Real estate agent fees and commissions in Canberra and the ACT

So real estate continues to buzz around you and in this current market, you’re thinking it’s time to sell your house. For home owners just like you around Australia, this is the time when you’re looking around at different real estate agencies and forming ideas on how to proceed.

Do I even need an agent? Should I try for sale by owner (FSBO)? How much will a licensed real estate agent cost? How do I choose between them? These are all excellent questions to ask, and the fact that you’re asking them shows you’re serious about getting the best possible sale price from your home.

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One problem that pops up time and time again for new vendors is the way that agent commissions are structured. In the ACT, as with the rest of the country, agent commissions have been deregulated, meaning real estate companies and their agents have thought up a myriad of different ways to formulate their pricing. But it doesn’t have to be that confusing. While agents been given a lot of freedom to determine fees, so have you. To get a better idea of how to get fees that suit your needs, let’s take a quick overview of the most common existing methods.

Common real estate agent fees and commissions

Licensed real estate agents have historically worked on commission, where they get a portion of the sale price of your home. The more it sells for, the more they get paid. Today that’s still usually the case, but there are extra costs involved--frequently related to advertising your property--that may or may not be included or even different ways of paying altogether.

Like just about everything in real estate, all these points can be negotiated on, and the final say on advertising costs rests with you. You certainly can demand that your agent work on an advertising budget of zero, but don’t expect prospective buyers to be knocking down your door anytime soon!

To put things in perspective, putting a property listing on real estate websites like and costs hundreds for just a couple of months and your agent is unlikely to pay that out of their pocket--unless there’s a higher commission involved!

So where will the money for that come from? Whether immediately or eventually, it comes from you. Here are a few of the ways agent commissions can be structured to pay for it:

  • Higher commissions which include some or all advertising
  • Guaranteeing the sale by not getting paid a cent if there’s no sale
  • Conversely, requiring signage and advertising costs even if the property doesn’t sell
  • Flat fees
  • Scale of commission on the sale price of more expensive real estate
  • Mixes of elements from the above

A savvy vendor shopping around for agents would be very watchful of upfront costs. An agent hasn’t shown their value until there’s a sale, so it’s hard to justify why you should have to pay for it until then. For most home owners, the sale guarantees above, also known as ‘No sale, no fee’ clauses can be low risk way of testing the waters with a new agent.

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Flat fees are another thing you might try to avoid, despite solid numbers they provide that can be budgeted for easily. Even if the fee is low, vendors in a flat fee agreement with their agent can find themselves pushed into low offers from property buyers. Since their agent doesn’t get paid more for securing a higher sale price, there’s little reason for them to work to find you one rather than the first offer that happens to come along. 

Scale of commission schemes, also called ‘Tiered commissions’ or ‘Sliding scale commissions’ are the opposite of this. Here, your agent makes a normal commission on the sale price up to a specified dollar amount, then additional bonus commission if they can find an offer higher than that. 

One way to work out a tiered commission might be agreeing that your agent gets 3% on the sale price up to $1,000,000, and 7% for every dollar above that. While the exact numbers and details are up to you and your agent to work out incentives for any property, this works best if your real estate has high property values. 

But everybody’s homes and circumstances are different, so it’s always best to consider what works for you.

Commission levels in Canberra and the ACT

Looking around at Australian states and territories, the vast majority of average agent commissions are between two and three percent. Complete data for the whole country is hard to come by however, since secrecy of commission rates is key to bargaining power. But according to one study looking at early to mid-2017, the only standout is in Tasmania, where agents charge the highest average commissions in the country at 3.26%. The ACT sits solidly in the middle of the pack at an average commission of 2.18%, but in absolute terms it’s not terribly far from the cheapest.

The average commission rates for the rest of Australian states and territories are:

  • South Australia: 2.07%
  • NSW: 2.11%
  • Victoria: 2.13%
  • Western Australia: 2.45%
  • Queensland: 2.47%
  • Northern Territory: 2.68% 

We can also find what Canberran agents are earning in raw dollar figures by combining the territory average with the median house price in the nation’s capital. Per sale, Canberran agents would see about $12,240.70. The same figures for the other capital cities are:

  • Adelaide: $8,642.25
  • Hobart: $10,686.28
  • Brisbane: $11,794.25
  • Perth: $12,005
  • Melbourne: $12,460.50
  • Darwin: $13,333
  • Sydney: $16,275

While in some cities, property values mitigate relatively high or low commissions, Canberra’s real estate market approximately matches the level of commission.

