The Origins of the Six Percent Real Estate Agent Commission2 min read
The commission paid to the Real Estate agent is a serious amount of money and a concern in any transaction involving the sell of Real Estate. Where did this six percent commission come from?
The idea of a 6% Real Estate commission being paid to the agent originated during the 1940’s when local Real Estate Boards openly engaged in price fixing to establish a standard rate. This process was an out and out case of an unfair practice, but the 1940’s was a time when the attention of the country was directed to some serious external matters and the idea took hold and spread quickly through the industry.
In the early 1950’s, the Supreme Court ruled that an established 6% commission was illegal. Rather than open up commissions to a more competitive and free market system, the Real Estate Boards merely shifted gears with a bit of fancy linguistic footwork and began to call the 6% commission the “suggested” amount. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, they managed to get away with this practice without much trouble as the majority of real estate agents complied with the suggestion.
In the 1970’s lawsuits brought against the Real Estate Boards effectively put the skids on this practice. The Real Estate agent’s commissions were opened up to competition without the Boards either being able to mandate or even suggest 6% as the carved into stone rate. However, the rate did not alter very much in the years following these court cases. Although the rate may not have been carved into stone, it was pretty much established in the Real Estate market as a standard.
Generally, competitive markets benefit consumers. As long as someone is willing to offer a discounted rate, it would seem that the consumer stood to save money. However, the proponents of a standard 6% rate commission point to such things as health care to argue that the standard rate may actually be helping the consumer by holding the commission down to 6% rather than propping it up to that level. Although the cost of health care is not regulated, the general trend has been straight up off the charts.
Real Estate agents would be quick to point out that if you were to take a close look at just about any service or product being offered or sold in the 1940’s, you would find a very serious increase in cost to the consumer. Except for Real Estate commissions which are still right around 6%. The amount being paid to the agents has increased greatly merely because the value of the property being sold has increased. Today, the internet has been responsible for a few chips in the rock of the 6% commission by offering some straight fee or reduced rate services that allow the sellers to list their own properties. The results are still mixed and the 6% commission is still the standard.