Who Pays Real Estate Commissions in Washington, the Buyer or Seller?

Published:
June 3, 2018
Last updated:
March 15, 2022
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Who pays the real estate agent commissions in Washington State, the buyer or the seller? This is a common question among first-time buyers and sellers alike.

Here’s the short answer: In Washington, as in most states across the country, it is usually the seller who pays both of the agent commissions. It’s typically done at closing, with the funds coming out of the seller’s proceeds. Of course, like all things in the home buying and selling businesses, it’s negotiable.

Who Pays Real Estate Agent Fees in Washington?

Real estate is a commission-based business. That means the buyer and seller agents typically get paid a certain percentage of the sale price. Though there are some flat-fee real estate services, the percentage model is the traditional and most common type of real estate commission structure.

The number of real estate commissions in Washington State is not set by law. That is, the government does not mandate or require a specific amount for agent commissions. It’s more a matter of custom, with 6% being a customary amount for many transactions. In a typical transaction, that amount gets split between the buyer’s and the seller’s agent.

So, who pays real estate agent commissions in Washington State? It’s usually the seller who pays these fees. In a typical home sale transaction, the seller will pay the Realtor fees at closing, out of the proceeds (or money earned) from the sale. That’s usually how it works, but there are variations.

It Should Be Written Into the Paperwork

For the home seller, the amount of the commission and other pertinent details are usually included within the listing agreement. This is an agreement the seller signs with his/her real estate agent. The buyers will typically sign a similar agreement with their agent, and that’s how the amount is set.

As for who pays the real estate commissions, this can be specified within the real estate purchase agreement (or “contract”) that gets signed by both buyer and seller. In fact, the purchase agreement may simply refer to the individual agent/client agreements signed by both buyer and seller for the specific details.

What Do Buyer and Seller Agents Do for Their Clients?

The exact services provided by a Washington real estate agent can vary based on (A) the details of the transaction and (B) any agreements made between the client and the agent. Here’s an overview of the most common services and actions provided by real estate professionals in Washington:

The Seller’s Agent

This person may also be referred to as the listing agent since he or she might be the one who actually lists the home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and other websites.

The seller’s real estate agent can be expected to:

  • Help establish a reasonable asking price based on current market conditions.
  • List the home on the MLS, and possibly other sites like Realtor.com and Zillow.
  • Receive offers from buyers (typically via the buyer’s agent) and relay them to the seller.
  • Help the seller evaluate and assess each offer that comes in.
  • Negotiate the price and other aspects of the sale with the buyer.
  • Attend the home inspection and/or appraisal as a representative of the seller.
  • Ensure that all paperwork is completed for the closing process.

The Buyer’s Agent

The buyer’s real estate agent will typically spend a lot of time showing properties to the client, but that’s not all they do. A buyer’s real estate agent in Washington will also:

  • Help the buyer narrow down the type of home, price range, neighborhood, etc.
  • Generate a list of homes that meet the buyer’s criteria, using the MLS and other resources.
  • Tour homes with the client to provide info about the property and neighborhood.
  • Evaluate the seller’s asking price based on current market conditions.
  • Put together an offer including any comparable sales data (or “comps”).
  • Negotiate with the seller and/or listing agent to determine a mutually agreeable sale price.
  • Attend the home inspection and (sometimes) the appraisal as a buyer representative.
  • Ensure that all paperwork is completed for the closing process.

To recap, usually the seller who pays the real estate agent commissions in Washington State. The commission gets split between buyer and seller agents, and is paid at closing. Nothing is written in stone, however, so make sure you do due diligence. Most importantly, don’t waste your opportunity to get an agent’s help when it’s all paid for by the seller!

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Sammamish Mortgage is a local, family-owned company based in Bellevue, Washington. We have been serving the entire state since 1992, as well as the broader Pacific Northwest region including Oregon, Colorado, and Idaho. We offer several mortgage programs for you to choose from. Please contact us if you have mortgage-related questions.

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