We were interested in how the real estate brokers from Bonn deal with the lowering of VAT when it comes to brokerage. For comparison, we also used Cologne offers. On November 01st, four months after the introduction of the VAT reduction, we therefore took a closer look at the offers for single and two-family houses in the large real estate databases. About 50% of the brokers in Bonn and Cologne do not show a reduced tax rate. We're not talking about huge sums of money here, but it should be fairness to pass the VAT savings on to customers. If it is still understandable that small retailers, some of whom have hundreds of products on offer, relabelling for half a year means a huge bureaucratic and thus cost-intensive effort, then the changes in the real estate offers should perhaps take five minutes.

Excessive buyer commissions

Passing on, or rather not passing on, the reduced VAT is certainly unpleasant, but another phenomenon is much more worrying. It is the brokers who charge four or more percent buyer's commission. This is permissible because there are no legal or professional requirements. The brokerage fees of three percent plus VAT for buyers and sellers, which have been levied in North Rhine-Westphalia for decades, are only “local”, so they can be fallen short of or exceeded without fear of sanctions. Nonetheless, for many decades, the majority of providers adhered to the regulation, and there was something like a professional ethic - even in times of low demand for real estate. However, this attitude seems to be a thing of the past. A year ago it was 10% of Bonn brokers who demanded excessive buyers' commissions, but the proportion has now more than doubled to 22%. In Cologne, where it is even more difficult to buy an affordable house or apartment, over a third (36%) of the providers have meanwhile started to exploit the plight of the buyer with excessive commissions.

Hybrid broker and fear of the future

Excessive buyer commissions are often charged because the sellers are waived the brokerage fee. The hybrid brokers "Homeday" and "McMakler" have made this approach salable, and have put millions of investor money into the advertising acquisition of sellers (commission pain). McMakler therefore demands 4% net from buyers in popular markets such as Cologne and Bonn. Homeday prefers a different model, so the seller pays none, the buyer even a commission reduced by a few per mille. For this, the company does not invest in permanent brokers, but hires part-time brokers who often have neither training nor professional experience.

But to some stationary colleagues, the hybrid broker's approach seems to be a promising example that is worth emulating, as it saves them spending on advertising and customer acquisition. Another motive seems to be based on fear of the future. On December 23.12 In 2020 the new regulation of commissions decided by the federal government will come into force, then the buyer may only demand the commission rate that was previously billed to the seller. So some contemporaries are still trying to “get the money”, because from this point on the market will be redistributed and there is a lot to suggest that most black sheep will then look for a new field of activity.

Bernd Viebach