Mona's Real Estate Matters and a Myriad of Other Conversations: Do Selling Bonuses Work for Real Estate Agents?

Do Selling Bonuses Work for Real Estate Agents?

Sellers often wonder if offering a "Selling Bonus" will work to get agents to sell their houses quicker.  Sellers can get antsy about attention level their house is getting by local real estate agents.  Locally, we still have a certain price point that there is more inventory than buyers.  This is pointed out to sellers when they list their property, but they are still hopeful that there is a way to tempt an agent into putting their property at the head of the list.  Usually the seller thinks that an additional financial incentive on top of the professional fee or commission we will earn when the transaction closes will seal the deal for them.

It would be hard for any agent to understand how real estate works in all 50 states but here in North Carolina, agents must disclose to their clients (buyers AND sellers), if there is an opportunity for the agent to earn a penny more than the expected commission paid at the close of the transaction.  Not only do we have to disclose this information, we have to have permission to accept it.  We have to disclose if we receive a referral fee from home warranty companies or other service providers and we for darned certain have to disclose if a seller is offering an additional (often sizeable) bonus amount for bringing a buyer.

When this information is disclosed to buyers they initially have a concern that the main reason their agent is showing this particular piece of property is just because of the bonus.  I've seen bonuses range anywhere from $500 to $10,000!  The second reaction is usually a bit of resentment, wondering why if the seller was willing to pay the agent extra then why wouldn't the seller just reduce the price of the property?

Fair observations, I think.

I don't know any agents who would search for properties for the buyers and consciously look for properties that the seller has offered a bonus for selling, maybe those folks do exist.  At least I hope I don't know any.  There are times that extra and unexpected income would be so welcome but for me personally, as an agent working with buyers preparing to spend a massive amount of money on their real estate purchase...something doesn't feel right about accepting a bonus that might have meant a reduction in the buyers' purchase price, just for doing my job.

For those occasions that I did show a house to the buyer that came with a bonus, I told them that if they liked the house the bonus would be requested to come off the purchase price.  Interestingly enough, no buyer has ever selected the house with the bonus offered!

What does it say about how sellers regard agents if they think that bribery...I mean bonuses would make a difference when we select houses to show our clients?  Don't they think that we already are motivated to match the right house with the right client?

This is my opinion only but no, I don't think offering a selling bonus will make any difference in the time it takes to sell a house.  What makes the difference is location, pricing the house right, keeping the house in showing condition, pricing the house right, making the house available for convenient showings, pricing the house right and oh yeah, pricing the house right.

To be fair, I don't think all sellers believe agents to be creatures of avarice and they may honestly think that offering the bonus is more of a reward or thank you thing but in North Carolina anyway, we have to disclose it.  My personal opinion wouldn't change even if we were allowed to sneak around and accept it.  Our job is to make sure our buyer gets the best deal possible on the property they want and I can't help but think that the "bonus" amount wouldn't be better used toward's the buyer's bottom line.


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Comment balloon 9 commentsMona Gersky • August 25 2015 06:03AM


I've never been a fan of these . If a seller is willing to pay a Bonus they are also willing to take less than List Price ! Shouldn't the benefit be passed to the client we serve ?

Posted by Michael J. Perry, Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist (KW Elite ) almost 4 years ago

Hi Mona. What a nice argument about those bonuses. I see them being offered in my area, and I  have occasionally have had sellers, who wanted to offer them on their listings. Yes, their reasons were to get their home sold faster, but you're right on the money about pricing the home. Pricing should overcome any objections.

Posted by Jerry Newman, Texas REALTOR, San Antonio Military Relocation (Brown Realty, 210-789-4216, almost 4 years ago

Mona - I never thought these bonuses work. Here in Ga. we can't search by bonuses, so if the agent gets it, it was more than likely a happy happenstance for the agent. Not a reason for the agent to show the home in the first place.

Posted by Peter den Boer, MBA,GRI, Associate Broker, Realtor (Atlanta Communities) almost 4 years ago

Hi Mona Gersky there will be a sale without the bonus, if the home is priced properly and the right buyer sees it.... in my opinion, the bonus shows desperation....

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) almost 4 years ago

Hi Mona - We agree with you completely, and have always offered to pass along bonuses to our buyers. We most often see them on new construction.

Posted by Dick Greenberg, Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate (New Paradigm Partners LLC) almost 4 years ago

Bonuses are common in my Texas market (Houston) but not here in Colorado. I think they are counterproductive. 

Posted by David Gibson CNE, 719-304-4684 ~ Colorado Springs Relocation, Relocation, Luxury & Lifestyle residential (Colorado Real Estate Advisers LLC ) almost 4 years ago

Commissions aren't discussed here with the buyer.  It's NOT a negotiation tool, so whatever the listing agent has set at the BAC, that's how the buyer's agent gets their comission.  IF the bonus is advertised in the "private remarks" section of the RMLS, GREAT!  I don't have to tell the buyer that either.  But, all commissions go directly to the brokerage, and that includes.  I have never steered a client to a home that offers a BONUS.  And it's not easy to get a buyer to purchase a property if they don't want to . . . bonus or no bonus.

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) almost 4 years ago

We don't have to disclose them here.  We don't have to discuss what we're getting paid at all.  Of course it's right there on the closing documents isn't it?  And I discourage sellers from offering bonuses and suggest buyer incentives and/or price reductions by that amount.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) almost 4 years ago

As a listing agent I've been asked by sellers if they should offer a bonus. I tell them that the buyer buys the house not the agent. If they were thinking of offering a bonus they would be better off to lower the price by the amount they were going offer as a bonus. One thing I hate to see in comments is a bonus offered for full price offer. No buyers agent with an ounce of integrity would push their clients toward that. 

Posted by Larry Riggs, GRI, SRS Your Frederick County Specialist (Century 21 Redwood) almost 4 years ago