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Banks to Limit Real Estate Agent Commissions

No, I am not kidding.

I was just informed that a lender limited the compensation on a regular non-short sale transaction to a maximum of 8% of the sale price.

That’s right, sports fans, the lender….a well known national bank (who i will not name) got the request from a mortgage broker to close a loan.  When they received the HUD from the title company, they funded it less the difference between the real estate agents total compensation and 8%.

OK, welcome to the mortgage brokerage world where by the Dodd-Frank Act, mortgage originators and especially mortgage brokers (and not the banks themselves) are limited in what they can make and how they have to disclose it.

I would assume that the bank felt that commission over 8% was a detriment to their collateral, but there was a contract between the seller and the agents.  The bank intervened…..and basically said to the agents (to put it nicely) go jump in a lake!

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OK, what should you do know.  First, contact your Senators and Congresspeople and the candidate for said offices in 2010 and demand the repeal of the compensation limits and HVCC-like parts of Dodd-Frank.  Then, call NAR and let them know what just happened so that the dues you pay can go to righting a new wrong.

After that….drink heavily (but don’t drive!).

Written By

Realty Reality! That describes Fred, a sharp witted and outspoken realist for the mortgage and real estate world who has appeared on CNBC and NPR's Marketplace along with being quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets. Fred is the CEO of U S Spaces, Inc/Arrivva (a real estate brokerage firm in PA, NJ, DE and CA) and U S Loans Mortgage Inc (mortgage brokerage in PA, CA, FL and VA), and serves on the Board of Directors and is the Federal Legislative Director for the UpFront Mortgage Brokers. Fred is also the co-creator of real estate startup, a mathematically driven rental search engine. See everything Fred at



  1. Jay Thompson

    October 12, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Why not name the bank?

  2. Stacie Wells

    October 12, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    I’m with Jay. Who’s the perp? And how does this affect the legally binding contract that we have in place saying that the seller will pay x% commission to listing broker who brings seller a buyer that is willing and able to purchase? If I don’t work for the bank, why do they think they have the power to control my earnings? I feel violated.

  3. Stacie Wells

    October 12, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Lani, it’s in cases like this where you need to change your FB button from “like” to “recommend”. I can’t possibly like this in good conscience 😉

  4. Paul D Dziedzic

    October 12, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    You know, I sure hope the NAR gets involved with this one! Since the buyer dose not pay the agents commission, why should the lender care? ZBut then again, I would still like to know who gets 8% let alone OVER 8%???

    • Aaron Catt

      October 13, 2010 at 11:42 am

      The buyer doesn’t pay the commission? Arguably.

      I think that the “buyer doesn’t pay the commission” is a pretty interesting “chicken or egg” scenario.

      But I digress-

      I think it would be interesting to see what the bank’s position on this is and why they limit the commissions. My guess is that it’s not much different than FHA limiting seller contributions to down payments and closing costs.

      At the end of the day, the seller and the agent have the listing agreement. The compensation should be enforceable contractually. If the agent is anything like me, they probably aren’t litigious and will just take it on the chin.

  5. Paula Henry

    October 12, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    If the bank ordered the appraisal and the property appraised, who are they to limit our compensation. It’s not like 8% is a normal compensation in my part of the country, but I don’t want some bank determining what I make. If they get by with it now, whose to say next year they won’t reduce the maximum amount. Give them a inch, they’ll become a ruler!

  6. Jonathan Dalton

    October 12, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    1) I suppose the debate over who pays the commission, the seller or the buyer, officially ends when the buyer’s lender can decide for themselves what the commission ought to be. Lady Ardell has won, I surrender.

    2) I’d be curious to see what the listing agent does because there still remains a legally binding listing contract for whatever the original percentage was. Not sure what this particular listing agreement says but in Arizona there’s no language that makes payment of that percentage contingent upon the buyer’s lender approving it.

    In other words, it doesn’t make a bit of difference what the HUD says, the seller still owes the listing brokerage the amount in the listing agreement … if the brokerage really has the cajones to pursue the difference from the seller.

