What’s the Average Washington Real Estate Commission Rate?

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Editor’s note: On March 15, 2024, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced a landmark lawsuit settlement that will change the way real estate agent commissions are handled in the future. These changes will “decouple” seller and buyer agent compensation. Industry experts predict that this decoupling will likely lower agent fees and give buyers the ability to negotiate commission amounts directly. Learn more.

Most real estate agents in Washington get paid through commissions. Commissions are typically calculated as a percentage of a property’s sale price, though some brokerages will charge a flat fee. The average agent commission rate nationwide is 5.8% of the home sale price, according to HomeLight’s real estate transaction data of thousands of home sales each year. But how does that compare to the average real estate commission rate in Washington?

In this post, we’ll help you determine how much commission you might pay on your Washington home sale, and what options are available to earn the highest proceeds possible.

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What’s the average real estate commission in Washington?

According to top-performing Tacoma real estate agent Kris Shook, you can expect to pay between 5%-6% in agent commissions when selling a home in Washington, with some variation based on location within the state. On a property worth the current statewide median home sale price of $535,000, that amounts to $26,750–$32,100 in commission costs.

“I’m used to getting 2.5% to 3%. That’s kind of the common commission that we get as the buyer’s agent: 2.5% to 3%,” says Shook, who works with 77% more single-family homes than the average Tacoma agent. The seller’s agent typically takes another 2.5% to 3% commission, he adds, which makes up the estimate of 5%-6%.

Using an overall statewide average of 5.5%, here’s a breakdown of how much you might pay in real estate commissions based on what a home sells for in six of the largest cities in Washington:

Washington city  Median home price Typical commission at 5.5%
Seattle $825,091 $45,380
Spokane $407,190 $22,395
Tacoma $460,804 $25,344
Vancouver $484,567 $26,651
Bellevue $1,359,810 $74,790
Kent $611,181 $33,615

Median home prices calculated from multiple public sales data sources 

HomeLight gathers agent commission data from cities throughout the U.S. To see if we have commission rates for your city, try our Agent Commissions Calculator. You might also be interested in our Home Value Estimator.

Still curious about commission rates in Washington? Here are the answers to common questions about real estate agent commissions:

Who pays real estate commission fees?

The commission is typically paid by the home seller, and the seller’s agent will then split the commission with the buyer’s agent.

Shook explains, “It’s common that the seller pays it. That is not necessarily how it always goes, but I would say about 99.9 percent of the time that is how it is handled.”

He says that sometimes the buyer may pay the fee for the buyer’s agent if the seller will not pay it. Shook says that doesn’t happen in the current market, but it has before. “[In the past] builders, especially the big national builders, started taking away what the commission would be to that buyer’s agent. So, for example, in the listing in the MLS, it’s going to say how much of a commission is being given to the agent who brings the buyer and — at one point — some of the big national builders we’re paying zero to the buyer’s agent.”

When is the commission paid?

The real estate commission will automatically be deducted from the sale proceeds at the time of closing. Until then, you won’t owe any money to the real estate agent.

If you’re curious about how much you might make on your home sale after paying commissions and other selling costs, try our Net Proceeds Calculator.

Shook explains that when an agent presents a listing agreement to the seller, commission arrangements are part of the signed contract. “What is it going to be for the listing agent? What is it going to be for the buyer’s agent? Those commissions are not paid out unless the home sells, in most cases.”

He adds that there are rare cases where this is different. “There are some agents that I’ve seen that would charge a $1,000 marketing fee. So if the home didn’t sell or if that seller decided to terminate the contract, that agent who is representing the sellers could recoup their cost for the marketing that they’ve done.”

Does the agent get to keep the full commission?

Although the seller pays the entire commission, the listing agent, who is representing the seller in a transaction, doesn’t keep it all. Part of their commission will go toward marketing your property with professional photography, open houses, offline marketing, and more.

The commission is also typically split 50/50 with the buyer’s agent to compensate them for bringing a buyer to the sale and coordinating the buy-side of the transaction. So, around 2.5% to 3% goes to the listing agent, and the other 2.5%-3% goes to the buyer’s agent.

“If I’m charging 3% to the seller to sell their home, that includes everything. That would include my staging, a pre-inspection if we need one done, all of the marketing, the print ad stuff…everything’s included in my part,” says Shook.

However, he notes that this isn’t how every agent operates. “Some agents might be different. In most cases, I will see agents pass the cost of staging onto the seller,” he says.

Both the listing agent and the buyer’s agent will then share a percentage of their commission with their sponsoring broker.

These split rates can vary; however, it’s common for the listing agent to give their broker anywhere from 30%-50% of their commission, depending on the agent’s level of experience, their market size, and brokerage agreement.

