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How To Get A Buyer Agent Commission Rebate In Tennessee

Felix Homes

Dec 9th 2020

Buying a home can be stressful, emotional, time-consuming, and expensive, especially if it's your first time! Between the realtor commission, closing costs, and moving costs it's no wonder why most people fear the process of buying or selling a home. Believe it or not, some of the most common questions we get asked center around real estate agent commission rates both for the home buyer and seller. For instance, many of our clients ask us - are commission rates negotiable, who pays the buyer agent commission, and is a home buyer rebate legal? There's a lot of misinformation on these topics, but we're here to clear the air.

What Does A Buyer's Agent Do?

As unconventional as this may sound, the reality is, when it comes to being a real estate agent, buyer agents don't do all that much these days.

What did a buyer's agent do before the internet?

Rewind the clock 15 or 20 years, and yes, these agents had their hands full working on behalf of the home buyer. They would literally have a big binder filled with properties listed for sale. Nothing was online so if a home buyer wanted to see what inventory was available, they would first call up a realtor who would manually look through their binder and pick a few properties that met the buyer's needs.

If the potential home buyer was then interested in making an offer on the property, doing a comparable market analysis wasn't as easy as it is today. The same agent would have to seek out all of the recent comps in their binder to manually compute their opinion of the home's value. These old-school agents didn't even have electronic signature software so every time a document needed to be signed by the home buyer meant hopping in their car and driving over to their client. With all this work, buyer agent commission rebates were never brought up until the advent of technology caused a huge shift in the industry.

What did a buyer's agent do after the internet?

In today's technological age, so much of these manual buyer agent tasks can be accomplished with the click of a mouse, or simply by scrolling on your phone. The internet and apps allow the home buyer to do most of the work! Buyers are able to preselect their 'requirements', and the home-search website will automatically show them homes in their desired area that meet these requirements.

If you want 4 bedrooms, there's a filter for that. If you need a two-car garage, there is a filter for that. All you need to do is ask your realtor to unlock the front door so you can see if the pictures live up to the hype! If you're interested in making an offer on a home, your agent can easily do a comparable market analysis to determine what a fair price for the home should be. There is no longer the need to manually compute these critical numbers! No wonder it's fairly typical for a buyer's agent to rebate a portion of their commission.

Should I Use A Buyer Agent Or Represent Myself?

Don't get us wrong, a buyer's agent is still helpful, and we encourage you to work with one. After all, purchasing a home may be the largest investment you make. It's good to have a professional in your corner to help answer any of the questions you may have and help you negotiate the purchase. But the reality is, in today's technology-driven world, buyer's agents are just not worth 3% of the final sales price. This is why many folks are starting to ask for a home buyer rebate from real estate agents.

What Is The Buyer Agent Commission?

The buyer agent commission is the fee the agent charges who helps their client (the buyer) with the process of buying a home. In the state of Tennessee, the buyer agent commission is typically 3%. Considering how the internet has allowed the homebuyer to do much of the home searching themselves, the 3% commission seems drastically inflated, right?

Who Pays The Buyer Agent Commission?

Any rational person would suggest that the seller would pay for the listing agent commission, and the buyer pays the buyer agent commission. This is a big misconception. As the home seller, you are responsible for paying the agent commission for both the buyer and seller!

On average, this is a total of 6% of the purchase price in commission fees the seller ends up paying. The buyer's agent gets a 3% fee, and the listing agent would get a 3% fee. On a $400,000 home, that is $24,000 in realtor commission fees. That's a lot of money by any standards.

Just because the buyer does not have to pay out of pocket to use the services of a buyer's agent doesn't mean they are free. A simple economics course would teach you that the buyer's agent commission is factored into the sales price. This is why so many buyers attempt to bypass the services of an agent to get a better price. Luckily, with a home buyer rebate, home buyers can have their cake and eat it too by both saving money thanks to the commission rebate and also benefitting from the experience of a licensed agent.

What Is A Home Buyer Rebate?

A home buyer rebate is when a buyer's agent gives their client back a portion of their commission they receive from the seller. For first time home buyers, think of a commission rebate like cash back on a credit card. For instance, if a buyer's agent collected a 3% commission, or $12,000, they may elect to keep $6,000 of that commission and give their client a commission rebate of $6,000. A realtor may decide to do this as a token of appreciation, a simple thank you, or as a way to get more clients! Commission rebates allow agents to compete for a buyer's business, not just on the level of service they provide but also the price they charge for that service. It's a win-win!

