The federal government is cutting commission rates for Realtor services on the National Integrated Relocation contract (IRP) and Ontario Realtors will share a total of 3.7% for listing and selling a relocating government employee’s home, as of January 1, 2017. (down from the previous rate of 4.1%)
While some will cheer the move, it may not be quite so popular with relocating employees if they see a decrease in service levels or lower buyer agent interest in their listings, due to the lower compensation offered.
What are typical real estate commissions?
In Ottawa, typical commissions remain around 5%* with 2.5% going to the listing sales person and brokerage and 2.5% going to the agent and brokerage that represent the buyer. Commissions are highly competitive and are open to negotiation but most typical fees will be in this general area.* commissions are negotiable and can vary by the individual salesperson or broker and many do charge less, including Oasis Realty.
How does it work with the Federal relocation contract?
Brookfield Relocation Services (affiliated with the parent company of Royal Lepage real estate) manages the federal government Integrated Relocation Program (IRP) nationally and has done for many years. Just a few years ago, this program paid Ottawa Realtors 5% with the usual 2.5%/2.5% split. On the last contract this dropped to 4.1%, with listing and buyer agents each receiving 2.05% over the last few years. (a decrease of 18%)
With the new fee/compensation structure coming January 1st at 3.7%, the listing representative and buyer representative will each receive 1.85%, if the 50/50 split continues (a further decrease of 9.7%)
Toronto is not Ontario and real estate is “local”:
We are not sure how these fees are established or negotiated but we strongly believe that “one size does not fit all” in real estate fees and by having one set fee for all of Ontario, this does not take in to account the vast regional and local differences. Toronto is its own market, as is Ottawa. Smaller but important centres for Federal employees such as Trenton, Petawawa etc. may have an even bigger problem if their local prices and volume of transactions normally requires 6% fees to support.
While Toronto prices have continued on the elevator ride up to atmospheric levels, our prices in Ottawa have certainly not followed suit and even this year with solid unit sales our average prices continue to be pretty flat and at or below inflation level. So Realtors are not making up the difference in the average price of houses being sold here, as they might be in Toronto.
What risks might a relocating government seller be facing?
1) fewer Realtors may be interested in listing properties on the program, given the compensation level.
2) Realtors may also ask employees to “top up” the government paid fees, so they can achieve their usual %. This happens regularly today with those selling or buying a private listing or FSBO where a significantly lower commission rate is offered to a buyer representative. The standard Buyer Representation Agreement signed by most buyers provides for the buyer paying incremental Realtor commission if the seller does not pay an agreed upon fee level ie 2.5%.
3) If one believes that Realtors are significantly “coin operated” then sellers may also see less interest from buyer agents in their properties, as those representatives may favour properties where the buyer representative commission is more robust. Getting paid 27.7% more on property “B” than government listed property “A” is a pretty compelling advantage. This amounts to about $2,600 on the average $400K sale or purchase.
4) Listing agents will certainly have less budget monies for advertising and other costs to support their government listings when one considers they are also splitting commissions with their brokerage.
5) properties may take longer to sell if satisfactory “full commission” alternatives are available.
Government employee sales will continue but there may be a few service wrinkles given the now “discount” fees being paid by the Federal government.
This commission change was hotly debated on a Realtor forum late in 2016, before the Board moderator cut off discussion on the issue, so there are clearly many who feel that this lower rate combined with their brokerage splits, dues/fees and other expenses makes this business less viable for them.
Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Dawn Davey, Broker
Oasis Realty Brokerage
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