Who Pays Our Fees?

The Truth about Leasing Commissions…

One of the odd discussions many commercial real estate agents don’t like to have with their prospective clients revolves around the subject of fees or commissions. I have often seen ‘tenant-rep” brokers in an attempt to secure representation agreements with tenants, that make the claim that “our services are FREE”. This is a play on words, what they should be saying is…”we are paid by the Landlord (if and when a lease or purchase agreement is fully executed) and you are not required to make a direct payment for my services”.

The Money Has to Come from Somewhere…

If currency changes hands, it is not free! We believe that it is important that the scope of services to be provided by a brokerage firm and the fees associated with these services should be clearly defined with any prospective client.

In the office leasing arena, it is typical that the broker(s) both the Landlord’s and the Tenant’s representative are paid a fee after the lease is executed between the Landlord and the Tenant. The fact is most costs associated with the lease transaction including the leasing commissions are rolled into the final negotiated terms and paid back to the landlord in the form of rent over the term of the lease, including both the Tenant and Landlord agent’s commission. Building owners typically budget real estate commissions into their pro-forma and any commission that is not paid rarely finds its way back into the tenant’s pocket.

Leasing commissions are not set and are always negotiable, but generally speaking in the Atlanta office market, the tenant representative will request a pro-fee equal to the first full month of base rent, plus four percent (4%) of the gross lease value paid by the Tenant to the Landlord the Tenant contracts with. Also, in most cases, the Landlord’s agent will receive a pro-fee equal to ½ of the first full month of base rent, plus two percent (2%) of the gross lease value (basically ½ of the tenant representative’s fee), paid also by the Landlord for leasing his property. Some cities have slightly different percentages or payment arrangements that are typical for that market, but for the most part, this is the general cost of the services provided.

We would argue that in theory, the tenant is not only paying for his broker’s services but also the Landlord’s agent s services, which only reinforces the fact; that tenants should have professional representation. In most leasing arrangements brokers have with building owners, if the leasing agent completes a transaction directly with a tenant who does not have representation, they get a bigger fee (1st month rent, plus 4%). So, under this scenario, the net cost of the tenant representative is ½ month rent, plus 2% of the gross lease value. A good tenant representative’s services will often save you five times this amount or more in occupancy cost over the term of your lease, if not much more. So, the next time, a commercial real estate agent tells you his services are “free” it might be a good idea to find a more honest one to your company.

Well… We sometimes “work for free.”

One last note, the title of this summary is not entirely accurate. We do sometime work for free without intending to do so. There are many transactions or assignments we take on, sometime spending weeks or months of effort, that are never completed, and a fee is not paid, because a transaction never takes place.