Casanova Brooks
Casanova Brooks

Licensed Agent

Referral Fees in Real Estate: Everything You Need To Know in 2022


Table of Contents

If you’re a real estate agent, then you know that referrals are key to your business. But what do you do when someone offers to pay you for a referral? Should you take the money, or is it against the rules?

Most people think of buying and selling when it comes to real estate. However, there’s a lot more that goes into the industry than just those two transactions. In fact, some of the most important work in real estate happens before a sale ever takes place- when agents are working to find buyers and sellers for their clients. 

This is where referral fees in real estate come in. An agent may receive a referral fee from another agent if they’re able to connect them with a customer successfully. 

While this system can seem simple, a lot of things go into calculating referral fees and ensuring everyone gets paid properly. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at how referral fees work in real estate and all the things you need to know.

What is a referral fee?

A referral fee represents money emailed to an agency by an agent that links a potential buyer or seller to another licensed real estate agent or agency. Referral fees occur when two licensed agents sign an agreement before an agreement to buy a property.

Referral fees are common in many industries, such as real estate, insurance, and financial services. It may be a one-time payment or recurring. It is typically a percentage of the total value of the generated deal as a result of the referral. 

For example, if someone refers a customer who ends up spending $1,000 at a store, the referrer may receive a $50 referral fee.

Referral Fees in Real Estate

There are Many Sources for Referrals

Many people seek out referrals from friends in other areas. Nevertheless, consider that a local agent is probably the closest to you, your competitors, rather than a real estate consultant.

Currently, many agents get lead information on sites such as Zillow and Trulia. By creating a profile and listing their properties for sale, agents can reach a large audience of potential buyers.

Anyone in the process of buying or selling a home is likely to spend a lot of time on Zillow and Trulia. These popular websites offer a wealth of information on homes for sale, including photos, price histories, and details on amenities and nearby schools.

In addition, both websites offer paid advertising packages that allow agents to target their ads to specific demographics. As a result, they can be effective for generating leads and growing a real estate business.

You Can Negotiate the Referral Fee

Most often, referral fees in real estate are anticipated as well as highly rewarded in many cases.

As real estate professionals, one of the most important things we can do is build a network of reliable referrals. When someone you know decides to buy or sell a home, they’re likely to ask for your opinion on which real estate agent to use. If you have a referral fee agreement in place with another agent, this can be a great way to earn some extra income.

However, it’s important to negotiate the referral fee upfront, so there are no surprises later on. The standard referral fee is 20-30% of the commission, but you may be able to negotiate a lower rate if you agree to refer more business their way.

No matter what, be sure to get the agreement in writing, so everyone is on the same page. By taking these steps, you can ensure that everyone benefits from the referral arrangement.

Negotiating Real Estate Referral Fees Can Be Tricky

On the one hand, you want to make sure that you are fairly compensated for your services. After all, referring a client to another agent is a lot of work. On the other hand, you don’t want to charge too high that the client decides to go with another agent.

The best way to approach this negotiation is to start by determining what your time is worth. Then, come up with a reasonable fee that will cover your time and expenses.

Finally, be prepared to compromise if necessary. By following these steps, you should be able to reach a fair agreement on the referral fee.

Negotiating Real Estate Referral Fees

You Can Make a Lot of Money Through Referrals

Much of the money is derived from referrals. You just have to make sure you have partners on whom you can rely. If you are an agent, having many referrals significantly reduces your time for finding your customer base.

In addition to the usual methods of advertising your skills and experience, one of the best things you can do is get referrals from people you know. This not only helps to build your reputation, but it can also save you a lot of time. After all, if someone you know and trust is vouching for your services, that prospective client is more likely to give you a chance.

Furthermore, each referral you receive brings you closer to finding a steady stream of clients. So if you’re looking to jumpstart your career as a real estate agent, start by asking your friends and family for referrals.

Find a Trustworthy Agent

Trust is one of the most essential things in any relationship, and that’s especially true regarding real estate. After all, you’re entrusting someone with one of the biggest financial transactions you’ll ever make.

