Complete Guide to Real Estate Referral Fees for Agents

guide to real estate referral fees for agents and brokers
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Real Estate Referral Fees

In the dynamic world of real estate, networking and collaboration often lead to success. As a real estate agent, you’re likely familiar with the power of referrals – those valuable leads that come from fellow agents, colleagues, or other sources.

Real estate referral fees are an integral part of this networking ecosystem, facilitating mutually beneficial relationships within the industry. In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of real estate referral fees, answering key questions that every agent should know.

Below is a downloadable PDF of the NAR Referral Fee Contract Form.

1. What is a Typical Referral Fee?

A referral fee is a payment made from one agent to another for recommending a client or lead. In real estate, this fee is typically a percentage of the final commission earned from a successful transaction.

The exact percentage can vary widely depending on the local market, the nature of the referral, and the relationship between the agents involved. On average, referral fees can range from 20% to 35% of the total commission, but they may be negotiated based on the circumstances.

2. Who Pays a Real Estate Referral Fee?

The referral fee is usually paid by the agent who receives the referral and successfully completes the transaction. For example, if Agent A refers a client to Agent B and the client goes on to buy or sell a property with Agent B, Agent B would be responsible for paying the referral fee to Agent A.

3. What is the Difference Between a Finder's Fee and a Referral Fee?

While the terms “finder’s fee” and “referral fee” are often used interchangeably, they can have distinct meanings in some contexts. A finder’s fee is generally a payment made to someone who connects a business or individual with a potential client or customer.

This can apply to various industries, not just real estate. In contrast, a referral fee is specifically related to real estate and involves agents referring clients to other agents.

In essence, a finder’s fee can be a broader term encompassing referrals, while a referral fee is a specific type of finder’s fee within the real estate realm.

4. How Do I Ask for a Real Estate Referral Fee?

Asking for a referral fee requires finesse and professionalism. When you’re discussing a potential referral arrangement with another agent, transparency is key.

Start by acknowledging the value of their connection and express your commitment to delivering top-notch service to the referred client. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Build the Relationship: Nurture relationships with other agents by networking, attending industry events, and collaborating on projects. A solid foundation can make asking for a referral fee smoother.
  2. Communicate Clearly: When you identify a potential referral opportunity, reach out to the agent directly. Clearly explain the situation, your interest in working together, and the value you can provide to the referred client.
  3. Highlight the Win-Win: Emphasize the mutual benefit of the referral. By working together, both agents can enhance their reputations and provide exceptional service to their clients.
  4. Discuss Compensation: Once the agent is receptive, bring up the topic of referral fees. Mention the industry-standard range and express your willingness to negotiate based on the specifics of the situation.

5. How Do You Get Paid for Referrals?

The process of getting paid for referrals involves several steps:

  1. Agreement: Ensure there’s a clear agreement between you and the referring agent regarding the referral fee percentage and any terms associated with the payment.
  2. Include in Contracts: When the referred client engages your services, include the agreed-upon referral fee percentage in the listing or buyer’s agreement.
  3. Coordinate with Brokerages: If applicable, involve both brokerages to ensure the referral fee is accurately calculated and paid.
  4. Track Progress: Keep track of the transaction’s progress, ensuring you’re informed about key milestones, such as when the deal closes.
  5. Invoice and Payment: Once the transaction is successfully completed, send an invoice for the referral fee to the referring agent’s brokerage. They will process the payment to you accordingly.
How Do You Get Paid for real estate Referrals?

6. What Do You Say When Asking for a Referral?

When asking for a referral, effective communication is vital. Craft a message that conveys your professionalism, value proposition, and commitment to excellence. Here’s a sample script to guide your conversation:

“Hi [Agent’s Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I’ve had the pleasure of working with [Client’s Name], who’s expressed interest in [buying/selling] a property in [location]. Given your extensive experience in that area, I believe your expertise would be invaluable to them.

I’m committed to providing the highest level of service to [Client’s Name], and I thought partnering with you would be an excellent way to ensure their needs are met. If this collaboration aligns with your current workload, I’d be delighted to discuss a referral fee arrangement that acknowledges the value of your recommendation.

Please let me know your thoughts, and if you’re interested, we can further explore how we can make this a win-win situation for both of us.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to potentially working together.”

7. Is a Referral Fee Income?

Referral fees are typically considered income for tax purposes. However, tax regulations can vary based on your location and the specific laws in your jurisdiction.

It’s crucial to consult a tax professional or accountant to understand how referral fees should be reported and any potential deductions that might apply.

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Referral Fees in Different States

Referral Fees in Different States

Photo by Joey Csunyo on Unsplash

When it comes to real estate referral fees, it’s important to note that regulations and practices can vary from state to state. As a savvy real estate agent, being aware of these differences can help you navigate referral arrangements effectively and stay in compliance with local laws. Here’s a state-specific overview of referral fee practices in a few key states.


California has specific guidelines governing referral fees to ensure transparency and adherence to ethical standards. Referral fees must be disclosed to all parties involved in the transaction, including the client. The California Department of Real Estate mandates that referral fees be paid to the referring agent’s broker, who will then compensate the referring agent. The amount of the referral fee should be agreed upon and documented before the transaction takes place.

New York

In New York, referral fees are permitted, but they must be disclosed and agreed upon in writing. The fee can be paid directly to the referring agent or their brokerage, depending on the arrangement. The New York Department of State recommends that any referral fee agreements be documented in the form of a written agreement or contract, outlining the terms and conditions of the referral.


Texas allows referral fees, and they can be paid to licensed agents or brokers. However, it’s important to follow the guidelines set forth by the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC). Referral agreements should be in writing and should clearly state the amount or percentage of the referral fee, along with the names of the parties involved. Additionally, the agreement should be submitted to the TREC for review and approval before any payment is made.