The concept of a buyer's commission rebate has become increasingly popular in recent years as buyers understand that they take on more of the legwork in the home search process. Buyers also understand that as home prices continue to appreciate, especially in the Nashville area, a 3% commission on a $100,000 home in 1980 is a lot less than a 3% commission on a $400,000 home today.

Can Real Estate Agents Give Part Of Their Commission To Buyers?

In the vast majority of the country (currently 40 of the 50 states), rebates are legal meaning agents are able to give any amount of their commission back to their clients. This unique business model can save home buyers save thousands. Many buyers ask for a commission rebate as they realize there isn't a great deal of work that goes into representing them in this modern era. They also understand that the job of a buyer's agent has gotten more efficient through technology and the internet.

What are the rules in Tennessee?

Tennessee is one of 10 states that makes it illegal for an agent to give a buyer rebate. As crazy as this sounds, it's the absolute truth. According to the Tennessee Real Estate Commission (TREC) and the Tennessee Association of Realtors, an agent is not allowed to give a commission rebate to their client nor are they allowed to directly pay for their client's closing costs. At Felix Homes, we are actively working on fighting for a change to this outdated law by starting a petition that we encourage you to sign.

In what other states is it illegal for a buyer's agent to refund their commission?

There are just 10 states that do not allow a buyer rebate. These states are:

  • Alaska
  • Alabama
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee

Infographic depicting a map of the United States showing the states where a buyer's agent commission rebate is legal

Although it's not legal for an agent to give part of their commission to the buyer, the commission rate can still be negotiated. There is no law mandating that the buyer's agent must take 3% of the purchase price as their commission. As a buyer, you should certainly ask your agent to take a lower commission which can make your offer look more appealing to a home seller. While it's not exactly the same as getting cash back on your home purchase, asking your buyer's agent to reduce their commission is in effect the same as a commission rebate.

Does Felix Homes Offer A Rebate?

Our real estate brokerage believes the Tennessee law making it illegal to give a commission rebate is absolutely crazy. The real estate transaction process is expensive, and many clients save up for years just to have enough money to afford a home. Not only that, commission rebates are legal in 40 out of 50 states.

In Tennessee, instead of offering a cash back style rebate, our process looks a little different. Instead of requiring the seller to pay a full 3% commission fee when we represent a buyer, we ask for just 1.5%. Since we are reducing our commission in half, we include language in all of our offers stating that 1.5% must be paid by the seller towards the buyer's closing costs. In practice, this achieves the same thing as a traditional commission rebate. If you plan on purchasing a home for $400,000, you'll end up saving $6,000 off your closing costs. I don't know about you, but that's a meaningful saving. This is a loophole in the law that is completely legal and we're the only brokerage in Tennessee that does it!

How Can Felix Homes Help?

Felix Homes is a Nashville-based low-commission real estate brokerage. We work with both buyers and sellers and help keep more profit in your pocket on each real estate transaction.

Not only do we charge half the rate on the buy side, we charge a flat 1% commission fee when we sell a home for our clients. On average, we help our clients save $8,100 when they choose to list their home with Felix. Our clients are able to save on commissions and use that cash for other important expenses such as a home renovation, family vacation, or downpayment on their dream home!

Why Do We Charge 1%?

This is such a common question, and we love answering it! The fact of the matter is, we believe technology changed the real estate industry, but traditional realtors are holding onto a higher commission fee for obvious reasons. Many years ago, paying a 6% commission fee may have been appropriate, but in today's world with all the real estate apps, online photos, home search websites, and virtual tours, that fee is no longer needed.

In addition, the average home price in Nashville has skyrocketed. Commissions on a $400,000 are a lot more than what they would be on a $100,000 home. The 6% commission rate has stayed relatively unchanged, but all the variables that make up the rate (effort and price) have changed!

Above And Beyond

You can expect to pay less when you choose to work with Felix Homes, but don't expect any degradation of service. We are a complete, full-service realtor that leverages a talented role-based team to help buy the home that's just right or help you sell your existing home. We have a team of employees, not independent contractors, that handle all of our marketing, photography, social media, and technology, which enables our agents to be 100% focused on you.

If you're in Tennessee and you're looking to buy a home, or interested in selling your current home, contact us. We represent both the buyer and the seller and would be more than happy to help answer any of your real estate questions or needs, provide you with more information, and assist you with any real estate transaction. Drop us a line at 615-354-5731 or send us an email at contact@felixhomes.com.

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