How is the commission divided between agents?

The commission that’s paid by the seller will typically be split among each agent and the brokerages through which they hang their real estate license. Let’s say you sell your home for $600,000 with a 6% commission rate. You pay a commission of $36,000, and each agent has a 70/30 split agreement with their brokerage. Here’s how that might look:

  • Listing agent: $12,600 (70% of their $18,000 commission share)
  • Listing broker: $5,400 (30% of their $18,000 commission share)
  • Buyer’s agent: $12,600 (70% of their $18,000 commission share)
  • Buyer’s broker: $5,400 (30% of their $18,000 commission share)

Are Washington commission rates negotiable?

You can negotiate real estate agent commission rates, but don’t be surprised if your agent holds firm on how much they charge. A Consumer Federation of America report found that only 27 percent of agents are willing to negotiate the commission.

Shook explains one reason negotiating commission can be tricky:

“If I’m helping a client write up an offer and I’m representing the buyer, and I see that the commission to me is only 1.5% — and I’m used to getting 2.5% to 3% — I can put in there that I want my 2.5%. [Then] I can negotiate that with the listing agent and the seller. However, if I’m in a competing offer situation, it’s probably not going to help my clients at all,” he explains.

One reason agents often don’t lower their rate is that it may reduce their ability to negotiate a higher sale price for the seller. An agent’s services often include photography and pricing analysis, so a lower commission could also translate into a smaller marketing budget for your property, an inaccurate list price, fewer home promotions, and a lower likelihood of selling.

If you’ve found your own buyer

Exceptions can occur if you’ve already found a buyer. Let’s say you’re selling your craftsman home to a friend, or have decided to sell to a family member, in that case, the agent would likely be willing to play the role of transaction coordinator and independent go-between for a reduced commission rate.

Overall, commissions in Washington are negotiable but do your research first. When asking an agent to lower their pay, you’re limiting the pool of agents willing to work with you. And the downsides to working with a low-commission agent can be steep. Without a top Washington agent in your corner, you could dramatically undersell your home, have a rough selling experience, or fail to sell the home at all.

What is included in a real estate agent’s commission?

A full-service real estate agent in Washington will provide a high level of offerings that go toward giving you a great selling experience and boosting exposure to your home.

An agent’s services fall into a few main categories:

Guidance on pre-sale improvements

Agents see a lot of houses in their Washington markets. They will have an eye for the small but impactful improvements you could make to help it sell for more. The best agents will go above and beyond to help their clients get the job done.

Top agents like Shook will also know what Washington home shoppers expect to be improved or repaired, and what things you don’t need to fix when selling your house.

Pricing strategy

An agent will put together a comparative market analysis (CMA) in the form of a thick packet featuring charts, facts, figures, and photographs of houses. The analysis will show you what your home is worth based on comparable sales in the neighborhood, market trends, and local price per square foot. This key tool helps you set a realistic price that can attract offers right off the bat in a fraction of the time it would take a non-professional to determine.

The importance of using an experienced agent could make a vast difference in how much you sell the property for. “In most cases, your home is your largest asset. Would you want to be handling your largest asset and not understand how the process works? You could be leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table,” says Shook.

Marketing services

As part of their commission, at a minimum, Washington agents should offer expert home prep and staging, professional photography, marketing flyers and pamphlets, direct mail, automatic postings of your listing on major home search sites, local advertisements, exclusive previews for other brokers, and open house coordination. Advanced agents may also offer the development of a virtual tour.

Every real estate agent offers their own different package of services to clients. Some may include staging in their costs, but others will not. “I’ll have a stager come out and do a walkthrough with my sellers, and help them get the home show-ready for photography and for the showings,” says Shook.

Offer management and negotiations

When you receive one or multiple offers, an agent will help you determine the strength of the offer and work with you to proceed with responding to buyers. They’ll advise on whether to accept, reject, or make a counteroffer while putting together offer spreadsheets to identify the best offer in bidding war situations.

If a buyer requests repairs after the inspection, an agent will help you push back where appropriate and advise on when to concede. Should the appraised value be lower than the contract price, an agent can help you determine whether to ask the buyer to make up the difference or if you should lower your price.

Market knowledge and neighborhood expertise

Great Washington real estate agents know what local buyers seek in homes and which of your home’s attributes to highlight. An agent will skillfully incorporate key features into your home’s listing description and immediately be able to recognize what makes your house or the surrounding area special.

Using the example of the military community of DuPont, Washington, Shook explains the key factors that make a property here particularly valuable, right now.

“I think there may be a thousand homes in all of Dupont. I listed a property yesterday [there], we were the only home on the market in the entire city.