Although the ACT isn’t particularly large for Australia, we still see some of the split between rural and metro areas that we see in most other states and territories. It isn’t as pronounced, but the regions outside of Canberra--especially in the south--tend to show marginally higher commissions; a difference of roughly one fifth of a percentage point.

Within Canberra, there’s is a bit more variation within the city itself. The south of the city has some of the highest commissions in the territory: Tuggeranong at 2.67% and Greenway at 2.87%. Otherwise, the rest of the city is fairly even. 

Fittingly for our capital in just about every aspect, commissions are about average for the country’s current market.

Making the agent choice simpler

With this information in mind, we can move on to the more important task of choosing an agent who can deliver you a great sale at a great price.

There is more than one way to approach this, but the old way of looking up real estate agencies one by one--previously in the yellow pages, then on google--and checking them out that way is fast becoming outdated. Not only is it very time consuming, the amount of information you can gather is limited. The process can be so slow and the results so incomplete that up to 75% of vendors simply go with the first agent they talk to just to avoid the hassle. 

That’s no way to make a decision worth hundreds of thousands of dollars!

Making the choice easier is as simple as using With a directory of tens of thousands of licensed real estate agents across the country, you can browse the best agents in your area and compare them side by side on whatever criteria is important to you. Just enter your property’s location and start the journey.

Compare them based on fees, agreements, or property sales experience to get a quick overview on the right match for your needs. Then with your favourite agents selected, let their proposals come right to you. 

If one agent in particular sparks your interest but could use a little work on their terms, they’re always flexible. Negotiate as you please and you might find yourself with an unexpected bargain. All you need is their contact details like email address and phone number, which they’ll provide you with personally.

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Understanding the value of agents and fees

Vendors trying sale by owner may save a little on agent commissions, but they’ll miss out on the value that good agents bring to the table. Knowledge, guidance, ease of mind, and of course higher sale prices are invaluable to anyone getting involved in property sales. 

More than that, many of the fees you associate with agents are payments you would have to make regardless of whether or not you’re using one. An agent however, will be able to get the most out of what you pay for.

Let’s take a look at a typical marketing campaign. Sold properties don’t happen by accident, and the first step to finding property buyers is letting them know about your property.

A typical marketing campaign might include:

  • Sale signs
  • Open house signs
  • Property listings in newspapers
  • Listings on property websites (,, etc.)
  • More advertising in any of the above

An agent will be able to help you take full advantage of these avenues of advertising, and do a professional job, making your place look as attractive as possible to potential buyers. This is something FSBO vendors routinely fail at. 

Imagine you’re a prospective buyer looking up property online on the major websites. Or perhaps you’re driving by and see a sale sign. You could spot a DIY job a mile away! 

With their trained perspective, agents may also recommend other services to improve the look of your home. When potential buyers see the sale sign, the first thing they do is look at the house behind it, so it’s crucial that it looks immaculate.

Some things they may recommend are:

  • Cleaning
  • Landscaping
  • Renovations
  • Repairs
  • Decorations and furnishings

Agents understand that if you can’t do these things yourself, you’ll have to pay someone for them, and those services can be expensive. Normally, a good agent wouldn’t recommend doing these unless there’s a good chance you get more than your money back in a better sale, so it’s worth examining how much value they add with your agent.

Another thing that makes agents invaluable is opening up the actual selling process for you. FSBO vendors will find completing the sale extremely difficult to manage, and auctions are almost impossible. For one thing, you probably have your own work to do and being around for multiple open homes and inspections is an untenable position. Having someone by your side whose job it is to do these things is load off anyone’s mind.

As for actually choosing between auction and private sale, auction vendors will appreciate the distance they get from the operation. Make no mistake, auctions are stressful times with a lot on the line in a short amount of time. A cool and calm real estate agent with the ability to handle it end to end will keep you from tearing your hair out. 

Private sellers, on the other hand will appreciate a different set of skills. Here, negotiation is king and knowledge of the market is queen. An agent able to entice bigger offers out of prospective buyers or know when that bigger offer should be coming from someone else will make all the difference to your bottoms line.

Finally, the key word in selling your house is value. If you know what your house is worth, and you know what a good agent is worth, property buyers will be more than willing to pay. Getting the full value out of both your property and your agent is all about playing it smart, and the smartest way to do it is to pick the best agent you can.

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