Referrals are a great opportunity to give and receive leads among real estate professionals. They help agents work together and offer the best services to their clients. This guide will spell out everything that you need to know concerning real estate referral fees, including what they entail, how they work, typical referral fee amounts, and how to draft and manage referral agreements. Mastering these elements will be pivotal to successfully dealing with referrals and improving your business and client relationships.

What Is a Real Estate Referral Fee?

Circle graph showcasing referral source percentage
Agent referral source (Source:

A referral fee is the money paid to or received when a real estate agent has referred a client to another real estate agent. This simply creates an incentive for agents to share leads to ensure that the clients get the best possible service, even if the original agent cannot look after these clients directly. 

A referral fee in real estate greases the wheels of real estate business by setting up an interactive network among agents and clientele. The associated fee benefits incentivize the agent to refer clients to other appropriate colleagues who can best meet their requirements so that the client is perfectly matched with the right area of expertise.

The Parties Involved in a Real Estate Referral 

Real estate referrals include different parties with specific roles and responsibilities. The following are some of those roles that are involved in a referral transaction: 

  • Referring Agent: The referring agent realizes that a client’s need is outside of his or her geographic area, specialty, or other reasons, so they refer this client to another agent. They are the ones that receive a referral fee if the deal closes. 
  • Receiving Agent: The receiving agent is a person who accepts a referral and takes the client to complete the real estate transaction. 
  • Client: This is the party wishing to rent, sell, or buy a property. They are referred to the receiving agent by the referring agent to obtain the best service possible to cover their specific needs. 
  • Broker: Brokers are licensed real estate agents who have gained additional experience and education. They can be a referring or receiving agent, but not both at the same time for the same transaction. 

How Much Is a Referral Fee in Real Estate?

The standard referral real estate fee is around 25% of the gross commission earned by the receiving agent. This is also a similar rate for a referral fee for commercial real estate. However, this rate is extremely dependent upon the agreement between the agents and further details of a referral.

For example: 

A buyer was referred to a buyer’s agent and the deal closed. 

  1. Property sale price: $500,000
  2. Total commission rate: 6% (split equally between the listing agent and the buyer’s agent)
  3. Buyer’s agent commission rate: 3%
  4. Referral fee percentage: 25%

Calculate the referral fee:

  1. Calculate the buyer’s agent’s commission:
    • Buyer’s agent commission = Property sale price × buyer’s agent commission rate
    • Buyer’s agent commission = $500,000 × 0.03
    • Buyer’s agent commission = $15,000
  2. Calculate the Referral Fee Amount:
    • Referral fee = Buyer’s agent commission × referral fee percentage
    • Referral fee = $15,000 × 0.25
    • Referral fee = $3,750

The total amount of the referral fee paid out would be $3,750.

Variables that could impact the amount of the referral fee would include the sophistication of the referral, market conditions, and the level of required service. In these cases, it can range from as low as 20% to as high as 35%, depending on these factors. The referral fee should be negotiated and stated upfront when giving or receiving any referral leads. 

Who Pays Real Estate Referral Fees?

The referral fee is paid to the referring agent from the commission of the receiving agent in a transaction. The client is not responsible for the referral fee. They are only responsible for paying the entire fee for the services, and the receiving agent will split their share according to the agreed rate. Normally, this payment is made after the completion of the transaction. 

Elements of a Real Estate Referral Agreement

Screenshot of example referral agreement
Referral agreement example (Source: Signaturely)

Before any referral leads are given or received, there are major factors to consider in a referral agreement. Such a document is required for a successful referral process and brings clarity and fairness to both parties. A good referral agreement should be able to capture the following key elements to avoid miscommunication and secure the interests of both the referring and receiving agents:

  • Names and contact information of both agents: Clearly state the names and contact details of the referring and receiving agents.
  • Client’s name and contact details: Include the client’s information and best points of contact.
  • Referral fee percentage: Specify the agreed percentage of the commission that will be paid as the referral fee.
  • Conditions for payment: Outline any conditions that must be met for the referral fee in real estate to be paid, such as the completion of a transaction.
  • Expiration date of the agreement: Set an expiration date to ensure the agreement is valid for a specific period.
  • Signatures of both parties: Ensure both agents sign the agreement to formalize the terms.

