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Homeowners Have Real Estate Agents Over a Barrel

Limited housing stock has emboldened more Americans to demand lower commissions.

You just sold your home for $400,000. Good going, nice job, congratulations. Kudos are also due to the real estate agents who helped you close the deal. If you live in a part of the country where the standard commission is 6 percent, you probably just paid them $24,000. Or maybe not.

Real estate commissions are set by custom, not written in stone, and a new survey suggests Americans are haggling. Sixty percent of people who sold a home in the U.S. over the last year got a discount from their agent, with average savings of 41 percent off the standard commission, according to real estate brokerage Redfin. These aren’t trivial amounts: If you’re selling a $400,000 house and manage to cut your agent’s commission to 5 percent, you just saved $4,000. If you got the 41 percent discount that Redfin’s survey identified as the average, you saved just under $10,000.