Bernice Ross

This week’s multi-billion-dollar verdict against Keller Williams, HomeServices of America and the National Association of Realtors in Sitzer v. National Association of Realtors, plus earlier settlements in that lawsuit and the other so-called “bombshell” lawsuit Moerhl v. National Association of Realtors involving Anywhere Real Estate and RE/MAX, together form a watershed moment that will ultimately force buyer agents to negotiate their commissions directly with the seller and/or their buyer.

If you want to be a viable buyer’s agent a year from now, you must take immediate steps to make dramatic changes in your buyer value proposition including how you will negotiate your commission.

It’s clear the two settlements’ impact will be far-reaching, even though only the jury’s verdict and not the judge’s ruling in the Sitzer case hasn’t come out yet. Agents representing buyers purchasing properties listed by RE/MAX, as well as Better Homes and Gardens, Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Corcoran Group, ERA or Sotheby’s International will all be covered.

In terms of the buyer side of the transaction, top-producing buyer agents typically conduct a detailed buyer interview where they uncover their buyer’s most important needs and wants. On the other hand, virtually no one shows the buyers all the work that is necessary to close a transaction.

This puts buyers’ agents in a tight spot, and offers you a target as you try to show prospective clients you’re worth the money you want to get paid.

Three Ways to Show Your Worth

Step one: You have to prepare yourself to overcome the objection, “I’ll just call the listing agent.” This trend really took off during the pandemic but will be even more common once listing agents no longer offer compensation to buyer’s agents. Three questions can help you do this when interviewing your prospective buyer clients.

First, ask if your prospective client knows that the average amount of down payment assistance that was granted in the last year was $17,000. Would they like you to help see if they qualify for receiving down payment assistance on their upcoming home purchase?

Second, ask if they know that many sellers are still offering to pay the buyer’s agent a commission. Would they like you to search for listings where the sellers are offering a buyer agent commission or may be open to covering part of their closing costs or other expenses in exchange for them paying the commission?

Third, ask if they know that if they make 80 percent or less of the area median income area, they may qualify for a loan with only 1 percent down and 2 percent grant from the lender they you can obtain a 97 percent loan? While several lenders are offering these programs, Rocket Mortgage is also offering to pay your private mortgage insurance (this is federal requirement for loans with less than a 20 percent down payment).

This can save your prospective client thousands of dollars over the first few years of your loan, and you can be their guide in helping figure out what they qualify for.

Get a Buyer Commission Agreement

While you prepare this script, make sure you sign up for a course on how to obtain a buyer commission agreement.

In the future, listing agents may require a signed agency agreement and/or buyer broker commission agreement before they will schedule an appointment for a buyer to see a property. If you haven’t been trained in how to do this, check with your broker or local Realtor association to see what they offer.

Once that’s done, make sure you keep track of how much time you spend on various tasks related to buyer representation.

Start keeping track of how long it takes you to schedule each showing, how much time you spend driving to the appointments, the amount of time you spend at each property, and how much time it takes to return to the office. Keep track of this in your CRM, with one of the mileage apps, or even in an old-fashioned appointment book.

And lastly, construct a list of what is required to close a transaction, which you can show to buyer clients you’re interviewing.

This will be especially important for those buyers who may try to save money by not using a buyer’s agent to represent them. It’s important to educate them about what you do to close a transaction on their behalf.

Do all this, and buyers will see that your experienced, trained assistance will be essential if they want to avoid pitfalls and have an experienced negotiator on their side in a confusing housing market like this one.

Bernice Ross is a nationally syndicated columnist, author, trainer and speaker on real estate topics. She can be reached at