    Would you do it?

  7. Matt Kelly

    October 12, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    How long till the NAR climbs all over this?….5…4…3…2……this could get ugly!

  8. Jeff Gingerich

    October 12, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Banks in our area appear to be squeezing agent commissions as well. I know agents that refuse to show these listings as the co-operating broker. Not sure the big banks in Canada can justify how this maximizes value which is their obligation under power of sale. Powerful lobby group though so don’t hold your breath waiting for the Competition Bureau to investigate.

  9. Fred Glick

    October 12, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Think about it.

    If a $100,000 house has a 6% commission (going in and out), that means that 12% of the sale price has been taken by commissions.

    So, someone using an FHA loan, putting 3.5% down (not even figuring the up front MIP) is already 2.5% under water plus any municipal fees (like the 2% transfer tax in Philadelphia).

    So, if someone sells right away, they are really 2.5% under water….and the lenders are starting to realize that. I am sure there is pressure on HUD to limit real estate agent commissions possible for low down payment deals at least.

    The banks want one thing….MONEY! They will use their enormous power, money and influence to get what they want.

    They won on the HVCC, they are winning on the loan officer/mortgage broker compensation limitation and the next target is probably the real estate agents.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 12, 2010 at 10:00 pm

      What do you mean “going in and going out”?

    • Jane Pfiffner

      October 19, 2010 at 8:38 am

      When people talk about the standard 6% commission, that’s total commissions split between the listing broker (then split again with the listing broker agent), and the selling broker (then split again with the selling broker agent who represented the buyer). So, it’s 3% to each broker, then they split their 3% with the agents who represent the seller and buyer respectively. Big difference and if we could only make what you thought we made…

      On another point, with a binding contract, its correct that the seller is still obliged to pay whatever they agreed upon for the commissions, regardless of what the buyer’s lender stipulates on their HUD.

    • Candy B

      October 19, 2010 at 11:08 am

      Your logic isn’t logical at all!
      First of all, it isn’t 6% to each agent, it is 6% that the seller pays, and the coop agents share the 6%.
      Second, the commission isn’t added on to the sales price, it is deducted from the sales price. A home has to appraise for at least the sales price. Homes in my area rarely appraise for a much higher amount since regulations on appraisals changed.
      So, unless the values are dropping drastically and quickly, then the buyer is only “underwater” as you call it, for the closing costs. And in many cases, the seller has paid those as well.

  10. Kathleen Scanlon

    October 12, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    There is no privity of contract between the Lender and the Seller, or the Lender and the real estate agents. If the Lender fails to fund whatever the mortgage is and thus causes the buyer to fail to tender the full contract price, that buyer is in breach of contract. Therefore, the buyer will have to bring the shortfall to the table. Further, the Seller still has to make sure that the full commission is paid as it has a contractual obligation to the broker to do so.

  11. ShortWoman

    October 12, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Banks Always Make Their Own Rules. We don’t have to like it, but I would have thought we all understood that by now.

  12. Alex

    October 12, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    8% doesn’t seem all that bad but it would be nice to know who the bank is.

  13. Kevin Tomlinson

    October 12, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Am I douchey isn’t the typical commission 6%? Am I missing something?

  14. Eric Johnson

    October 12, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    The real issue is that lender just put their borrower in a compromising position by not fully funding the loan as promised. If they don’t change their mind, the borrower will have to come up with the difference on a property that appraised for the purchase price or they will be in breach of contract and could lose their earnest money.

    This could be a low value property with a purchase price of $50,000 or so where a higher commission makes a lot of sense when we remember agents are still on the hook for E&O, broker splits, income taxes, etc.

    Bottom line is lender has no right to interfere with other contracts between seller & listing broker and between brokers. I suspect the courts would be pretty upset about this contract interference by a 3rd party.


    October 12, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    Oh WAAAAA! I can’t whack a seller anymore WAAA! Please save it… anything over 6% is just a ripoff. You folks know who you are, so stop sucking the life out of the sellers equity. Thank god there are alternatives. All banks should cap it at 6% – Done. Go ahead hit the “don’t like” button… oh wait there is none.

