Real estate agent holding for sale sign and shaking hand of customer

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The National Association of Realtors’ proposed settlements in the major commission lawsuits has left agents and brokers struggling with exactly how they will answer their clients’ questions going forward. Exactly what can we say and not say about how commissions will work? How does my conversation on buyer appointments need to change?

Rather than getting bogged down in long, confusing explanations, Jeff Lobb recommends that you keep it simple, ask plenty of questions to determine if you and the lead are a good fit, and create a strong value proposition that illustrates the value you bring to the buyer side of the transaction.

Lobb, the CEO and president of Spark Tank Media and Coach 52, said when I interviewed him that the biggest source of confusion currently is about our fees and how they have been paid in the past. Before you go into a full-blown discussion about your commission, Lobb urged agents to ask more questions to uncover what their clients’ real motivations are.

Keep It Simple

“You have to educate them about how we work and how the industry works,” he said. “If they bring up anything about your fee, tell them that you will be happy to talk about fees later, but first let’s see if we will be able to work together first.”

Lobb said a frequent mistake most agents make is how they present their value proposition, he said.

“A lot of people think their value proposition a bunch of things that they tell the seller they will do,” Lobb said. “It’s not what you do, but why you do it. As Simon Sinek says, start with ‘why.’”

This process involves asking lots of questions, such as what they’re looking for or what is motivating them to move. Lobb also urged listing agents to be more consultative and to educate clients about how agents work as well as how the industry works at large.

When clients want to talk about commission fees up front, Lobb recommends that you say the following: “I’m happy to talk about fees, but first let’s see if we’re a match and whether I can help you accomplish what you want to accomplish, and that we’re confident about getting your home sold. At that point, I’m happy to talk about my fee structure and how it works.”

How to Handle Buyer Pushback

When the buyer asks, “Help me understand why I have to pay a fee?” Lobb’s recommendation was to briefly explain first that commissions have always been negotiable. This hasn’t changed.

Second, since most buyers don’t understand how buyer agents were compensated in the past, you must address that issue.

My recommendation is to tread carefully here because you can never say, “The buyer’s broker’s commission was free to the buyer.” That has been a huge part of the litigation and must be avoided at all costs.

What you can say is that the lawsuits now require buyers to negotiate the buyer’s commission independently of the listing agent’s or seller’s offer.

Here’s how Lobb recommends agents address this situation: “When you hire me as your buyer’s agent, not only is my role to show you the home, but to negotiate any and all fees, whether it comes from the seller’s side, or from the proceeds of the sale, or your funds. You’re hiring me to negotiate these fees from all the other parties.”

“It softens the blow of what fee or percentage I’m putting into that agreement,” Lobb said. “My job is to negotiate that.”

Other Ways You Bring Value

My advice is to check the current listings on both and Zillow that meet the buyer’s search criteria. If down payment assistance is available on a specific property, both portals now show a list of all the down payment assistance programs available. You can then show the buyers what’s available on one or two of the homes you might show them.

Given that average amount of down payment assistance in 2023 was $17,000 as per, sharing that data provides buyers with a pathway to pay you and have money left over to put towards their down payment or other costs.

Another approach would be to research programs, like Rocket Mortgage’s “Home Ready” product, that allow buyers to purchase with one percent down plus an additional 2 percent grant of the loan amount from the lender (provided they meet credit score and income requirements).

Currently, a number of lenders are working on various ways to roll some or all of the commission into the purchase price. Given how important this situation is, look for more innovative solutions soon.

Sadly, most agents are woefully unprepared to have the conversations required to persuade the buyer to sign a buyer representation agreement. Agents who master these dialogues, however, will have a huge competitive advantage over almost all other agents.

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