A home sale is probably the most complicated financial transaction the average American will ever participate in. Hundreds of thousands of dollars change hands, everyone from real estate agents to county officials to bank and mortgage employees are involved. Not to mention local, state, and federal laws have to be satisfied.
It’s a lot of work to do in a limited time window, and while each person involved has mastery over their piece of the process, sometimes you need someone to manage the overall process.
That’s where a transaction coordinator comes in.
- What Does a Transaction Coordinator Do?
- Transaction Coordinator Checklist
- How Much Do Transaction Coordinators Charge?
- Real Estate Agent vs. Transaction Coordinator
What Does a Transaction Coordinator Do?
You can think of a transaction coordinator as the manager of the overall home sale. While each person involved – the listing agent, the mortgage underwriter, etc. – has their own area of responsibility, they don’t generally get involved in other areas. This can cause bottlenecks and delays in the sale, which can have serious consequences if the market happens to turn, or if one of the parties has second thoughts.
So who uses transaction coordinators?
“For Sale By Owner” (FSBO) home sellers tend to love transaction coordinators, because they don’t have an agent to guide them through the document-heavy sale and closing process.
About 1 in every 10 home sales in the U.S. is an FSBO listing; considering that over 5 million homes were sold in the U.S. in 2019, that comes to about a half million home sales handled without the help of an agent.
And that’s a useful way of thinking of a transaction coordinator: they do a lot of things an agent would normally do, but they’re generally a lot cheaper.
But a lot of agents use transaction coordinators, too. A good coordinator is like an assistant, researcher, and manager all in one, and they provide fantastic value for their price (we’ll cover average rates below). Using a transaction coordinator frees up a lot of mental bandwidth that can be used on other matters.
Please note that in this article, we’re talking mainly about seller transaction coordinators. While there are transaction coordinators that work with buyers, they’re usually directly employed by the mortgage broker. You might encounter a transaction coordinator as a home buyer, but you don’t need to shop around for one, since they’re part of the mortgage company itself.
Read on to see a sampling of how transaction coordinators manage a sale, how much they charge, and a comparison of real estate agents and transaction coordinators.
A Transaction Coordinator Checklist
How do transaction coordinators manage a sale? Generally, they manage scheduling, paperwork, deadlines, and coordination.
Scheduling can mean everything from arranging open houses to making sure everyone knows when and where the closing is taking place. A transaction coordinator will clear and confirm times with everyone involved.
Paperwork is an essential part of a real estate transaction, with hundreds of pages of documents covering everything from the financing to the disclosures to the title. Many transaction coordinators will maintain a centralized electronic database of documents that all parties will have access to.
Deadlines are closely related to paperwork, but they can also involve things like responding to offers, and contingency periods. Missing a deadline can lead to a total collapse of the deal, so this is an extremely important area.
And finally, coordination is what ties all these areas together. Money, signatures, offers, and documents are going to change hands dozens of times in a transaction, and a transaction coordinator will make sure everything gets where it needs to go.
To do all this, a coordinator generally uses a transaction checklist. Let’s look at an example.
What’s on a Transaction Coordination Checklist?
A transaction has a start, a middle, and an end, and coordinators generally split a transaction into six phases:
- Pre Listing
- Live Listing
- Under Contract
- Pre Closing
- Post Closing
During Pre Listing, the goal is to get all the required information together, and build a solid foundation for the listing going forward. In this phase, a transaction coordinator will want to address items like:
- Verifying the seller’s information
- Reviewing and finalizing the listing agreement
- Obtaining property information to input into MLS
- Compiling a preliminary seller’s net sheet to show potential net profit from the list price
- Acquiring listing photos
- Reviewing disclosures
During Live Listing, the emphasis is on helping the property be seen by potential buyers. In this phase, coordinators will address tasks like:
- Making sure MLS listing is live
- Confirming the lockbox is operative
- Compiling showing instructions
- Scheduling open houses
- Reviewing the listing on sites like Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com to make sure information is correct
In the Under Contract phase, the emphasis is on helping the sale move along without missing any important steps. Coordinators will address:
- Changing the MLS listing to ‘pending’
- Reviewing all financial documents for accuracy
- Collecting all required signatures
- Sending closing transmittal
- Compiling a closing timeline and share with all parties
- Ordering warranties, inspections, etc.
