Worried about a recession?
Let us help
Do you want content like this delivered to your inbox?

How Do Real Estate Agents Get Paid?


How Do Real Estate Agents Get Paid

Vicki Moore
Jan 6 9 minutes read

Becoming a real estate agent can be a lucrative endeavor, with commissions providing rewards for successful sales. But exactly how do real estate agents get paid? Understanding the various factors and payment structures involved in real estate transactions can help you decide if becoming a real estate agent is the right career move for you.

Real estate agents are essential when buying or selling a property. Selling real estate can be a lucrative career.  It takes hard work and determination to scale your earnings.  If money is the main motivation for being a real estate agent then you'll be utterly disappointed.

Understanding how real estate agents are paid and how much we make is important. Find out before becoming one ensures you go into it fully aware.  It'll help you know what to expect as well as how to grow in the profession. Real estate agents have to work under a broker.  And it is the brokerage company they work under that pays us.

Understanding commissions in real estate

Real estate agents earn a commission, typically based on the sale or rental price of the property. Commissions are generally paid when the transaction is complete, and can be variable depending on the size of the sale or rental rate. It's important to note that commissions are typically calculated as a percentage of the total sale or rental price. As real estate deals range in complexity and price, each commission rate also may vary from deal to deal.

Every buyer or seller who works with a realtor pays a real estate commission.  That fee is paid upon a successful close of the purchase of a property.

Brokers spend more time in training than real estate agents, take on more responsibility and legal liability.  Upon graduation, a broker can start a brokerage firm or work independently. Real estate agents don't have this option.  Realtors have to work "under" a broker.

All the commissions paid by the client are processed through the escrow company.  Then those commissions go directly to a broker.  As a result, the broker deducts their fees and pays the real estate agent.

How do brokers pay real estate agents?

Typically, brokers pay real estate agents a commission based on the sale or rental rate of a property. It's important to note that these commissions are calculated as a percentage of the overall transaction amount and typically depend on the complexity of a deal and its size. For example, an agent may receive more commission from selling a luxury property than from renting an apartment. It's important to know your broker’s commission structure so you understand what you can expect before taking on any deals.

There isn't a standard commission division rule book in real estate. New agents go home with 50-75% of the total commission paid.  That "split" is determined by the marketing and office services the brokerage offers to its agents.  It's also dependent on the experience of the agent.  The more experienced the agent is and the less time the broker has to spend teaching, the higher the commission to the realtor.

The costs of the office are paid through the share that the realtor pays. The costs of obtaining sign rentals, advertising, and running the office from that split. Those fees will be taken out of the commission before the real estate agent is paid.

At times, there isn't much left after these deductions. However, agents who obtain high sales numbers usually go home with a larger commission.  Some agents will pay a "desk fee."  A desk fee can include the actual desk the agent works at, office staff and supplies. Therefore, the commission real estate agents take home will depend.  It will be factored with the total amount of sales they bring in, the years of experience, and their negotiation powers.

Who pays real estate agents?

Typically, it is the brokers, who work with clients directly, that pay real estate agents. Brokers tend to offer a commission percentage as compensation once a transaction is completed. In most cases, this commission is earned by the brokerage after accounting for any marketing fees or expenses related to the listing. The broker will then distribute commissions to their agents on a regular basis according to their agreement terms.

Commissions can be structured in two ways:

The seller pays the commission to both their realtor and the buyer's realtor.  The realtor representing the seller will negotiate the fees with the seller for both themselves and the agent for the buyer.

b) Each party pays its own realtor.  There are situations when a seller will only agree to pay their own agent. I remind sellers that people don't like change when they request that the commission be done this way.  They have expectations.

Can real estate agents negotiate their commission?

Yes, in most cases real estate agents can negotiate the terms of their commission agreement with the broker. It is important for agents to discuss potential fees and commission structures with a broker before signing any contracts. For example, some brokers may offer a higher percentage of commissions depending on how long an agent has been working with the company. Other brokers may provide bonuses and incentives based on an agent’s performance or the size of their transactions.

When is the real estate agent paid?

At the time the sale transaction is closed and the closing costs have also been paid, the brokerages will get the agreed-upon commissions. The offices will process the commissions, deducting whatever fees are due from the agent.  There are other logistics involved which could delay the payment.  For example, if the transaction file is not complete, you can expect that payment will be held until every document is signed by the appropriate parties.

What if the sale doesn't close on time or doesn't close at all?

Commissions, typically, are paid upon closing. However, there are times when the transaction is delayed or doesn't go through.  In some situations, the seller may still be required to pay the commissions. even if the deal wasn't finalized.

As long as the broker had found a buyer for the property, the seller will have to pay the commission if:

● Seller changes their mind about selling.

● Seller's spouse refuses to sign.

● The title deed has errors that cannot be resolved in a reasonable period of time.

● Seller is unable to transfer the property to the buyer within an acceptable duration of


● Commits fraud connected to the transaction.

● Wants to enforce terms and conditions not previously indicated on the listing agreement.

● Mutually agrees with the buyer not to sell.

Are there other payment models?

Most real estate agents get paid on commission.  Commissions aren't the only payment model available.  Real estate agents who are employed by brokers can be paid hourly or earn a salary. If the real estate agent is on the payroll he won't be getting any commission.

Also, in the case where the listing broker finds the buyer on his or her own then she doesn't have to share the commission with another agent who would be representing a buyer. Consequently, the listing agent can represent both the buyer and the seller.  Representing both parties is called dual agency.  In that case, she only has to share the commission with their broker.

Cash Incentives to Join Brokerages or Teams

In some cases, brokers may offer cash incentives to real estate agents who join their team or brokerage. This may be in the form of signing bonuses, which can range from a few hundred dollars up to several thousand dollars depending on the company and market. These types of bonus programs are typically offered as a way for brokers to encourage agents to join their team or stay with them long-term. However, it is important to note that these bonuses often come with restriction, such as certain requirements on the number of transactions closed within a certain period of time.


Real estate agents earn a commission for the work done.  The percentage is not standard. As a business builds over time, top agents will typically take home a lot of money compared to newbies.

Some agencies do pay buyers and sellers as an incentive to list with them.  Compared to the past, generally, agents are no longer recording higher commissions. Working with home buyers takes more effort in a sellers' market.  Many listing agents, representing home sellers, take home more than their counterparts.

Selling Your Home? 

Get your home's value - our custom reports include accurate and up to date information.

Get Home Value
We use cookies to enhance your browsing experience and deliver our services. By continuing to visit this site, you agree to our use of cookies. More info