Sign a buyer brokerage agreement to see a property? No way!

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The National Association of Realtors’ proposed settlement in its commission cases, which has been preliminarily approved by the court, has left agents and brokers struggling with exactly how they will answer their clients’ questions going forward.

On Tuesday, Judge Stephen R. Bough, who presided over Sitzer | Burnett, granted preliminary approval to NAR’s proposed settlement, making it more likely that the rule changes surrounding compensation in the multiple listing service (MLS) that NAR agreed to will come to pass. The judge set a hearing for final approval in November.


According to the trade organization’s website, “NAR has agreed to enact a new rule that would require MLS participants working with buyers to enter into written agreements with their buyers. NAR continues, as it has done for years, to encourage its members to use buyer brokerage agreements that help consumers understand exactly what services and value will be provided, and for how much. These changes will go into effect in mid-July 2024.”

Rather than getting bogged down in long, confusing explanations, Jeff Lobb, CEO and president of Sparktank Media and Coach 52, recommends keeping it simple, asking plenty of questions to determine if you and the lead are a good fit, and creating a strong value proposition that illustrates the value you bring to the buyer side of the transaction.

Lobb has been working on crafting the conversations that both listing and buyer agents can use to address their buyers’ and sellers’ questions in today’s highly confusing environment. Watch the full interview, or read on for examples, scripts and objection-handling tips that you can use now to help you navigate difficult discussions with your clients. 

Avoid long explanations: Keep it simple 

The biggest source of confusion currently is about our fees and how they have been paid in the past. Before you go into a full-blown discussion about your commission, Lobb urged agents to ask more questions to uncover what their clients’ real motivations are. 

“You have to educate them about how we work and how the industry works,” Lobb said. “If they bring up anything about your fee, tell them that you will be happy to talk about fees later, but let’s see if we will be able to work together first.”

Lobb recommends that when you are on a listing appointment, it’s important to explain that commissions have always been negotiable and to describe how we earn our fees. Keep it simple, and avoid getting in the weeds with long explanations. 

Lobb said a frequent mistake most agents make is how they present their value proposition. 

“A lot of people think their value proposition is a bunch of things that they tell the seller they will do,” Lobb said. “It’s not what you do, but why you do it. As Simon Sinek says, start with ‘Why.’” 

This process involves asking lots of questions, such as what they’re looking for or what is motivating them to move. Lobb also urged listing agents to be more consultative and to educate clients about how agents work as well as how the industry works at large. 

When clients want to talk about commission fees up front, Lobb recommends that you say the following: 


I’m happy to talk about fees. But first let’s see if we’re a match, whether I can help you accomplish what you want to accomplish, and that we’re confident about getting your home sold. At that point, I’m happy to talk about my fee structure and how it works. 

Listing agents: How to handle incoming phone leads who ‘just want to see the home’

Starting in July, when NAR puts the new rules into effect, most buyers will be required to sign a broker representation agreement before you can show them a home. Lobb described what many callers are likely to say when they call on your listing:

Inbound buyer lead:

Hey, I’m interested in your listing. I was told I had to sign a buyer agency agreement by somebody I called from Zillow or I didn’t want to do that. I want to deal directly with you.

If they’re calling you, they’re probably willing to have a conversation with you. Lobb recommends that you do a 5- to 10-minute consultation on the phone.  

“I’d be asking questions on the phone. ‘Tell me about the house you’re looking for,’ or ‘Would you mind taking a few minutes to really let me know what you want, so I can find the right house for you based upon what you’re looking for,’” Lobb said. “You always must make it about them and the value to them.”

At that point, ask to schedule a Zoom meeting to get a better idea of what they want and to discuss the changes ahead.

Lobb suggested a second approach that you can also use to get a face-to-face consultation, whether in person or on Zoom. 

After asking them some quick questions about what they’re looking for, key features they want, price range and location, Lobb said to follow up with this question to set yourself up for getting a face-to-face meeting: “Have you heard about the recent changes in the real estate industry?”

