Flat-fee vs. commission debate set for public forum

Teke Wiggin

Like many fee-for-service brokers, Daniel Desmond isn't afraid to say what he thinks about the traditional, commission-based compensation model for brokers: that it's baloney.

The broker of record and owner of Forked River, N.J.-based Help-U-Sell Bay Beach Realty, Desmond argues that brokers who charge on a commission basis often squeeze consumers out of thousands of dollars that they shouldn't have to pay. 

Scott Einbinder, a veteran salesperson with Weichert Realtors in Hillsborough, N.J., couldn't disagree more. Einbinder -- who also works as a consultant, providing agent coaching and training -- is adamant that commission-based compensation delivers optimal value to homebuyers and sellers.

For weeks, the two outspoken real estate professionals have skirmished on Facebook over how real estate agents should get paid. Now they're ready to bring their dispute off the Internet and onto the live stage.

Next month, Desmond and Einbinder will face off against each other in a public debate intended to explore the merits of commission and flat-fee compensation for brokers -- raising money for the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity in the process. 

Both see the event as an opportunity to spark a productive conversation over the way real estate agents are paid -- a topic both say many real estate professionals and organizations prefer to avoid.

The debate -- to be moderated by a local newspaper, the Asbury Park Press -- is scheduled for Thursday, April 25 at the Clarion Hotel in Toms River, N.J. Einbinder said half of the tickets available for the event have already sold.

Einbinder said he challenged Desmond to the debate because his diatribes against commission-based compensation roiled many agents in New Jersey's Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Einbinder said he aims to help put to rest the notion that charging a fee that's pegged to the price a home sells for isn't fair to consumers.   

He argues that commissions push brokers to secure higher offers, ultimately resulting in maximum gains for sellers. That's why the compensation model has flourished, he said.