Friday, January 18, 2008

Secret Agenda - Revisited

I first commented on the issue of agent bonuses back in Feb. 2006 and again in November of that same year. I'm revisiting that subject because of a conversation I had yesterday with another agent concerning agent incentives. In case you missed those two posts here they are.

[Nov. 2006]
Looks like someone else has been investigating the whole buyer's agent compensation issue. The Wall Street Journal published an article this week by writers, James R. Hagerty and Ruth Simon, entitled "Do Real-Estate Agents Have a Secret Agenda?"

It was like deja vu all over again. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may remember my post on Feb. 26 of this year entitled "Conflict of Interest". In it I raised the same concerns that these writers addressed in their piece, sellers trying to subvert the process by offering sweet temptations. Rather than rehash the whole issue, I've repeated the post below. I'm not saying all bonuses are undeserved, but, I do think that buyers should be made aware of extra compensation intended to attract the buyer's agents. If your agent goes above and beyond the call of duty, she may deserve every penny being offered. If it was an easy deal for her, she may be happy to rebate that bonus to you. Knowledge is power.

[Feb. 2006]
I've been thinking about agent bonuses and commissions for quite a while. As our market has slowed, we are seeing sellers offering higher commissions and bonuses, supposedly to get agents to push their properties. I received a postcard this week from a developer offering not only 3% commission but also a $1000 bonus to any agent bringing a performing buyer. (note from 2008: As the market has evolved since those posts, bonuses have gotten bigger, as much as 10% commission and bonuses as high as $50,000.) This is troubling to me. It suggests to me that the seller offering the bonus thinks that I would steer my buyer to their property because I would make more money. Folks, if your agents are selecting properties to show you based on the amount of money that they will make, they need their butts kicked. This whole idea of paying a bonus to the selling agent seems to me to be a serious conflict of interest and an incentive to engage in unethical behavior. Without asking, a buyer may never know which properties are more lucrative for their agent, or, if they are even being shown all properties. As it stands, bonuses are legal and commonly offered. I'll go on record as saying the practice has a foul odor to me.