Real-estate agents are considering asking state lawmakers to ban a common practice in home buying and selling. While one realtor may handle homes in a particular town or area, when a client moving away asks for a tip on their new home purchase, that real-estate professional may recommend one in the new town, and the new realtor often pays a referral fee for the favor. It’s been traditional to send a small referral fee to an agent who’s sent a client to an agent in another city, kind of a professional “thank you.” But Karen Ott, who sells real-estate in Bettendorf, says the fees of ten or fifteen percent have gotten out of hand.When the fees started to reach 30-35%, and she’s heard of a 40-percent fee, you begin to wonder whether it’s a process just to make money or to give the best service to a client. Ott says now there are referral “services” that advertise they’ll find buyers an agent, but do little except charge referral fees. She says several states are looking at it, and Iowa real-estate agents are saying they’d rather not receive OR pay any referral fees. Third-party referral companies, that might work with businesses who transfer employees, began to demand big fees and tell buyers they must work a certain agent, limiting their choice as a consumer. Ott says there’s so much paperwork and often strict limitations involved, experienced realtors are starting to simply down buyers sent by an agency that will require paying a big referral fee. If referral fees are banned, it would likely be a state-by-state process, though there’s no bill drawn up now for the coming legislative session.
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