So, imagine right now we’re going into PCS (permanent change of station) season, where the military is going to be doing a bunch of movement, and you’ve got a bunch of people that are going to be transitioning in. Our inventory is so little right now, combined with high interest rates — it is unreal — so I’m getting phone calls yesterday asking me what is it gonna take to get this home off the market as if we’re back in the market of a year and a half ago.”

Having an agent who understands the local market where you want to buy a home or sell your home can be crucial in getting the best deal.

What is a fair real estate commission in Washington?

As noted above, the average commission rate in most Washington markets is between 5%-6% to hire a full-service real estate agent. This rate should mean you have an agent who is dedicated to selling your home for the best possible price, who is available and communicative, and who is willing to shepherd the transaction from start to finish. If an agent isn’t willing to offer all or the majority of services listed above, you should interview more candidates.

“We always say, as real estate agents, ‘Hey, this is our commission. This is what we charge. Here’s what you get with our commission.’ And, at the end of the day, if a seller wants to negotiate, I’ll negotiate, but it’s going to have to make financial sense for both of us,” says Shook.

What if my Washington house doesn’t sell?

Real estate agents only get paid commissions if and when your home sells successfully. Most real estate contracts include an exclusive right to sell, which gives the real estate agent the sole rights to market the property, list the property on MLS, and receive the commission if the sale closes in a determined time frame. If your house remains on the market beyond the time period outlined in the listing agreement, you are not obligated to pay your agent.

However, keep in mind that your listing agreement may contain a protection clause, also known as a “brokerage protection clause,” “safety clause,” “extension clause,” or “tail provision.” The protection clause states that if a buyer who the listing agent introduced to the property purchases the property after the listing agreement expires, the seller still must pay the agent a commission.

Addressing a scenario of when a property doesn’t sell or a sale isn’t completed, Shooks says, “Myself, as a representative of the seller, I will not receive any commission at all — even for all of my marketing efforts. Any expenses that I accrue as a part of getting the home on the market, I’m not going to get paid unless that home sells. Same for the buyer side. If I’m representing the buyer, if that home does not sell, I do not receive any commission, whatsoever.”

How can you avoid paying Realtor fees?

There are two main ways to avoid paying Realtor® fees. You can either sell your Washington home without an agent’s help, or sell it directly to a cash buyer without ever going on the market.

For Sale By Owner

Without a real estate agent, you’re responsible for preparing your home for sale, marketing, negotiating, and navigating legal and financial documents. When selling a house on your own, you’ll need to hire an attorney, at a minimum, to make sure the paperwork is right.

Typically, For Sale By Owner (FSBO) makes the most sense if you already have a buyer. As of 2022, 50% of FSBO sellers knew their buyer.

This indicates that while the FSBO route is rare, making up just 10% of sellers, it’s even more rare to forgo a real estate agent’s help when you don’t already have a buyer lined up and ready to go. In addition, according to a 2022 National Association of Realtors report, the median FSBO house sold for $225,000, compared to a median of $345,000 for agent-assisted sales. That’s a significant loss of proceeds in an effort to save 5.5% on commissions.

Selling your house without an agent can lose you money on the sale, and it can also put you at significant risk for legal trouble. “I tell people there are more lawsuits that happen in our industry than probably anything else that happens out there,” says Shook. An agent is experienced in navigating the legalities of a home sale, while the average homeowner is not.

Sell to a cash buyer

Cash buyers — including iBuyers, investors, and house-buying companies — are individuals or entities that purchase your home outright, without the need for lender financing. These buyers typically make off-market purchases and can provide speed and convenience to sellers.

Just be aware that the price offered by most cash buyers may not match what you could receive on the open market with the help of a top agent.

If you’re interested in a cash sale, you can receive a no-obligation offer through HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform, with no hidden fees or agent commission. Simple Sale connects you to the largest network of cash buyers in the U.S.

Now you know how Washington agent commissions work

Sellers pay real estate commissions in exchange for an agent’s expertise and services throughout the sale process. If you’re worried about the cost of the commission, consider that targeted upgrades, stellar marketing, and savvy negotiations can help you maximize your sale price. With a performance-proven Washington agent to guide you, you also avoid the stress of navigating this complex process without professional oversight.

The key is finding a quality agent who provides the highest amount of value for their commission fee. In fact, our transaction data shows that the top 5% of agents in Washington sell homes for as much as 10% more than the average agent.

HomeLight can connect you with top Washington agents with experience tailored to your needs. Whenever you’re ready to get started, HomeLight would be happy to put your commission worries to rest by introducing you to several agents in your area who are well worth it.

Writer McCoy Worthington contributed to this story.

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