When referral opportunities arise, you don’t want to scramble and waste time getting documents together. Having a pre-made referral agreement allows you to simply fill in the details and proceed efficiently. This simple contract covers the required elements in a realtor-to-realtor referral fee agreement. I have put together a free, easy-to-use template that you can download and use today. Just click the button below to get started.

Download Your Free Real Estate Referral Fee Contract Template

Reasons Why Agents Refer Clients 

There are many reasons why you would refer a client to another agent. At the end of the day, you always want to look out for the best interests of your client. Referring clients to other agents ensures you are offering your clients the expertise and service that best fits their needs. The referral may also be due to work that is outside your scope or capacity.

Agents should consider referring clients to others in the following situations:

  • Geographic limitations: A client is interested in buying or selling property outside the agent’s normal market or region. 
  • Specialized expertise: The client requires an area of expertise that falls outside the scope of the agent’s specialty. For instance, you might not specialize in commercial properties, luxury estates, or farms, but you know another agent who can better serve your client’s needs. 
  • Too many clients: If the agent has accepted too many clients and is overwhelmed, they will not be in a position to provide new clients with the time needed to handle their cases.
  • Conflict of interest: An agent is faced with the possibility of a conflict of interest that would make objective representation of the client impossible.
  • Better fit: The agent knows of another professional who will be a better match for the client’s needs and preferences.
  • Legal or ethical requirement: The agent is legally or ethically bound to refer the client in compliance with regulations or professional requirements.
  • Client request: In some instances, a client might want to be referred to another agent.
  • Personal circumstances: The agent is not able to handle new clients because of personal circumstances, such as health issues or extended leave. 
  • Market conditions: Market conditions and trends that you are unfamiliar with may necessitate handling by another agent to be effective.
  • Professional relationships: To develop professional relationships with other agents and brokers, referrals can help those relationships grow into a circle of trust and mutual benefits.

What to Do When a Referral Deal Closes

If you are the recipient of a referral deal, there are some important steps to complete to ensure the referral is finalized correctly. Most of the time, the referring agent will follow up with you to make sure the deal is going smoothly. However, if they do not, you still want to maintain a professional relationship by following the below steps and ensuring you get more referrals in the future.  

Here’s what you need to do when a referral deal closes:

unchecked Confirm closure details: Confirm that everything regarding the deal has been closed out in accordance with the terms of the referral agreement. Every document needs to be signed and submitted.

unchecked Notify referring agent: The referring agent or broker should be notified regarding the successful closure. Any details regarding completion may be provided.

unchecked Calculate the referral fee: Calculate the referral fee amount based on the percentage of the commission paid as agreed upon. The amount must be calculated per the terms spelled out in the referral agreement.

unchecked Make the payment: Pay the referring agent or broker in a timely manner. Use the payment type set by the referral agreement, which might be a bank transfer or check.

unchecked Send documentation: Send a copy of the final closing statement, together with other documentation to be used, to the referring agent. Attach an itemization of how the referral fee was calculated.

unchecked Thank the referring agent: Don’t forget to thank them for the referral. This part is instrumental in maintaining a good relationship for future referrals. A gift could also be a nice gesture to maintain future lead flow. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Bringing It All Together

Proper understanding and management of real estate referral fees are key to greater cooperation between agents and giving the highest-quality service to clients. Referrals will expand an agent’s network and align clients with the appropriate expertise to ensure successful transactions and positive testimonials. By cultivating a robust referral system, agents can consistently generate new business opportunities. This approach benefits all parties involved, creating a thriving real estate ecosystem built on trust, cooperation, and mutual success.

Have you ever worked on a referral deal? If so, tell us about it below!

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