    • Aaron Catt

      October 13, 2010 at 11:46 am

      I couldn’t disagree more! Of course though, that is my nature 🙂

      I’ve worked plenty of deals where the marketing was more difficult, costly and the due diligence and contracts included lawyers. Fees on these types of deals in my market have gone as high as 10%.

      You get what you pay for.

      • Brandon

        October 21, 2010 at 11:49 pm

        “You get what you pay for”
        Of course you get what you pay for….you don’t pay until AFTER the sale! The SALE is what you wanted, regardless of the fee/commission!

    • Troy Jensen

      February 16, 2011 at 11:24 pm

      I think you miss the point here, if we give them an inch now and let bamks dictate to us, they take a mile later…..

  16. ARDELL

    October 13, 2010 at 12:00 am

    Seriously people, Do you think if you wanted to charge “a seller” with NO EQUITY 40%…someone would actually ALLOW that to happen? No limit??? The limit for years for ALL transactions was 7%…looks to me like y’all just got a raise.

    • Pricefixingisillegal

      October 19, 2010 at 3:01 pm

      Ardell, there has never been a “limit of 7%”…that would be price fixing and Realtors are not allowed to state that a commission is “standard” “limited” whatever…as that is a violation of anti-trust laws! Each Realtor runs his/her own business and is allowed to charge whatever they feel their services are worth. Any commission job requires a lot of dead-end hours for every minute that results in a profit. The Seller has the choice to select any Realtor he/she chooses! It’s called free enterprise! Just like you can pay $4.00 for Starbucks or $1.00 for McDonald’s coffee! Stop whining about how much Realtors make! You are welcome to go through the licensing and expense to become one…again, we live in a free country.

  17. Fred Glick

    October 13, 2010 at 12:32 am

    A couple of notes. the commission was 6% plus a bonus that took it to a very high percentage.

    Additionally, let’s all remember when banks were pushing to be in the real estate brokerage business. I am sure that will reappear too.

  18. BawldGuy

    October 13, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Interesting situation, with the Golden Rule in full bloom.

    It’s been my observation the public pays 5-8% to brokerages who sell the vast majority of the listings they take, and a few hundred bucks to those who sell less than one of four. The public understands the value of getting, you know, actual empirical results.

  19. Michael LaPeter

    October 13, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    I don’t think the bank has any right to interfere with a contract between clients and a real estate agent, but at the same time they do have a right to only fund loans they think will be successful. As you said in your latest comment Fred, the issue is really about the buyer ending up underwater and unable to repay the loan upon sale. The bank has the right to consider all factors regarding loan repayment, and if the commission ends up being a factor, then they should probably consider it. Loose standards were the reason we’re all dealing with short sales and foreclosures now, after all.

    That said, I have no love for the big banks, and their maddeningly inconsistent and often arbitrary decisions. I’ve found working with credit unions to be stricter, but at least more logical.

  20. Bruce Lemieux

    October 13, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Fred – this simply doesn’t make any sense. In a regular sale when the seller delivers clear title, the seller can do whatever he wants with his equity.

    So this loan got through the appraisal, underwriting and title revew; and then – just before settlement – the bank looks at *the seller side of the HUD1* and says to the buyer “I’m reducing your loan because the listing commission is too high”??

    This doesn’t pass a smell test. You start by saying “I was just informed that a lender…”. I would check your source.

    • Aaron Catt

      October 13, 2010 at 10:09 pm

      Good point(s) Bruce,

      Also, why is the bank looking at the sellers net proceeds anyhow…should be private information–right?

  21. h

    October 13, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    well genius my a**, you morons. what you guys do is not worth 8%. Ever heard of Trust me if I were you I will look at alternate professions as things are changing way to quickly and it’s only going downhill for you guys..

