Realtor Myth #3: That we charge marketing fees

My last two blog posts pulled apart a MoneySense article on Tricks Realtors Use to Sell Homes  that contained some pretty misleading information about realtors. Here’s another unfounded assertion:

Unethical agents may have other motives for listing your home, even if they know it’s overpriced. They may just be looking to pick up unrepresented buyers—people who come to your home without a realtor. To do this, the agent will set up one or more open houses and charge you a “marketing fee.” Typically ranging from $50 to $500, this fee will cover any out-of-pocket expenses associated with listing your home. While these costs are legitimate, the vast majority of realtors don’t pass them on to their clients because they’re considered the cost of doing business. However, if your realtor isn’t convinced your overpriced home will sell, she may ask you to pay the expenses up front while she uses your home to pick up new business from active buyers.

A marketing fee? Where did the author come up with this one?

Realtors pay all the fees associated with listing a house. There is no such thing as a marketing fee for Open Houses. Whatever for? You put your Open House topper on your sign; the notices on MLX are free, and if you do to pay to put an ad in the paper, that’s the cost of doing business.Unless a realtor decides to offer light refreshments, there are no expenses associated with them at all.

I have never heard of a single realtor charging a marketing fee to recover their expenses up front, Open House, or otherwise. There is no such thing as a “typical” fee of $ 50-500 for Open Houses. 

Like many other unsubstantiated assertions in this article, there is no evidence put forward to support that allegation at all, not even anecdotally.

Now, I have heard of a couple of situations where a realtor took a listing, ran print ads and ran up expenses, like printing costs, only to have the seller change their mind about selling a few days later. In those circumstances, it would be reasonable to ask for reimbursement; after all, that’s not the realtor’s fault, and they shouldn’t be left out of pocket because of a capricious seller. But even then, most times we absorb those costs.

It is true that agents use Open Houses to meet buyers; I often say that Open Houses don’t sell houses, they sell agents. Even so, the idea that some unethical realtors  “use” sellers by hosting them, and charge them for the privilege is absurd. As Cuba Gooding Jr. once famously said, show me the money.

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