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Agents: Worth More Than the Commission Model

This January marks Inman’s fifth annual Agent Appreciation Month, which culminates at Inman Connect New York in a celebration of agents at the end of January. Plus, we’re rolling out the coveted Inman Power Player...

Agents are worth more than the current commission model This January marks Inman’s fifth annual Agent Appreciation Month, which culminates at Inman Connect New York in a celebration of agents at the end of January. Plus, we’re rolling out the coveted Inman Power Player Awards, as well as the New York Power Brokers and MLS Innovators awards.

As the real estate industry continues to grapple with the aftermath of the Sitzer | Burnett verdict and the subsequent copycat lawsuits, New York City agent, attorney, coach, and yoga instructor Renee Fishman puts forth a compelling argument for why the current commission model is unfair to agents. Moreover, she shares the tactics and strategies that have helped her consistently earn a 7 percent commission.

What Business Are You Really In?

At a Tony Robbins business mastery seminar over a decade ago, Fishman had an epiphany. When asked "What business are you in?" she responded, "I'm a coach for people in transition who need to move." This realization made her see the connection between her coaching clients and her real estate clients. By understanding their values, needs, and big visions, she realized that the question that mattered most was about her client's grand vision. This approach helps her identify any obstacles that may arise during the home-buying process.

The Current Commission Model is Unfair to Agents

According to Fishman, the current commission model in the industry is unjust to agents. There is an expectation that agents should provide free consultations and answer all client questions without compensation. Fishman highlights the discrepancy between the work that goes into preparing for showings and the lack of penalties when clients cancel at the last minute.

She draws a parallel with her experience as a yoga instructor where clients are charged in full for a canceled session. Fishman believes that real estate agents undervalue their services and fail to claim their worth in several areas.

The Client Who Paid Fishman $1,800 for 3 Hours of Her Time

Fishman recounts successfully closing a transaction with a client and subsequently having multiple consultative conversations about renting or selling the property. After two more discussions, she informed the client that he would have to pay for her time. When he asked how much, she set a price of "$1,800 for three calls." The client agreed, understanding the value of Fishman's time and expertise.

Commissions are Negotiable

Early in her real estate career, Fishman had a client who signed an exclusive listing agreement for a co-op that wasn't ready to be marketed yet. As the seller's friends questioned the 6 percent commission in a market downturn, Fishman explained that in such conditions, a 7 percent commission was warranted. This experience empowered her to negotiate commissions and showcase her value.

How to Discover What Drives the Client to Transact

Fishman emphasizes the importance of understanding clients on a deeper level. By listening between the lines and digging below the surface, agents can uncover the true motivations driving their clients' actions. Selling a home involves more than surface-level grief; it often touches upon the dreams and visions associated with that home. Fishman's ability to hold space for her clients and guide them through emotionally charged decisions has saved countless deals.

'I Don't Have Listings'

While Fishman covers the usual questions such as "Why do you want to buy or sell?" or "Where are you going next?" she prioritizes getting to know her clients as individuals. By treating them as people rather than listings, she establishes deeper connections and forges lasting relationships.

Coping with Naysayers who Can Sabotage Your Deal

Fishman advises agents to inquire if clients have someone whose opinion they seek before making a purchase. When such individuals are brought in at the last minute, they often express doubts and cynicism, which can jeopardize the transaction. By forewarning clients about this scenario, agents can build trust and showcase their value.

How Listing Photos Affect Client Trust

Drawing from her legal background in false advertising law, Fishman raises concerns about virtual staging. While virtually staging a vacant property may seem appealing, it can create a disconnect between the online images and the reality that buyers encounter. By opting for actual furniture in a home, agents can foster emotional connections between buyers and the properties, thus boosting trust.

Why It's Important to Be 'Trauma-Informed'

Fishman emphasizes the significance of being "trauma-informed" as an agent. Stress and unexpressed trauma can negatively impact clients' decision-making processes, leading to regrettable choices. Agents should be aware of the emotional experiences clients may be going through and provide the necessary support during the transaction.

A 'Good Deal' Is More Than Price

Contrary to popular belief, a "good deal" in real estate isn't solely about getting a great price. Fishman's goal is for her clients to feel satisfied with the entire process. If clients believe they were forced to overpay, resentment may arise. However, if they have a positive experience and feel guided towards the right property, they will remember the connection with their agent. Ultimately, providing exceptional service and understanding clients leads to mutually beneficial transactions.

The Real Estate Industry Needs to Level Up

Fishman concludes by urging the industry to level up its services. This involves educating the public about the value that agents bring and delivering comprehensive support beyond mere sales. By upholding higher service standards, agents can break free from the traditional commission model and charge appropriately for their expertise.

Agents are worth more than the current commission model Image courtesy of Inman.com