  22. Joe Loomer

    October 14, 2010 at 6:06 am

    I’m with Fred L. here, doesn’t stand a light-of-day test. Who’s the source, who’s the bank, how’d they “direct” a title company to violate the terms of an agreement between a seller and an agent? Was it mere threats? “We won’t fund unless you lower the commission”?

    In my region, it is customary to see 5-7% commissions on resale properties, 8-10% on Commercial, and 10% on land listings.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  23. Jim Brophy

    October 16, 2010 at 12:23 am

    I don’t think we have all the facts. I bet the sale price was low. I am in the business 35 yrs and have been charging a minimum comm fee of $3,900 or 6%, whichever is greater, for almost 20 yrs. I am not going to sell a low price, distressed property in risky location for fee of 6%. About 8 yrs ago I happened to sell a low price home for 15,000. My minimum fee was $3,900 and if you do the math that comes to 26% but in the process of closing the sale, in this unsafe location, I was jumped right outside the house at 3 in the afternoon, by two thugs who threw me against the car and stuck a gun in my back and threatened to kill me if they did not get all the money? What money. They took what ever was in my pocketr and I was saved by the owner yelling out the window that the police were called etc. We pay our miltary combat pay when they jump out of planes and go into armed conflict etc What would the banks position be if a buyer engaged an attorney to represent then at settlement(or a seller) and the legal fee was pretty stiff, as I have seen for 1 hrs work? Everyone wants to bash real estate sales and never considers that we may work 60 plus hours a week and not make a dime most weeks of the year. Should we be able to challange the interest rate or closing fees the bank charges? Its always beat up the agent so why don’t all the complainers sell real estate. It’s not easy to work a full week, maybe 7 days, and not make a penny and then when we finally make a sale you want to regulate our fee, Give me a break!

  24. realestateagent

    October 16, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Whatever. RE Agents are overpaid at any percentage. People who actually work for a living don’t give a damn. Cry on each other’s shoulders.

    • HardworkingRealtor

      October 19, 2010 at 3:21 pm

      To “realestateagent”…(which obviously you are not!),

      Where do you get the nerve to insult what others do for a living! You should really get your facts straight before you open your mouth (or in this case, your computer) and make a complete @$$ of yourself! Most of the Realtors I know, work 40++ hours a week, including nights and weekends…our phone is always on! Obviously, you don’t own a home and spend too much time drowning your pathetic sorrows in bars, so you don’t have any money left over to buy a home…Sorry, now I’m making assumptions about what you do and who you are…doesn’t feel very good, does it?

      • K

        October 22, 2010 at 1:06 pm

        From here it looks like you’re whining and have no way to defend the value of what you do. Perhaps that is because you have fallen into the ‘not owing money on a house makes you worthless’ trap.

  25. Greg Schenk SIOR

    October 17, 2010 at 7:21 am

    seek first to understand then be understood.
    What was the fee agreed to? Does the agent have a case?
    As a commercial tenant/buyers broker commercial loans have yet to fall like residential ones
    but we need to be prepared. Good relationships with all parties and understanding what the agent brings will help bridge the gap.
    A good strong agreement with the client will as well!

  26. Julie

    October 17, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    For those of you whom are less informed/educated in “short sale” procedures,, allow me to inform you on the “short sale” guide lines. When taking a listing for a property which is a potential “short sale”, the lender/bank for the seller is the one whom has a say of what the commissions are to be. The seller is provided “short sale” documentation, which involves the listing agent and the commissions. It is very simple….if the agent/broker doesn’t agree to the “short sale” terms/requirement, then the agent/broker can simply refuse to participate in the sale period. I think the way this was disclosed is referring to the “buyer’s mortgage lender”, which I doubt is the case. The buyer’s lender should not have a say in the broker’s commission, period. Except, remember everything is negotiable in a contract and every contract can be amended as long as all parties agree.
    My advice, learn the lending guidelines for “Short Sales”, “Deed in Lieu of Foreclosures”, “Foreclosures”, as commissions effect the decision of the lender based on the bottom line loss to the lender/all parties concerned.

