Full Service Broker vs Limited Service Broker vs Discount Broker

I’m stewing over what people say about us.  You know:  ‘They’ always seem to get around to saying we’re Discounters or, worse, Limited Service Brokers.  Of course, we’ve never been a group that pays much attention to what ‘They’ say, but still:  it makes me wonder where we exactly fit.

As usual, I Googled a bit and came up with a lot of promotional material, mostly from ‘Them’, describing what they do for sellers and buyers and defining that as ‘Full Service.’    By extension anybody who does anything different or charges differently for their service is deemed to be  less-than full service.  I disagreed with everything I saw, but after all, this was promotional material, designed to influence; hardly unbiased.

Finally, I found an attempt to distinguish at Answers.com.  They have delegated most of the content for their real estate section to ‘The Dictionary of Real Estate Terms’, by Jack P. Friedman, Jack C. Harris and J. Bruce Lindeman, published by Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.

First, their definition of ‘Discount Real Estate Broker:’

A licensed broker who provides brokerage services for a lower commission than that typical in the market. Generally, the services provided are less extensive than those of a full service broker or may be unbundled, so that a client may contract for specific services. Many discount brokers charge a flat fee rather than a percentage of the selling price. See Flat Fee Broker.
Example: Henson, a discount broker, offers to list a property for a 3% commission. Henson will refer prospective buyers to the seller and prepare a sales contract. The seller is expected to show the property and negotiate directly with the buyer.

Well, I thought, We usually charge less than an ordinary broker, offer some services as an option,  and we do encourage Seller involvement (because it helps the marketing) . . . does that mean we are ‘discount brokers’? I decided to follow the link for ‘Flat Fee Broker.’   Here’s what they said:

A licensed broker who charges a fixed fee for the provision of brokerage services instead of a commission based on a percentage of the sales price of the property. See Discount Broker.
Example:Kramden, a flat fee broker, charges $5,000 to arrange the sale of a home, no matter what price is agreed upon by the buyer and seller. If a sale is not consummated within the term of the listing contract, no fee is paid.

Ok, I thought, that feels different. . . but it still sounds like us. I decided to check out what they had to say about ‘Limited Service Brokers’

Plan offered by some real estate Brokers that allows the buyer (that’s what they said, ‘buyer.’  My guess is they meant ‘seller,’ but I’m not sure.)  to contract for less than the full array of brokerage services at reduced Commission rates.
Example: The Travises thought they could save money selling their home if they did some of the work themselves. They wanted professional assistance, so they contacted a broker who offered a limited-service option.The broker agreed to place the property in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), screen prospective buyers before sending them to see the property, and provide the paperwork needed to prepare a Contract. The Travises advertised the property and showed it to those who were interested in buying. They paid the broker a commission fee of 3% of the Sales Price.

Now I was really confused.  That also sounded a bit like us . . . all except that part about charging a percentage based commission.  Then it dawned on me:  before I could understand if we were Discounters or Limited Service, I had to understand what Full Service was!   I went back to Answers.com and looked in the Real Estate Dictionary under ‘F.’ . . . and guess what?  They don’t define ‘Full Service!’

That’s the crux of the matter:  Everyone defines what they do as ‘Full Service.’  They define what we do as ‘Less-Than Full Service’ because we usually end up charging the seller less and we offer them options to eliminate services they may not need while giving them the opportunity to participate in the sale.

Here’s what I know:  we are a completely different business model than the one employed by ordinary brokers.  We analyze our markets in ways ordinary brokers have never even considered.  We design, track and adjust our marketing in a completely different way.  We control the leads our marketing generates in a way most ordinary brokers only dream about.  We achieve the same result they do — and usually do it quicker and for more walk-away dollars to the seller (just compare your KPI against the MLS) — all the while saving the sellers money.  Since nobody seems willing to define ‘Full Service’ (and since we’d probably disagree with the definition if they did!), I’d suggest we stay away from the term entirely.  Instead, let’s describe the business this way:

With ordinary brokers, you get Ordinary Service.  With Help-U-Sell you get Extraordinary Service.

Read more on the subject HERE

5 thoughts on “Full Service Broker vs Limited Service Broker vs Discount Broker”

  1. Just curious James. Did you try to search ask.com for “Standard Agent”? That’s the Realtor Association’s technical term for a full service agent. They may have it listed under that terminology.

    1. No I didn’t. When I searched just now I found nothing that defined or differentiated ‘standard agent.’ There were a couple of results related to ‘what is the standard agent’s commission.’ But most search results had nothing to do with real estate. And here’s the point: it’s fine that NAR has given a name to what they consider full-service to be so an agent at XYZ Realty can say ‘I am a Standard Agent!’ But the implication is that Help-U-Sell folks are non-Standard, or less-than-Standard because we charge differently (and less) and because we allow the Seller some choice as to the services they want to receive. In my consumer mind, charge less / give me more choice / get the job done and save me money all equates to BETTER. So if the agent at XYZ is a ‘Standard Agent,’ the Help-U-Sell broker down the street is a ‘BETTER-than Standard Agent.’

      1. I agree with you. I’m actually starting something similar now as well. Just in the beginning stages so I’m not sure how sellers in my area will react, but I think in a positive light.

        1. It’s a new world, Ed. It’s just a matter of time before The Consumer puts his collective foot down and refuses to participate in a business model that makes it possible for an agent to live well selling only 10 houses a year. He changed everything. Before you go reinvent the wheel, you really ought to talk with Ron McCoy about Help-U-Sell. Before the great real estate collapse, we had a presence in your marketplace. Consumers there still know the brand you’d be surprised how many of them still look for us when it’s time to sell.

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