent is exactly what it sounds like: an agent that charges a lower commission percentage than other agents in your area. They are sometimes referred to as discount agents or flat fee agents. Depending on the type, they may accept either a flat fee or as low as half the percentage point of a traditional agent for their commission. 

Discount brokers and real estate agents can be a great option in certain situations and will help you save money on your home sale. However, there are drawbacks to consider. Just because you hire a low commission listing agent, doesn’t mean you save on the buyer’s agent fees. Since buyers and sellers typically both hire agents that split a 5% to 6% commission, the buyer’s agent will still expect their cut of the home’s sales price (roughly 2% to 3% of the sales price). So in total, you only save 1% to 2% of the sales price by working with a low commission listing agent.

It’s also common for low commission agents to represent many clients at once to compensate for a lower commission on each property. This may result in less attention on your home, fewer marketing efforts, and reduced communication with your agent.

Can you avoid paying realtor fees?

It’s difficult to avoid paying realtor fees altogether, but there are ways to minimize the cost. You can sell your home yourself (FSBO), which will eliminate the listing agent’s commission. However, you will still be responsible for the buyer’s agent’s fees so you won’t necessarily save money.

You can also sell your home to a house flipper or iBuyer, both of which make cash offers at a deep discount. While you’ll save on realtor fees, you’ll likely sell your home for a much lower sales price than you would if you used a traditional agent.

Orchard gives a guaranteed cash offer — and so much more

On top of a guaranteed sale, 95% of Orchard customers sell for more on the open market.

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