How Do Realtors Get Paid: Understanding Commission Structures

As a Realtor, understanding how you get paid is essential to your career. The process may seem complex, but knowing how it works is important to prepare you for each transaction. This article will explore how Realtors get paid, focusing on how commissions are calculated.

When you help a client sell or buy a property, your compensation is typically based on a commission. This commission is usually a percentage of the home or property’s selling price and varies depending on the agreement between you and the client. A typical commission for real estate agents ranges from 5% to 6% of the sale price.

As a real estate agent, your income depends on the number of transactions you complete and the value of the properties you help sell or purchase. To maximize your earnings as a real estate professional, you must provide excellent service to your clients and be aware of current market trends and factors affecting your local real estate landscape. These factors will help you successfully navigate the real estate industry and enjoy a rewarding career.

The Basics of Realtor Compensation

As you explore the world of real estate, understanding how Realtors get paid is crucial for agents and clients. In this section, you’ll learn about the commission structure and the different sources of income for Realtors.

Commission Structure

The primary source of income for real estate agents is commission, which is usually a percentage of the property’s sale price. The typical commission ranges between 5% and 6% of the home sale price. This amount is split between the listing agent’s brokerage and the agent based on their agreed-upon commission split.

Commission splits between brokerages and agents can vary significantly. One common structure is a fixed broker-agent split, where the agent will receive a predetermined percentage, while more experienced agents might have a graduated split based on their performance. In some cases, agents work under a 100% commission structure, paying a monthly flat fee back to their brokerage but keeping the entire commission from each transaction (National Association of Realtors).

Sources of Income

Beyond commission, some real estate brokers and agents might have additional sources of income. Some examples include:

  • Rental property management fees: Agents managing rental properties on behalf of clients can earn a percentage of the rent collected.
  • Referral fees: Upon successful closing, agents might receive a percentage of the commission earned by the agent they referred the client to.
  • Advertising and marketing services: If an agent offers marketing and advertising services, they may charge clients for these additional services.

Note that not all agents pursue these additional income sources, and the primary focus for most real estate agents is still buying and selling properties on behalf of their clients.

Commission Splits and Agreements

In this section, you’ll learn about the two primary forms of commission splits in the real estate industry: the agent-broker split and the buyer-seller agent split. Understanding how real estate agent commission splits work will give you a clearer picture of the intricacies of real estate agent compensation.

Agent-Broker Split

Once a property is sold, real estate agents and their sponsoring brokers typically share the commission earned from the transaction. The commission distribution is based on the predetermined commission split agreement between the agent and broker.

Common commission splits include 50/50, where the broker and the real estate agent receive equal shares of the commission, but can also use the 60/40 or 70/30 split options, where the real estate agents get paid a larger portion of the money than the brokers (source).

It’s essential for you, as a real estate agent, to negotiate a commission-split agreement with your broker that benefits both parties.

Buyer-Seller Agent Split

Another aspect of the commission distribution revolves around the buyer’s and seller’s agents. The total commission earned depends on the contracted sale price, usually within 4-6% of the price (source). This sum is divided (typically equally) between the seller’s and buyer’s agents.

For example, a property sells for $300,000 with a 6% commission, amounting to $18,000. In this scenario, the seller’s and buyer’s agents would earn $9,000 each from the transaction. Then, each agent would split this amount with their brokerage (based on the commission split each has with their broker).

As you continue your real estate career, keeping these commission splits and agreements in mind will help you better navigate your earnings and relationships with brokers and other agents.

Factors Affecting Realtor Income

In this section, we’ll discuss some key factors affecting Realtor income. Understanding these factors allows you to optimize your potential earnings as a real estate agent.

Experience Level

Your experience level is important in determining your income as a Realtor. Your income will likely increase as you gain more experience and complete more transactions.

According to Zillow, here’s an estimate of the number of houses a real estate agent can expect to sell per year based on experience level:

  • Beginner: 1-3 homes per year
  • Intermediate: 5-10 homes per year
  • Experienced: 11-14 homes per year
  • Advanced: 15 or more homes per year

Geographical Location

Your geographical location also significantly affects your income as a Realtor. Real estate markets vary widely; earnings depend on local market trends and property values. You will likely earn more in areas with higher property values and more competitive markets.

Researching and finding neighborhoods with high demand and potential for growth can greatly impact your earnings as a real estate broker or agent.

Market Conditions

The state of the real estate market at a given time can affect your income as a Realtor. During a seller’s market, property values might be higher, and the number of transactions could increase, potentially leading to higher earnings for you. On the other hand, during a buyer’s market, property values might be lower and transactions slower, resulting in lower earnings.

Staying informed about market conditions and adapting strategies can help maximize your income regardless of the current market state.

Other Sources of Income

In addition to the standard commission earned from home sales, you can increase your income through other means as a real estate agent. Let’s explore a couple of these alternative sources of income.

Referral Fees

Building a strong network and maintaining good relationships within the real estate industry can yield financial benefits in the form of referral fees. When you refer clients to other agents or service providers, you may receive a percentage of their commission or fee as a reward for the referral.

Referral fees can vary, but they generally range from 20% to 35% of the agent’s commission for real estate referrals and often around 10% to 25% for referring clients to mortgage brokers, home inspectors, or other real estate-related services. Developing your professional network and referral relationships can be a valuable way to supplement your income as a real estate agent.

Real Estate-Related Services

Many real estate agents offer additional services that complement their core business. These services may include, but are not limited to:

  • Property management
  • Renting and leasing services
  • Real estate consulting
  • Home staging
  • Appraisals

By offering these additional real estate-related services, you can diversify your income streams and capitalize on your existing skillset and expertise as a real estate professional. Consider exploring these opportunities and determine which services best align with your professional goals and interests, as they could be valuable sources of income for your real estate career.


Understanding how Realtors get paid can give you valuable insight into the home buying and selling process. Remember that real estate agents typically earn a commission based on a percentage of the home’s selling price. This commission is usually split between the buyer’s and seller’s agents and is paid at closing time.

When you’re working with a real estate agent, it’s important to have open communication about their fees and any other additional costs that may arise. This will help you avoid surprises and ensure a smooth transaction in your home-buying or selling journey.

Finally, always take the time to research and compare different agents to find the right one for your needs. Consider their experience, reputation, and understanding of the local market to help you make an informed decision. By doing so, you’re setting yourself up for success in your real estate endeavors.

Kyle Handy

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