- Receiving earnest money
- Scheduling and overseeing the appraisal
- Overseeing title work completion
- Contacting the buyer’s lender to make sure buyer is clear to close
The Inspections phase is when all home inspections and repairs are made; it’s extremely important to document all these items. In this phase, coordinators will:
- Scheduling and confirming inspection time/date
- Collecting inspection reports
- Collecting any required signatures
- Scheduling and overseeing all required repairs
- Collecting repair documentation and distributing to all parties
In the Pre Closing phase, coordinators want to tie up any loose ends, and get ready for the home stretch of closing. In this phase, they’ll address:
- Scheduling movers
- Overseeing utility transfers and shutoffs
- Scheduling and confirming closing times with all parties
- Distributing closing disclosure statement to all parties
- Making sure the purchase agreement is complete and satisfactory to all parties
Finally, Post Closing is when the transaction is fully completed. In this phase, the coordinator will:
- Confirming closing/financing
- Sending congratulations to all parties
- Preparing any required tax forms
- Submitting all final documents
Note that while a transaction coordinator manages this checklist, they’re not necessarily helping you with all the finer details. While a real estate agent actually puts together your MLS listing, the transaction coordinator simply checks the box to make sure it’s done (usually by you, the seller).
How Much Do Transaction Coordinators Charge?
Transaction coordinators are surprisingly inexpensive. Average costs for a transaction coordinator are between $250 and $450, though this is the entry level fee for a minimal document review. For comprehensive assistance throughout the process, rates can run as high as $75/hour.
That’s pricey, but consider that a conventional agent is going to cost around 6%. For a $300,000 home, that’s $18,000; you could have a top-notch transaction coordinator work 100 hours for you, and it would cost less than half of the 6% commission.
Real Estate Agent vs. Transaction Coordinator
As you’ve probably figured out, there’s a lot of overlap between a real estate agent and a transaction coordinator. Ideally, a real estate agent would do everything a transaction coordinator does, but that’s not realistically practical. Most real estate agents are handling multiple clients who are all at different stages in their buying process, and they can’t handle every small administrative task.
In fact, it’s very common for agents to work with a transaction coordinator through their brokerage. With a coordinator handling all the administrative tasks, the agent can concentrate on doing what they do best – selling homes.
So what does an agent do that a transaction coordinator doesn’t?
Well, a transaction coordinator’s job is mainly responsive; they enable the transaction to go off without a hitch, but they don’t take an active role in areas like marketing and price negotiation— which just happen to be two of the most important phases of the sale process.
An agent, however, brings extensive experience in both marketing and negotiation. A good agent knows exactly how to reach prospective buyers, understands how to best present your home to those buyers, and can tap into a large professional network to get the word out about your listing.
A good agent will also be able to negotiate up the price to the maximum that the market will support; a transaction coordinator can’t do that for you.
So who has the edge? Well, an agent provides a complete, full service sale experience, which includes everything a transaction coordinator does, plus marketing and negotiation. A transaction coordinator only handles administrative tasks; if you work with one, you’ll have to do the marketing and price negotiation yourself.
But there is one catch. An agent is much more expensive than a transaction coordinator. A standard real estate commission is 6%; for the median U.S. home value of $250,000, that comes to $15,000. A transaction coordinator, on the other hand, costs around $500.
Keep in mind, though, that those savings have to be considered in the context of the sale price. Let’s say you go with a transaction coordinator instead of an agent so you can avoid paying a $15,000 commission. It may seem like you saved $14,500 – but if your lackluster negotiation skills translated to a lower final sale price, you may have only broken even, or even lost money.
It’s all very complicated, and the right answer for you is going to depend on your circumstances. But one thing we can say with confidence is that an agent does more than a transaction coordinator, and if you can get a top agent at a discount, it’s almost always going to be a better choice.
Real Estate Witch has partnered with Clever Real Estate to help our readers partner up with top local agents across the U.S. Clever’s clients enjoy a deluxe, full-service experience for a low fee of 1.5%.
These are pre-vetted agents with proven track records, and they’ve agreed to work at a significant discount. That means you’re getting the best of both worlds; the all-around expertise of an elite real estate agent, at a price point that’s much closer to a transaction coordinator.