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Realtors’ services valued over fees.

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By Kathleen Lynn, Staff Writer, Bergen Record

Survey of buyers, sellers gauges impressions of real estate agents.

Home buyers and sellers generally like their real estate agents – but many also feel the agents’ commissions are too high, according to a recent survey released by the Consumer Federation of America.

            The survey of consumer opinion about real estate services also found that only 26 percent of consumers understand that real estate agents’ commissions are negotiable.

            “Home sellers and buyers who think they understand a complicated industry, yet in fact do not, are at a disadvantage,” said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the consumer federation, a non-profit association of 300 consumer groups.

            The survey questioned 2,036 Americans. Of those, 565 had worked with a real estate agent or broker within the past five years.

            About 59 percent of those surveyed said the typical 5 percent to 6 percent commission on a $300,000 home sale – of $15,000 to $18,000 – is too high.

            But 79 percent of those who have used an agent have a favorable view of that agent.

            And many of those surveyed also said they valued some agent services, including listing the house, helping buyers visit homes and closing the sale. They were less likely to value an agent’s help in finding mortgages.

            William Gilsenan, broker/owner of Gilsenan & Co. in Ridgewood and treasurer of the New Jersey Multiple Listing Service, defended real estate commissions, saying, “You have to look at what’s involved,” especially in a slowing market.

            “You have agents who work with buyers for six or eight months,” said Gilsenan, who is also on the board of the RealSource Association of Realtors, a professional association representing more than 3,700 Realtors in North Jersey.

            The survey also found:

* More than half of those surveyed felt that a “dual agent” who represents

both the buyer and the seller cannot effectively represent the financial interests of both sides.

In New Jersey, Realtors working as dual agents must disclose this to their clients, Gilsenan said. And, he added, a real estate agent who wants to succeed and protect her reputation will be careful to treat both parties fairly.

* Two-thirds of those surveyed feel there’s a potential conflict of interests

 when the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent work for the same company.

            Gilsenan said the fact that real estate agents are almost all independent contractors, rather than traditional employees, lessens the odds of a conflict of interests. “They’re not going to disclose confidential information about their clients,” he said.

* Only about a third of those surveyed knew that the local multiple listing

 service is the most complete source of information about homes for sale.

            Gilsenan said this is probably because buyers and sellers enter the housing market so rarely; once they begin looking to buy or sell a house, he said, they quickly realize the importance of the MLS.




By Kathleen Lynn, Staff Writer, Bergen Record