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In the good old days of real estate their was one way to buy or sell a house - by paying your full service real estate broker. Typically this real estate broker, or one of his agents, provided a wide array of services for a fairly large commission rate. Whether or not you required everything in their bundle of services you paid for the entire package regardless.
Today, in most areas, home buyers and sellers are fortunate to have choices in real estate services and the fees that they pay for those services. Transaction brokerage is one of the newer alternatives to the traditional real estate brokerage service model. Rather than acting as an "agent" for the buyer or seller in a real estate transaction, a transaction broker acts as a professional assistant or counselor. Because their liability is reduced by not having to act in the fiduciary capacity of an agent, and because they can provide a menu of service choices, you can pay far less than you would for the traditional real estate agent bundle of services.
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When you think about it, the real estate agent is almost a misnomer. Far from being an advocate for your interests, the real estate agent's goal is to make a transaction work out. The commission based model forces the agent to work towards making a deal, rather than representing the best interests of their client. In essence, they don't get paid unless there's a sale. So, as any economist will tell you, they are incentivized to get you to buy or sell whether or not it's in your best interest or not.
Transaction brokerage clearly represents the future of real estate brokerage. It takes into consideration the ability of today's real estate buyers and sellers to access the market on their own through the Internet and provides the broker with a means receiving compensation for their time rather than the traditional method of only being paid if a property was actually bought or sold.
A transaction broker can, for instance, assist the seller of a property in properly pricing the property for sale, assist a buyer in preparing a real estate purchase offer on a home or assist either or both parties in discount real estate services such as contract to closing fulfiling the obligations of the contract towards a successful settlement. Although not an agent for either party, they are required to treat all parties honestly and fairly and use reasonable skill and care in the performance of their duties. Since the transaction broker avoids the potential liability of actually advocating and negotiating on behalf of either party, they are usually able to offer real estate services at a greatly reduced fee compared with traditional real estate agents. Transaction brokers are also at liberty to offer services on an "a la carte" basis thereby reducing the costs to their customers.
One of the most prevalent transaction brokerage services available today is a flat-fee MLS listing. With a flat fee listing, the broker simply enters your property information into the MLS system in order to advertise the property for sale. An MLS entry only listing saves the home seller from paying a listing commission (usually 3% of the property's sales price. Transaction brokers can also assist home buyers by providing buyer rebates. Buyer rebate services usually require the buyer to perform the legwork of locating and previewing a property while the transaction broker prepares and negotiates the real estate purchase agreement. At the closing, the transaction broker rebates a portion of the real estate commission paid by the seller (again usually 3% of the property sales price) to the buyer. So, for instance, on a $300,000 property, the buyer might receive a rebate of 1% or $3,000.00 while the transaction broker retains the other 2%.