  27. Bonnie Adamson

    October 18, 2010 at 11:05 am

    This is for those that call realtors whiners. The world would be a better place if everyone got paid for performance like real estate agents do. Lenders breaking contracts is a slipperly slope.

  28. California Selling

    October 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    A big bank just cut my commission on a short sale we have been working on for 6 months to 2% on each side, clue it has a B and an A in it’s name. The negotiator said they did this because the FHA appraiser did not bring in a fair market value. A fair market value is what the appraisal did come in at folks, yet this bank thinks it can dictate what it wants as a fair market value on a government backed loan. On top of this the pool and dishwasher were called on the appraisel and they just cut the commission that was already cut to 2.5% that we had hoped to use toward the repairs since they also denied any repairs. This is either (a) corruption, (b) stupidity or (c) all of the above. And to the person that posted that real estate agents are over paid at any percentage, you try showing thirty houses a day and later getting on the phone with bank negotiators that are clueless about how a real estate transaction work and you will see that this is a real job and as you pointed out it’s a thankless job too. Maybe she is one of those clueless bank negotiators who has no prior real estate experience that suddenly considers herself an expert.

  29. Janice Boyer

    October 18, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Does anyone out there feel like an enabler? I feel like we assist the lenders in taking peoples homes to foreclosure when they should not be there. Lost paper work and lazy people who answer the lenders phones cause most of the problems plus let’s add a little greed in here too. The lenders do not treat the Agents with much respect and there is frankly no real negotiations that goes on with these cases. It is the lenders way or the highway. It also seems that all Real Estate Law has gone out the window. Buyers write contracts and then walk away without penalty. The whole thing is a big mess and of course they want to cut our commissions if they can……we are not worth the money we bring into their organizations from these short sales or foreclosures. They only care about money and not the real people on the ground be it, Agent or Borrower….After 14 years in the business, I have to look at myself and ask myself if I am doing the right thing with those hurting sellers in order to make money. I wish this would all end before no one has a home left to go home too including we the Agents.

  30. Keith

    October 18, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Fred does not give all the facts on this one. Who is the bank? Don’t believe this ever happened, people. He is stirring the pot

    • Paul Cottone

      October 19, 2010 at 12:57 pm

      I am not a lawyer, nor do I claim my comments as such, but I believe what was described in this scenario, is tortious interference of a contract (by a 3rd entity, that is not a direct party to the contract), which is illegal in my state of Massachusetts, subject to court action. The bank might have made it a condition of the mortgage commitment, which we have no knowledge of, since there is so littl einformation. The bank may possibly lose in court, in my state, after the fact, if this was challenged in Masssachusetts, if it is deemed tortious interference. If this happens here, I would recommend the parties bring it to the State Attorney General’s office.

  31. Fred Glick

    October 18, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    FYI- This was not a short sale which makes it even creepier!

  32. Fred Glick

    October 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    @Keith I don’t make things up to stir the pot. First, there are enough things in this business that does not require things to be made up. Also, I don’t lie and I would expect and apology.

    I will not release the name of the bank because it is irrelevant to the conversation and my source required me not to although I know who it is.

    And that’s called journalistic integrity.

  33. Doug Francis

    October 20, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Yes, I smiled as i read that headline. But I am sure that there must be a sliding scale involved here depending on the sales price… after all, these guys are bankers.

  34. jphilip

    October 21, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Ironic that the banks would stick it to a real estate broker, who has to work in this dreadful environment that they, the banks, created, and are making billions in. Very ironic.

  35. Silvana Knight

    October 22, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    If you are going to post a professional article citing industry issues, please learn proper grammar. We have enough trouble convincing people we really do work for a living, we don’t need them thinking we are uneducated:
    “OK, what should you do know” should be:
    OK, what should you do now.

  36. Rob McCance

    October 24, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I started reading this without looking at who the author was. After coming across “Dodd-Frank Act” in paragraph three, I immediately thought, this must of been written by Glick.

    So I scrolled up and …bingo!

    This post has no relevance to anything, nor adds any value.

    So, sorry.