Lobb explained that they’re likely to say that they have heard some stuff or that they really don’t understand it. You can then reply by saying:

Great! I would love to spend five or 10 minutes with you. It’s really important. Do you have time to jump on a Zoom call later tonight, maybe with your significant other? I’m still happy to show you the home, but you need to understand how this works before we go out and see properties.

Lobb warned that you can’t just hit them with the changes. 

“It’s extremely important that you ask them about what they have heard,” Lobb said. “We have to help them understand it. We can’t just tell them.”  

Caveat: If the buyer contacts you directly as the listing agent, you’re now in a dual-agency situation since you have a signed listing and agency agreement with the seller. Consequently, you must disclose that you are the exclusive agent of the seller.

My recommendation is to check with your broker, attorney and/or state association legal hotline about any changes you may need to make regarding how you should handle this situation in light of the new NAR rules that go into effect in July 2024.

How to handle buyer pushback on paying the commission

When the buyer says “No way” to signing a buyer representation agreement or asks, “Help me understand why I have to pay a fee,” Lobb’s recommendation was to give a brief explanation that commissions have always been negotiable. This hasn’t changed.

Second, since most buyers don’t understand how buyer agents were compensated in the past, you must address that issue. 

My recommendation is to tread carefully here because you can never say, “The buyer’s broker commission was free to the buyer.” That has been a huge part of the litigation and must be avoided at all costs. 

What you can say is that the lawsuits now require buyers to negotiate the buyer’s commission independently of the listing agent. Here’s how Lobb addresses this situation: 

When you hire me as your buyer’s agent, not only is my role to show you the home, but to negotiate any and all fees, whether it comes from the seller’s side, or from the proceeds of the sale, or your funds. You’re hiring me to negotiate these fees from all the other parties.

“It softens the blow of what fee or percentage I’m putting into that agreement,” Lobb said. “My job is to negotiate that.”

Other types of value you bring to the buyer

My advice is to check the current listings on both and Zillow that meet the buyer’s search criteria. If down payment assistance is available on a specific property, both portals now show a list of all the down payment assistance programs available. You can then show the buyers what’s available on one or two of the homes you might show them. 

Editor’s Note: Agents should use caution recommending mortgage programs if they are not a licensed mortgage professional. Find a trusted local mortgage partner to help you help your clients. Remember to be the source of the source.

Given that the average amount of down payment assistance in 2023 was $17,000, according to, sharing that data provides buyers with a pathway to pay you and have money left over to put toward their down payment or other costs. 

Another approach would be to share the “Home Ready” programs that allow buyers to purchase with 1 percent down plus an additional 2 percent grant of the loan amount from the lender (provided they meet credit score and income requirements). 

Currently, a number of lenders are working on various ways to roll some or all of the commission into the purchase price. Given how important this situation is, look for more innovative solutions soon.

Sadly, most agents are woefully unprepared to have the conversations required to persuade the buyer to sign a buyer representation agreement. Agents who master these dialogues, however, will have a huge competitive advantage over almost all other agents. 

Create your transaction closing checklist 

After you have shared the information above, it’s important to support your contention that you are there to negotiate on their behalf. If you and/or your brokerage have not put together a list of all the steps required to close a transaction, make it a top priority to complete that checklist immediately. 

In most cases, that checklist should have close to 100 items that you handle on the buyer’s behalf. Check NAR’s 179 Ways Agents Who Are Realtors Are Worth Every Penny of Their Commission as a resource. 

Once you have put that checklist together, Lobb urges agents to “share it with the buyers so they understand what else you do to negotiate on their behalf. Because agents have seldom discussed all these steps in the past, most buyers will be surprised by how much is necessary to close the transaction.” 

From my perspective, I would probably point out several of the key items on that list where I, as their buyer’s agent, would be negotiating on their behalf. 

Lobb’s final piece of advice 

In today’s market, you have to be good at going out and getting listing appointments. Unless you get an appointment, this information makes no difference. This means getting back to the core basics of being accountable, constantly learning and having the right people teach you how to do the business

“It’s what we do for a living,” Lobb said. “It’s never going to go away. This is something that always evolves and changes, with or without you.” 

Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and, and the founder of is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,500 published articles.

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