Salaried Real Estate Agents? Yeah, I like it…


posted by on Consulting & Compensation

The other day I wrote a blog about how I wish the whole world operated under the Tempur-Pedic model of Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back! Which, in a way, is how our industry operates as well since in most cases we don’t get paid until/unless we perform. However, I promised to also explore the other side of the equation – that is – a real estate industry without commissions, without the emphasis on Pay for Performance.  In other words – a salaried or fee-based model.

The most common objection to the salaried real estate agent (and for simplicity, let’s just call all non-contingency-based models “salaried”) is that without the incentive to perform, service to the client would suffer.

In theory, that makes perfect sense; as I’ve experienced way too many times in the last year, once you’ve paid for something, you’re stuck with the service you get or don’t get, whether you’re satisfied or not satisfied.

But here’s the thing. That blanket assumption actually CONTRADICTS a big part of the traditional real estate compensation model – specifically – that we are paid a PERCENTAGE of the deal. That is – we make far more money on a $500,000 deal than on a $100,000 one. Therefore, the anti-salary line of reasoning says that we will naturally work far harder on the bigger deal than on the smaller deal.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t work that way. My $100,000 clients get pretty much the same attention and service as my $500,000 ones.  Not necessarily because it’s the nice thing to do, but because that’s WHO I AM. If someone hires me to do a job for them and I agree to be hired by them, my pride ain’t gonna allow me to give them a half-a$$ed effort, regardless of the final paycheck. That’s how I’m wired. Aren’t you?

So, if we agree that we don’t treat our lower dollar-versus-higher dollar clients much differently, is it really that big of a leap to assume that we are capable of providing excellent service under a salaried model?

If you were hired and paid a decent salary to take great care of a handful of buyers and sellers, would you really do a sub-standard job because you aren’t being paid on contingency? Or would you take your job seriously and do your best because that’s who you are?

Now, I’m not talking about prospecting. I’m talking about doing what needs to be done to market, contract and close your seller’s home or getting your buyer into his first home, next home or dream home.

But see, this is where it gets fuzzy. BECAUSE of how we’re compensated, our business tends to attract practitioners who view the career as primarily sales, not service. They enjoy the chase, the hunt, the pursuit – that is – they like to prospect. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But those aren’t necessarily the skills and talents that make a great real estate agent – one who gets her deals to the closing table – leaving a stream of satisfied buyers and sellers in her wake.

Which is, in my humble opinion, something we need more of in our industry.

But that soapbox aside, I can easily see a model where real estate agents are paid a salary to do the job their buyers and sellers hire them to do. The companies that have the best tools, training and systems in place to serve their customers will naturally get a larger share of the local business, assuming they have a decent marketing department. Sure, there would be a sales force, but most real estate license-holders would focus on taking care of their current customers, rather than on the pursuit of new ones.

This little blog isn’t meant to be any sort of manifesto crying out for change, or anything like that. Personally, I like being paid on contingency because it means if I do a good job for my customer, I get a juicy paycheck, due to the risk I agree to take by working on contingency.  And I like juicy paychecks. But if I were to open my own real estate company, I’d seriously consider a salaried model, simply because that’s the sort of practitioner I want to attract – one who would rather serve than hunt.

Just a few too many rambling thoughts on a chilly Monday morning…