Real Estate Brokerage Annoyance #43



In the Phoenix real estate market, specifically the Phoenix rental market, here is how real estate agents get paid. At least in theory”¦

An agent shows a prospective tenant a home. Said tenant decides, “this is it. THIS is THE home. I want to rent it and live out my life here.”

So the agent submits a rental application to the listing agent, who then processes the application based on whatever criteria the future landlord has deemed appropriate. Credit checks, criminal background check, employment verification, blah blah blah. At some point, said tenant will either be rejected or approved to lease the property.

If approved, said tenant then signs a lease and moves in to begin or carry on with their life.

This is the point in time where, at least in theory, the listing agent’s broker issues the agreed upon payment to the broker for the agent that produced the tenant.

And here is where, in what seems to be in a remarkable and ever-increasing frequency, things spin out of control.

Keep in mind that most commissions due to a leasing agent’s brokerage are measured in a few hundred dollar bills. We aren’t taking thousands of dollars here. Maybe three, four or occasionally five hundred bucks. Sometimes less, on rare occasion slightly more.

So it’s not like the listing broker has to jet off to Fort Knox and find their keys to the stash of gold bars to make a payment. It’s a simple as writing a check.

At least in theory.

I’m perplexed, flummoxed even at the rate that I have to call real estate brokerages and say, “Excuse me. When can we expect the payment for finding a tenant for your client’s home?”

Typically what happens when I make these calls/send emails falls into three categories:

1) I get no response. This happens roughly 96.37% of the time.
2) The broker answers the phone or email and states, “The check is in the mail.” Statistically the odds of getting this response increases with the fourth attempt at contact.
3) The broker eventually responds with an asinine statement along the lines of, “We process payments monthly,” or some other such nonsense.

Lately it seems no matter the response (assuming that a response is even generated) the damn check never shows up without making two, three or fourteen additional inquiries.

It’s madness, madness I tell you!

It’s not the money for the brokerage I’m concerned with. After all, we pay our agents handling rentals on what is called a “90/10 split”. They get 90% of the payment, 10% is retained by the brokerage. Recall the typical payment on a rental is $300. Ten percent of that, well, you see why it’s not the money to the brokerage that concerns me.

Even the agents aren’t getting a ton of money. But they did earn that money, and they deserve to be paid in a timely fashion.

How freaking hard is it to write a check and drop it in the mail?

How freaking hard is it to tell the truth? If you say, “the check is in the mail,” and subsequently it never shows up, then you never put the check in the mail. Spare me the “it must have been lost in the mail” routine. I used that story when I was 23 years old and was floating bill payments from paycheck to paycheck. You’re a real estate broker for Pete’s sake. If you can’t make a $300 payment ”“ FROM MONEY YOU ALREADY COLLECTED FROM THE TENANT ”“ then you need to consider another profession.

Please, for the love of fluffy bunnies, just write the check. Help an agent out. Help me lower my blood pressure.

Just. Do. The. Right. Thing.


Cool graph generated from Brian Shaler’s brilliant Crappy Graphs.


  1. says

    This sounds like nearly all appraisals I do for appraisal management companies – their split is 60% and it takes months before I ever see a check in the mail.

    One (small) company paid only after I tracked down the owner’s home phone and threatened that I’d have a collection agency call the next time.

  2. Uber Randy says

    That would really piss me off too. I have done 2 rentals this month and both were my on listing, so no problem. Could the agent that find the tenant to a check exchange at the time on the lease signing? Have the tenant use a cashiers check to pay the move in amount payable to the listing office. Take the check and the signed lease to the listing office and wait for them to hand cut a check. Would that work?

  3. Danny Street says

    Jay here is a trick I used in a different line of business, not sure it will work in real estate because of rules.

    Company A hires company B to do work. Company B can not handle the work so they hire company C (my Company)to help out. Time goes on I do not get paid and I know company A has paid company B in full.I call company B one time and say I know you have been paid by company A and my next call is to company A to inform them I am filing (this is a bluff at this point) lien. Ninety nine percent of the time I have check in two days sometimes it is hand carried to me. Would a property owner want a property manager that is not paying the bills?

  4. says

    It seems like some times you have specific people or companies that will always try to sneak by on the little things because obviously they aren’t quite as important as high-dollar transactions…unfortunately for them this is not a time saver in the long run.

  5. says

    This clearly seems to be an issue across the country as many of our agents in Nashville have had similiar problems getting paid on rental deals. The sense of urgency just does not seem to exist when the transaction is not a purchase or sale. I understand why some brokerages want to wait until the end of the month to process the checks, but we need to know that up front, set the expectation.

  6. says

    Thank you!!! I’m glad I’m not the only one. This makes me furious as well. Most agents won’t do rentals, and it’s just not because of the low commission, it’s a hassle every time.

  7. Ashly says

    Hey Jay,

    This is part of the reason why we stopped doing leases. Unless we are representing the landlord. Sometimes I just give the person looking for a lease the other agents information.

  8. says

    I have stopped doing leases a awhile ago. After its all said and done its just not worth my time. I only do leases for friends, family members, or a favor for a past client. When I decide to take on a lease I do it as a favor.

  9. says

    It sounds a lot like a few BPO companies I know of… “checks in the mail”, yeah right! The problem with all real estate is that there are too many hands in the cookie jar, and a lot of them want more than their fair share of the commission.

  10. says

    Man, it’s gotta be a pain to have to call, email, get mad at, raise your blood pressure….etc. But reading your hilarious blog is almost worth it. Almost. Okay, not at all. But you sure are dang funny.

  11. says

    It is the same same here in Las Vegas down to the average rental payment. It is frustrating when the listing brokerage has ALREADY collected the money from the landlord per their agreement yet they can’t seem to get us our portion per our MLS compensation agreement.

    Tenants have to jump through hoops with non-refundable application fee and the blood of their first born child (to qualify) yet PMs don’t seem to have much accountability.

    We have to chase them. SO not fun!

  12. says

    And that my friend is why we do not show rentals!

    Actually, there are a lot of reasons why we don’t show rentals, but this issue was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    I dislike showing rentals so much that I started forwarding my rental leads to a couple of different property managers who offered to pay x for each successful tenant. X never showed up in the mail.

    My business world is much more serene without renters and property managers in it.

  13. says

    96.37%, Dang Jay, have you been keeping up with this one for a while? No wonder your blood pressure is going up! You need to learn to let things out.

  14. says

    I have notice that the agent in my office are doing a lot more rental(that don’t pay for the gas of driving to the showing) then they did back when most people could qualify for a home loan.

  15. says

    Loved, loved the illustration. I never do rentals but did one in July and still waiting for the check – asked other agents in the office who do rentals and they said this is how it goes, start calling and expect to have to call more than once. What BS!!

  16. says

    I saw a few people have complained about not getting paid as they should or at all promised. Real estate sales is a very tough gig. Especially those who are new, it takes a while to really work the niche of anyone’s target market before anyone gets that first sale.

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