ryan stewman authorBy Ryan Stewman  |  Read Bio

Much of the general public is oblivious to all the costs associated with being a real estate agent. They mistakenly believe we all drive Benz’s and are grossly overpaid. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Carrying a real estate license comes with great expense, and we have to charge our clients accordingly to cover the costs of doing business.

According to Payscale.com, the median yearly salary for real estate agents is $44,488. Most agents don’t even sell five homes per year. With that in mind, there’s a myriad of monthly costs that must be covered, whether we sell a home that month or not.

To demonstrate that it’s not all fancy cars and mansions in the lives of agents, I’ve listed 10 things real estate agents blow their commission checks on which the public has no idea about.

1. Lockboxes:


These little guys, who hang on your door when your home is for sale, are not cheap. Think about it, these are boxes that are destruction proof and operate by satellite. Not to even mention the expensive supra key that you have to buy and have a subscription to, in order to unlock the boxes. Agents who have 10+ listings have thousands of dollars in lockboxes alone.

2. Signs:


An agent can’t sell a home without a sign. Signs aren’t free. Much like lockboxes, when an agent has dozens of signs, they have lots of money invested. The design and shipping alone is hundreds of dollars. Agents use yard signs, open house signs, location signs, sold signs, pending signs, and in the HOA controlled neighborhoods, designer signs. It adds up very quickly.

3. NAR Dues:


The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is America’s largest trade association, representing over 1 million members involved in residential and commercial real estate. Not all real estate agents opt to join NAR and become REALTORS®, but the vast majority do. And guess what—NAR wants its money every month. And they don’t take IOUs.

4. MLS Dues:


On top of belonging to NAR, you have to pay monthly to have access to the MLS. The MLS is the source that lists all the homes for sale. Trulia and Zillow don’t have near as much data as the MLS. The MLS charges a hefty monthly fee to list and sell the agents’ homes. It’s very much a necessary tool in the agent toolbox.

5. Marketing Materials:


The agent’s main job is to market. They market properties and themselves. Between websites, business cards, flyers, and belonging to sites like Zillow and Trulia, the average agent will spend almost $1,000/month on marketing materials. Some spend $10,000+ in marketing each month. It’s not cheap to spread the word about a multi hundred thousand dollar asset for sale.


6. Advertising:

real estate billboard

Paid ads aren’t cheap. Whether it’s on Facebook, a billboard, or the baby seat in a shopping cart, ads cost a lot of money. They’re the lifeblood of a good agent. That’s how they sell your home—by advertising it.

7. Website Hosting:

web host

If you’re going to sell real estate in this digital age, you need a website. You’ve got to have a place for your prospects and clients to come and search for homes. That website has to feed into the MLS (another fee to do that), and the website has to be responsive. The average custom website costs $5,000 and comes with a monthly charge of $200. You starting to see the pattern here?


8. Open Houses:


You may think that we just sit in your home using up your free wifi, but that’s not the case. Depending on the agent, there’s food involved as well as balloons, signs, ads, and staging—all designed to make the place look and feel like a million bucks. I’ve even paid to have someone mow the yard and trim the bushes before an open house. I didn’t have time to wait on the owner to take action.


9. Closing Gifts:


In most markets its customary (but not necessary) for agents to give a gift to the clients after doing business with them. What most don’t know is that they usually send one to the title company and the loan officer as well. When everyone puts in hard work, the agent wants to reward them so they continue to do so. You may view it as frivolous, but you can never be too nice to title companies and banks. When you need a favor, gifts go a long way.

10. Office Space (often included in an agent’s commission split—read more here)


Most people think that agents have a job with an office. They don’t realize that the broker charges for the office space and the furniture that occupies it. Just know this: Nothing is free in the real estate game. Not even a place to do your work. Agents are nickled and dimed to death. And as you know, commercial office space isn’t cheap.

So next time you’re thinking about hiring an agent, and you think their fees are a little high, think of this list (which is just a fraction of what’s really paid for). They’re all things to facilitate properties getting moved faster and for higher dollar amounts.

It’s not easy, cheap or always fun being a real estate agent, but the smile we see on our clients’ faces when they buy a new home or profit from selling their old one, makes it 100% worth it.

By Ryan Stewman. If you liked this post and sell real estate, check out his personal site which is a top 20,000 website in America and among the top ten sales blogs on the web.