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Are Brokers' Commission Rates on Home Sales Too High? A Conceptual Analysis


  • Paul Anglin
  • Richard Arnott


Many people in North America believe that prevailing commission rates for residential real estate brokers are too high, even though such beliefs are not based on a formal model. This paper presents a general equilibrium model of the housing market in which real estate brokers serve as matching intermediaries. We use this model to construct an illustrative example which is calibrated using data consistent with a typical housing market. The example suggests that the commission rate which maximizes aggregate efficiency is considerably below the prevailing rate. Moreover, this finding appears to be robust to changes in the matching process. Copyright American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Anglin & Richard Arnott, 1999. "Are Brokers' Commission Rates on Home Sales Too High? A Conceptual Analysis," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 27(4), pages 719-749.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:reesec:v:27:y:1999:i:4:p:719-749

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Yavas, Abdullah & Colwell, Peter, 1999. "Buyer Brokerage: Incentive and Efficiency Implications," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 259-277, May.
    2. Arnott, Richard, 1989. "Housing Vacancies, Thin Markets, and Idiosyncratic Tastes," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 5-30, February.
    3. Wheaton, William C, 1990. "Vacancy, Search, and Prices in a Housing Market Matching Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1270-1292, December.
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    5. Diamond, Peter A, 1981. "Mobility Costs, Frictional Unemployment, and Efficiency," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 798-812, August.
    6. Anming Zhang, 1993. "An Analysis of Common Sales Agents," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 26(1), pages 134-149, February.
    7. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Peter A. Diamond, 1989. "The Aggregate Matching Function," NBER Working Papers 3175, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Caplin, Andrew & Nalebuff, Barry, 1991. "Aggregation and Social Choice: A Mean Voter Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(1), pages 1-23, January.
    9. Yavas Abdullah, 1995. "Can Brokerage Have an Equilibrium Selection Role?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 17-37, January.
    10. Richard Arnott, 1997. "Rent Control," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 391., Boston College Department of Economics.
    11. Peters Michael, 1994. "Equilibrium Mechanisms in a Decentralized Market," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 390-423, December.
    12. Chen, Yongmin & Rosenthal, Robert W, 1996. "Asking Prices as Commitment Devices," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 37(1), pages 129-155, February.
    13. Anglin, Paul M & Arnott, Richard, 1991. "Residential Real Estate Brokerage as a Principal-Agent Problem," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 4(2), pages 99-125, June.
    14. Oliver Jean Blanchard & Peter Diamond, 1989. "The Beveridge Curve," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 20(1), pages 1-76.
    15. Thomas J. Miceli, 1989. "The Optimal Duration of Real Estate Listing Contracts," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 17(3), pages 267-277.
    16. Arthur J. Hosios, 1990. "On The Efficiency of Matching and Related Models of Search and Unemployment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(2), pages 279-298.
    17. Thomas J. Miceli, 1992. "The Welfare Effects of Non-Price Competition Among Real Estate Brokers," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 20(4), pages 519-532.
    18. David Geltner & Brian D. Kluger & Norman G. Miller, 1991. "Optimal Price and Selling Effort from the Perspectives of the Broker and Seller," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 19(1), pages 1-24.
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    Cited by:

    1. Allen Head & Huw Lloyd-Ellis & Hongfei Sun, 2016. "Search, Liquidity, and the Dynamics of House Prices and Construction: Corrigendum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(4), pages 1214-1219, April.
    2. Anglin, Paul M., 2004. "How long does it take to buy one house and sell another?," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 87-100, June.
    3. Abdullah Yavas, 2001. "Impossibility of a Competitive Equilibrium in the Real Estate Brokerage Industry," Journal of Real Estate Research, American Real Estate Society, vol. 21(3), pages 187-200.
    4. Bruce, Donald & Santore, Rudy, 2006. "On optimal real estate commissions," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 156-166, June.
    5. Kashiwagi, Masanori, 2014. "A search-theoretic model of the rental and homeownership markets," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(C), pages 33-47.
    6. Oz Shy, 2012. "Real Estate Brokers and Commission: Theory and Calibrations," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 45(4), pages 982-1004, November.
    7. Han, Lu & Strange, William C., 2015. "The Microstructure of Housing Markets," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.
    8. İnaltekin, Hazer & Jarrow, Robert A. & Sağlam, Mehmet & Yıldırım, Yıldıray, 2011. "Housing prices and the optimal time-on-the-market decision," Finance Research Letters, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 171-179.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • R2 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis
    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • D0 - Microeconomics - - General


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