Earlier today I read a discussion about someone in New York City who was looking for a real estate buyers agent to help them find a co-op. In their search, they found a realtor who agreed to help them, but required $495 up front to work with him. I, like many other people I asked about this, was up in arms about the down payment request, and decided to do some homework to find out if this was indeed,”kosher”.
My first thought was to contact the local board of realtors and got in touch with the Manhattan Board of Realtors. No one there was able to tell me if this was indeed legal, but recommended I contact the National Association of Realtors (NAR). I called up the NAR and asked a few people about this situation. Again, not one person there was able to help me out. Astonished, I asked who might know what the law/rules were in this situation, and was told to contact the State board. Like a busy little bee, I called the New York State Board Of Realtors and posed the same inquiry after telling them of my misadventures calling the other boards and getting nowhere. What did I find out?
“Unfortunately, there is no one here who can answer your question,” I was told. The person who knew the answer wouldn’t be in until Monday, but I could try his email and maybe he could help me out in the remote chance he checks it.
Essentially, I found out that there is one person in the entire New York/National Association of Realtors system who knows if it is okay to charge a retainer fee. Is it only me, or is that just really hard to understand? The National Association of Realtors is a huge monster; it lobbies the US Government, has a massive marketing budget, and is a powerhouse in the world of business and real estate, yet one man holds the key to their secret information!
I experienced the wrath of being a Realtor first-hand for a few years while in California. In order to reap the (in my opinion) sole benefit of joining this group, access to the MLS, I had to jump through hoops, spend a small fortune, and join multiple local boards of realtors. It was an extremly frustrating process!
I stand baffled by the situation, and wonder how it is that there isn’t but one sole in the organization who can answer this mystery.Can Real Estate Agents Charge a Retainer? Don't ask the National Association of Realtors! by Joshua Dorkin