So how can you tell if an agent is trustworthy? Here are a few things to look for:

  1. Ask around. Talk to your friends, family, and colleagues to see if they have any recommendations.
  2. Interview several agents before making a decision. This will allow you to get a feel for their personality and see if they’re a good fit for you.
  3. Check out their credentials. Make sure they’re licensed and have experience in the type of property you’re interested in. 
  4. Pay attention to how they communicate with you. Do they return your calls promptly? Do they keep you updated on new listings? If an agent is responsive and communicative, that’s a good sign that they’re trustworthy.
  5. Trust your gut. If something feels off, it probably is. Go with your instincts and choose an agent that you feel comfortable with.

By following these tips, you can ensure that you find a trustworthy agent who will have your best interests at heart.

Get Client Approval

As a real estate agent, getting client approval is one of the most important aspects of your job. This can be challenging, especially if you’re working with demanding or picky clients. However, you can do a few things to increase your chances of getting client approval. First, make sure you understand their needs and wants.

The more you know about what they’re looking for, the easier it will be to find properties that meet their criteria. Second, keep them informed throughout the process. Keep them updated on new listings, showings, and offers, so they always feel like they’re in the loop.

Finally, be patient and flexible. Remember that buying a home is a big decision; some people need more time than others to make up their minds. If you can be understanding and accommodating, you’ll be more likely to get the approval you need.

When To Make A Real Estate Referral

Making Referrals

There are a few times when it makes sense to make a real estate referral. First, if you have a friend or family member who is thinking about buying or selling a home, it can be helpful to refer them to a real estate agent. This way, they will have someone who is knowledgeable and experienced to guide them through the process.

Second, if you know someone who is looking for a new home, but is having difficulty finding the right property, making a referral can be a great way to help them out.

Finally, if you are working with an agent on your own home purchase or sale, and you are pleased with their service, it can be beneficial to refer them to your friends and family members who may also be looking to buy or sell. 

By making referrals, you can help your loved ones find the perfect home while also supporting the businesses of local real estate agents.

How do I calculate my real estate referral fee?

The standard referral fee is around 20 to 25 percent of the commission earned by the agent who represents the buyer or seller. However, some agents charge a flat realtor fee, and others charge a percentage of the home’s sales price.

The referral fee amount will vary depending on the rules set by the state where the property is located and the agreement between the referring broker and the agent. 

To calculate your real estate referral fee, simply multiply the commission earned by the referring broker by the referral fee percentage.

For example, if the referring broker earned a 5 percent commission on selling a $300,000 home and the referral fee was 25 percent, then the referral fee would be $3750. 

Calculate Fees

Key Differences Between Finder's Fees and a Typical Referral Fee

When people are looking to buy property, they often work with a real estate broker. The broker will help them find the right property and provide guidance throughout the process. In exchange for their services, the broker will charge a fee.

This fee is typically a percentage of the purchase price and is paid at closing. However, there are two different types of fees that brokers can charge: a finder’s fee and a referral fee. 

What is a finder’s fee?

A finder’s fee is the commission a person receives after a buyer purchases property through a licensed real estate broker. Finder’s fees are typically only charged when the broker has located the property on their own.

While finder’s fees can be a helpful way to compensate someone for their assistance in a real estate transaction, there are also some potential downsides to consider, such as:

  • Finder’s fees can add high costs to the deal, which can make it harder to justify the price
  • It may create incentives for unscrupulous individuals to broker deals that are not in the best interest of the involved parties

Meanwhile, a referral fee is a payment a real estate referral agent receives after connecting a potential buyer with a broker or agency. Referral fees are typically only charged when the buyer has found the property on their own and has simply asked for help in making an offer or completing the paperwork. 

The fee you’ll be charged depends on how involved the broker is in helping you locate the property. If they’re simply providing some guidance and assistance after you’ve already found the perfect place, then you’ll probably just be charged a referral fee. However, if they’re doing all the legwork to find properties that fit your criteria, then you’ll likely be charged a finder’s fee.

The key difference between these two types of fees is who does the work. With a finder’s fee, the broker does all the research and locates the property on their own. With a referral fee, the buyer does all the work, and the broker simply provides guidance and assistance.

Example of a Finder’s Fee

Take the following situation, for example:

John is a teacher, and his neighbor Ellie is a licensed realtor. When John’s house goes on the market, Ellie offers to help him find a buyer. After several weeks of working with Ellie, John finally receives an offer on his house. As part of her compensation, Ellie charges a finder’s fee equal to 5% of the final sale price.