  37. Jay the Realtor

    October 25, 2010 at 4:01 am

    The Banks are in the Real Estate Business!

    Anybody know about how many properties are now REO? Collectively, it wouldn’t surprise me if they have more listings than any of the major brokerages. If not maybe they soon will.

    The banks choose the price they will accept for these REO properties, and they control the fee they are willing to pay to come up with their bottom line.

  38. Fred Glick

    October 25, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Good point, Jay!

    I guess the banks are in charge of the real estate business 🙂

  39. bobhertzog

    October 27, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    I’m sitting here wondering why I wasted brain cells reading this article. In the “real world”, we are very fortunate to make a 6% commission when listing a short sale. Obviously, the author has no idea what is happening in the “real world”.

    It’s real simple folks. If you take a short sale listing, you promise 2.5% to the buyers agent. If the bank demands a total of 5%, you’re covered. If you are fortunate to get 6% (which we are in 95% of our cases), you make 3.5 and the buyer’s agent gets 2.5. If you have someone processing your short sales for you, you disclose up-front that the buyer will pay that fee at COE. Nuff said.

  40. Fred Glick

    October 28, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Hey Bob! LEARN TO READ.


    • Bruce Lemieux

      October 28, 2010 at 12:36 pm

      Fred – I enjoy your mortgage articles, but this article is simply unbelievable. The buyer’s mortgage company would only see the full HUD1 with the the seller charges after the loan has been fully approved, through underwriting and funded. At that point – the day before or day of settlement – the bank tells the buyer “we’re not funding the loan in full unless the seller reduces his commission to the listing broker”? This still makes no sense.

      Since this wasn’t one of your sales, I would get more information from your source to help make this claim credible.

  41. Fred Glick

    October 28, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Guess what kiddies?

    I now have FIRST HAND a copy of a mortgage commitment for a buyer of mine that on the closing conditions it states that (and I quote) “Real Estate commissions not to exceed 8% of the sale price.”

    There is no knowledge of the type of sale by the buyer’s mortgage lender.

    What’s to say that the lenders won’t change that number to 3.25%?

    This is real and anyone that thinks is not….well, is probably one of my jealous detractors that posted above. BTW, tell them that I will take fries with that burger!

    • Rob McCance

      October 28, 2010 at 4:55 pm


      I wouldn’t think it means anything. Mortgagors don’t pay the commission. It’s probably a blanket attempt to prevent FRAUD in the area of RE commissions, before it possibly becomes the next favorite scam.

      They obviously have pumped it way up there at 8% so it won’t be a hindrance.

      Also, Mortgagors have to know that if they were to FIX a commission at an unreasonably low number, then here comes the commission fixing lawsuits.

      I would say there’s nothing to be concerned about here at all.

  42. Chuck Hurd

    October 29, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Here in California banks notoriously steal commissions from agents. They do it because they can. On short sales and REO’s. They pay the commissions and dictate what they will pay. Repayment for us lobbying to keep them out of our business I suppose. But if you have been around awhile you see where they have creeped in it. Here it is customary to see 6% on a SFR and the bank squeeze it to 5% or 4% predicated on the sale price. Just had it happen on a $545k sale from 6% to 5% because I double ended it. But lets keep in reality. An organic seller would do the same…right? The only difference is we can’t say no to a bank. I am sure some $10 an hour bean counter made this decision. But hey….I live well, eat well and pay my diues and would HOPE NAR & CAR lobby to protect this kind of thing from happening.

  43. paul faulstich

    July 24, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Probably see the banks instituting a flat commission irrespective of amount of sale if they had their way.

  44. Erica

    May 12, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Fred – we are trying to close one right now with a $15,000 house. Yes we had a flat rate minimum commission on this sale. Yes it was more than 8% (which is $1200). The lender, Santander, is stating the seller cannot pay more than 8% on the deal. What is up with that? Since when can banks interfere between a contract between SELLER and his BROKER? The fee could be 10 or 15% on this deal and the bank is not affected, nor the buyer.

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