In Florida, real estate referral fees are permitted, but they must be disclosed to all parties involved in the transaction. Referral fees can be paid to licensed agents or brokers, and they should be outlined in a written agreement. The Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC) provides guidelines for proper disclosure and documentation of referral fee agreements.


Illinois also allows referral fees between licensed agents and brokers. Referral fee agreements should be documented in writing, specifying the amount or percentage of the fee and the terms of payment. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) requires that referral fee arrangements be disclosed to all parties involved in the transaction.

Official Website By State

Here’s a list of websites for each state’s real estate commission or department. You can find specific information regarding your state’s policies and legal requirements below.

AlaskaAlaska Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing
ArizonaArizona Department of Real Estate
ArkansasArkansas Real Estate Commission
CaliforniaCalifornia Department of Real Estate
ColoradoColorado Division of Real Estate
ConnecticutConnecticut Real Estate Commission
DelawareDelaware Real Estate Commission
FloridaFlorida Department of Business and Professional Regulation
GeorgiaGeorgia Real Estate Commission
HawaiiHawaii Real Estate Commission
IdahoIdaho Real Estate Commission
IllinoisIllinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation
IndianaIndiana Real Estate Commission
IowaIowa Real Estate Commission
KansasKansas Real Estate Commission
KentuckyKentucky Real Estate Commission
LouisianaLouisiana Real Estate Commission
MaineMaine Real Estate Commission
MarylandMaryland Real Estate Commission
MassachusettsMassachusetts Division of Professional Licensure
MichiganMichigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
MinnesotaMinnesota Department of Commerce
MississippiMississippi Real Estate Commission
MissouriMissouri Real Estate Commission
MontanaMontana Board of Realty Regulation
NebraskaNebraska Real Estate Commission
NevadaNevada Real Estate Division
New HampshireNew Hampshire Real Estate Commission
New JerseyNew Jersey Real Estate Commission
New MexicoNew Mexico Real Estate Commission
New Yorkew York Department of State
North CarolinaNorth Carolina Real Estate Commission
North DakotaNorth Dakota Real Estate Commission
OhioOhio Division of Real Estate & Professional Licensing
OklahomaOklahoma Real Estate Commission
OregonOregon Real Estate Agency
PennsylvaniaPennsylvania State Real Estate Commission
Rhode IslandRhode Island Department of Business Regulation
South CarolinaSouth Carolina Real Estate Commission
South DakotaSouth Dakota Real Estate Commission
TennesseeTennessee Real Estate Commission
TexasTexas Real Estate Commission
UtahUtah Division of Real Estate
VermontVermont Real Estate Commission
VirginiaVirginia Real Estate Board
WashingtonWashington State Department of Licensing
West VirginiaWest Virginia Real Estate Commission
WisconsinWisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services
WyomingWyoming Real Estate Commission

Resources for Real Estate Referrals

Here are more specific online resources and websites that provide detailed information about real estate referrals and their fees:

ReferralExchange is a platform that connects real estate agents with potential referral partners across the United States. Their blog and resources section offer insights into referral fee best practices, legal considerations, and effective networking.

This nationwide referral group has about 150,000 members, so it’s a great place to start if you want to find or give referrals. The same is true if you have questions about local practices and legal issues.

The r/realtors subreddit is a forum where real estate professionals discuss industry-related topics. You can find discussions on referral fees, best practices, and real-world experiences from other agents. It’s a great place to ask questions you may have about real estate referrals.

Mistakes to Avoid When Giving Referrals

  1. Lack of Research: Sending a referral without thoroughly researching the receiving agent can lead to a poor client experience. Take the time to understand the agent’s expertise, local market knowledge, and track record before making the referral.
  2. Overlooking Communication: Failing to communicate with the receiving agent about the client’s needs, preferences, and expectations can result in misalignment. Ensure clear communication to set the stage for a successful collaboration.
  3. Ignoring the Client: Keep your client in the loop when making a referral. Let them know why you’re recommending a specific agent and how it benefits them. Transparent communication builds trust and confidence.
  4. Neglecting Follow-Up: After making a referral, maintain a level of involvement. Follow up with the receiving agent to ensure the client’s needs are being met and to address any concerns that may arise.
  5. Assuming Compensation: Don’t assume that a referral fee arrangement is automatic. Discuss compensation openly with the receiving agent and document the agreement to avoid misunderstandings later.

Mistakes to Avoid When Receiving Referrals

  1. Ignoring Client Expectations: When receiving a referral, ensure you fully understand the client’s needs, preferences, and expectations. Failing to align with these can result in a disappointing experience for the client.
  2. Underestimating the Referring Agent: The referring agent has entrusted you with their client. Treat this referral with the utmost care and professionalism to strengthen the relationship with the referring agent.
  3. Inadequate Communication: Lack of communication with the referring agent can create frustration and uncertainty. Provide regular updates on the client’s progress to maintain transparency.
  4. Overpromising: While you want to impress a referred client, overpromising and underdelivering can backfire. Set realistic expectations and focus on providing exceptional service within your capabilities.
  5. Neglecting Documentation: Properly document the referral agreement, compensation terms, and any other agreements in writing. This prevents misunderstandings and ensures both parties are on the same page.


Real estate referral fees are an integral part of fostering collaboration and expanding your network in the industry. By understanding the nuances of referral fees, how to ask for them, and the proper channels for payment, you can build successful relationships with fellow agents and capitalize on the power of referrals.

Remember, effective communication, transparency, and a commitment to providing exceptional service are key factors in cultivating fruitful referral partnerships.

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