In this scenario, Ellie is acting as a researcher, and her finder’s fee is equivalent to the typical research fee charged by realtors. By charging a finder’s fee, Ellie is able to earn compensation for her time and effort in helping John sell his house.

What is a typical finder’s fee for real estate?

There are no set percentages required to find a property. Some real estate laws do not enforce standard fees. Instead, the finder’s percentage of fees depends on several key factors. These include the finder’s role in the real estate transaction, how long it took to find the property, and if the finder was also involved in selling the property.

In some cases, a finder’s fee may not be required at all. If the seller is already paying the broker a commission, they may not feel the need to offer a finder’s fee. However, this will ultimately be up to the discretion of the broker.

Finding fees can be monetary or gifts. The majority of finders will sign written agreements with brokers to secure the percent and amount of the payment before they send prospective clients.

Common Questions About Real Estate Referral Fees

What is a real estate referral?

Real estate referrals are actions that put a person in the hands of the person with the most experience for the services they require. As much as real estate agents love being your one-stop destination for the most valuable information in real estate, some of our clients request something we cannot provide.

Real estate referrals occur most often if the agent in question is either unlicensed or unqualified to serve the clients in a specific geographical or specific real estate market.

What is a real estate referral agreement?

A real estate referral agreement is a binding contract between two agents that establishes the terms of their referral relationship. The agreement typically specifies the referring agent’s fee and the duties and responsibilities of both parties.

Referral fees are generally paid by the client at the close of escrow and are typically a percentage of the total commission earned by the referring agent. The amount of the referral fee is negotiable. It depends on many factors, such as the type and location of the property, the level of service provided by the referring agent, and the expected amount of work required by the receiving agent.

In some cases, referral fees may be paid by the listing broker or selling broker rather than by the client.

Real estate referral agreements are an important part of doing business in today’s world and can be a win-win for both agents involved. By carefully defining the terms of their relationship, both agents can be assured of a fair shake – and a mutual benefit from their referral arrangement.

What is a referral agent?

A referral agent is an agent who refers clients to another agent in exchange for a referral fee. Referral agents are common in situations where the original agent does not have time to show properties or meet with potential buyers/sellers. Referral agents typically work with a limited number of referral partners to ensure that they are getting quality leads.


Is the referral fee a kickback?

Referral fees are generally considered to be legal, but there are some circumstances in which they may be considered to be kickbacks.

For example, if a referrer is paid a fee for referring a customer to a company that sells products that are not related to the referrer’s business, this could be considered a kickback.

Similarly, if a referrer is paid a fee for referring a customer to a company that sells products that are overpriced or of poor quality, this could also be considered a kickback. In general, however, referral fees are only considered to be kickbacks if there is some element of fraud or corruption involved.

Is a referral fee the same as a commission?

A referral fee is a commission paid to an intermediary for introducing a customer to a business. The fee is typically a percentage of the total value of the transaction, and it is only paid if the sale is successful. In contrast, a commission is a payment given to an individual for their services. It is usually a percentage of the value of the transaction, but it can also be a flat fee.

However, unlike a referral fee, agents can receive commissions even if they don’t directly introduce the customer to the business.

For example, if someone refers a friend to a real estate agent, they may receive a small referral fee. However, if that same person helps their friend negotiate the purchase price, they may receive a larger commission. 

In general, referral fees are less common than commissions.


Referral fees in real estate are becoming more and more common, so it’s important to be aware of what they are and how they work. Referral fees are simply a fee paid in exchange for the referral of a customer or client. They are typically a percentage of the transaction’s total value and are only paid if the sale is successful.

casanovabrooksCasanova Brooks is a real estate entrepreneur. With a background as a licensed realtor at Berkshire Hathaway and currently serving as a Change Agent at eXp Realty, Casanova brings a wealth of expertise and experience to the table. Beyond real estate transactions, Casanova is a seasoned motivational speaker, author, and podcast host. His book, “Real Estate: Play the Game Like the Winners,” reflects his commitment to sharing insights and strategies for success in the ever-evolving world of real estate. Join him on his journey as he continues to make waves in the world of real estate and beyond.

More to explore