When you sell your home, you will need to pay a commission to your real estate agent. The commission must be set in writing when you appoint your agent.
Speak with several agents before you choose one. Compare the quotes to decide which gives the best deal for you, taking into account the likely selling price of your home. We recommend that you:
- ask 2 or 3 agents to inspect your home and provide you with a listing presentation
- think about the saleability of your home and the current state of the property market
- ask the agents about the services they offer and the commission they charge for them
- take into account other fees, such as advertising, which are not usually part of the agent’s commission.
You will need to reimburse your agent for their expenses, but only if you discuss and agree on them in advance. You need to authorise any costs in advance. Get a detailed statement of all expenses.
An agent must be fully accountable for how they use your money. Ask them to show you a marketing plan that outlines how, when and why they will spend the money.
If you pay in advance, the agent must place the money in their trust account. In order to pay for anything set out in the marketing plan, they must:
- make the payment from their own money or from their trust account
- get a receipt
- reimburse themselves (if they paid from their own money) from the trust fund for the amount on the receipt.
We may be able to help if you are charged a commission that:
- is harsh or unreasonable
- doesn’t match up with their initial quote.
Unusual sale situations
Most real estate contracts say that you have to pay the commission once the sale is ‘unconditional’. This is because the agent has completed their role under your contract with them. The sale might sometimes fall through after this date. If so, you do still need to pay the commission.
The agent cannot take the money out of the trust account until the transaction is complete, even if it falls through.
To make sure you don’t lose money:
- set the buyer’s deposit to at least the same amount as the agent’s commission
- seek independent legal advice before you sign the sale contract.
Ask your solicitor to:
- review the contract to make sure the terms are appropriate and reasonable
- recommend any changes that you could ask for before signing.
If two or more agents work together to sell your home, you still only need to pay one commission. Your agents will need to decide between themselves how to split the money.
‘Beneficial interest’ sales
Your agent has a ‘beneficial interest’ if they sell your home to any of their close family, friends or business associates. If they do, they must:
- act fairly and honestly in relation to the sale
- get your signed acknowledgement that you agree to them getting the beneficial interest.
They will ask you to sign to acknowledge that you’ve read and understand the form. You don’t need to sign it straight away. You should ask your solicitor to look at it for you.