Understanding Real Estate Agent Compensation in California

One of the most common questions budding agents have is about how they’ll get paid. In the Golden State, there are various payment structures that agencies adopt. Let’s dive into the different ways agencies in California compensate their agents.

Commissions vs. Salaries

The vast majority of real estate agents in California are paid on a commission basis. This means they earn a percentage of the sale price of properties they help sell or buy. However, some agencies might offer a base salary, especially to new agents, but this is less common.

  • Commissions: Typically, the total commission on a property sale ranges from 4% to 6%. This commission is then split between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent.
  • Salaries: Some brokerages, especially larger ones, might offer a base salary in addition to commissions or in place of them. This provides agents with a steady income but might come with certain performance expectations.

Understanding Commission Splits

Commission splits determine how much of the commission an agent takes home.

  • Agent-Broker Split: After a sale, the commission doesn’t go straight into the agent’s pocket. It’s first split between the agent and their broker. For new agents, this split might be 50/50, but experienced agents could negotiate for a 70/30 or even an 80/20 split in their favor.
  • Listing vs. Buyer’s Agent Split: The total commission is also divided between the listing and buyer’s agent. Typically, this split is 50/50, but it can vary based on the agreement.

Negotiating Your Commission Split

As you gain experience and establish a track record of successful sales, you’ll be in a position to negotiate a more favorable commission split with your broker.

  • Show Your Value: Highlight your sales record, client testimonials, and any additional training or certifications you’ve obtained.
  • Understand Market Rates: Know the typical commission splits in your area and use this information during negotiations.
  • Consider the Full Package: Some brokerages might offer a lower split but provide extensive training, marketing support, and lead generation. This can be invaluable for agents early in their career.

Higher Splits vs. Training and Support

Some agencies might take a larger slice of the commission pie but offer extensive training, mentorship, and resources in return.

  • Training Programs: Especially beneficial for new agents, comprehensive training programs can set you up for success in the industry.
  • Mentorship: Having an experienced agent guide you through the intricacies of real estate can be invaluable.
  • Resources and Tools: Access to top-tier marketing tools, CRM systems, and lead generation platforms can significantly boost an agent’s career.

Popular Questions on Agent Payment in California

  1. What percentage do most realtors charge in California?
    The typical commission rate in California ranges from 4% to 6% of the property’s sale price.
  2. Does the buyer pay the real estate agent in California?
    Traditionally, the seller pays the commission, which is then split between the buyer’s and seller’s agents. However, payment structures can vary based on agreements.
  3. Can real estate commissions be paid to an LLC in California?
    In California, commissions must be paid to the broker, who then pays the agent. An agent can have their commissions paid to an LLC if the broker agrees, but there are tax implications to consider.
  4. Does the seller pay both realtor fees in California?
    Yes, traditionally, the seller pays the commission fees for both the buyer’s and seller’s agents.


Understanding different payment structures is crucial for anyone considering a career in real estate in California. While the commission-based structure dominates the industry, the way those commissions are split and the additional support provided by brokerages can vary widely. As you progress in your career, remember to reassess and negotiate your terms to reflect your experience and value.