We strive to deliver objective reviews. The Real Estate Witch Team and its mystery shoppers spent a collective 1,400+ hours over a six-week period testing and researching agent matching services. Our goal is to help you find an agent who can get you the most possible value when you buy or sell your home.
What is UpNest?
UpNest is a free, no-obligation service that connects you with a local real estate agent who can help you buy or sell a home.
UpNest matches you with agents, who then compete with one another for your business.
Many UpNest agents offer discounted rates for sellers or rebates for buyers to make their proposals more attractive. But unlike some competing services, the savings aren’t guaranteed. Based on UpNest reviews, we also found savings are usually pretty marginal — similar to what you may be able to negotiate on your own.
If you’re looking for max savings, check out our friends at Clever Real Estate. Clever delivers the same no-cost agent matching service. And it pre-negotiates big savings on your behalf. For example, a seller can list their home with a top local agent for $3,000 or 1% commission. Eligible buyers can get 0.5% of the purchase price in cash back after closing.
Clever’s savings are guaranteed, no matter which agent you choose or where you live.
- UpNest’s agent matching service is fast, easy, and free.
- UpNest’s customer dashboard gives buyers and sellers a convenient way to research and compare agent matches.
- Agents on UpNest compete for your business, which helps drive savings. But the discounts are limited. Listing fees in UpNest proposals are typically about 2-2.5% vs. the typical 2.5-3%.
Is UpNest legitimate?
Yes, UpNest is a licensed real estate brokerage with dual headquarters in California and Indiana. Agent matching services must hold brokerage licenses to collect payment from the agents they work with, which is how they make money.
UpNest reviews are generally positive, with a rating of 4.6 out of 2,934 reviews. The company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau, where it has an A+ rating.
Current CEO Simon Ru founded the company LessThan6Percent in 2013, followed by UpNest in 2014. At their inceptions, LessThan6Percent was an agent matching service for sellers, while UpNest was for buyers. Both companies used the same model, encouraging commission discounts through competitive bidding among agents.
Ru combined the two companies into UpNest in November 2014, serving both buyers and sellers. The company claims to have helped more than 500,000 customers through its network of 14,000 agents.
How does UpNest work?
You need to sign up via UpNest’s website, where you’ll be asked to provide basic information about your sale or purchase, such as:
- If you’re looking to buy, sell, or both
- Your timeline
- The type of property you’re buying or selling
- Your current address (if selling)
- Your contact information
Once you’ve entered this information, you’ll be directed to your customer dashboard. Agents interested in working with you will send their proposals through the dashboard.
Some of our mystery shoppers received proposals automatically upon signup. Others had to wait a bit. UpNest displayed a list of local agents who our shoppers could “invite” to bid for their business while they waited.
Aside from the handful of proposals that came automatically, most of our shoppers’ proposals arrived within 10 minutes to an hour. A few rolled in over the next two days. We assume that proposals arrive as agents confirm their availability and interest in working with you.
Also, immediately after signing up, an UpNest Advisor (sometimes referred to as your “account manager”) called our shoppers and emailed to check in. The Advisor provided some introductory information about UpNest and how the matching process works.
UpNest agent proposals
UpNest’s agent proposals provide a ton of details and helpful information to assist you as you choose a realtor, outclassing most similar services. Most competitors only provide basic information about your agent matches, like their Zillow rating and number of recent sales.
On the other hand, UpNest’s agent proposals include:
- The agent’s commission rate for sellers.
- The agent’s refund rate for buyers.
- A savings calculator so you can see how the figures add up for your particular sale.
- Statistics like the agent’s number of years of experience and sales in your area.
- Video and audio messages from the agent explaining their background and the advantages of working with them.
- A Q&A section where the agent shares their views on common real estate questions.
- Reviews from past customers.
- An itemized list of what services the agent includes, like professional photography, printed fliers, and home staging.
- An itemized list of services that cost an additional fee.
If you’d like to talk with an agent after reviewing their proposal, you can call them directly to schedule an interview and decide if you’d like to work together.
UpNest’s Advisors check in periodically to keep the selection process moving and to ensure things are running smoothly with your agent if and when you choose one.
📌 A note about agent communication
Some UpNest agents never reached out after delivering their proposals.
This differs from other agent matching services. Once you’re matched, agents typically call you right away and follow up regularly (and frequently!) via email, phone, and text.
While it can feel overwhelming to be inundated with agent outreach, a lack of communication might feel like a different problem: a lack of interest from the agents on UpNest.
That said, UpNest may be a good fit if you prefer to make the first move and contact your agent matches yourself. But if you’re timid and would rather your agent matches call you, another service might be a better option.
How much does UpNest cost?
UpNest’s agent matching service is free to use as a buyer or seller (all agent matching services are). But if you’re selling, you have to cover the realtors’ commissions. Typically, you’ll pay 5-6% of the sale price, with half going to your listing agent and half going to the seller’s agent.
UpNest’s “marketplace” model encourages agents to lower their commission rates. Realtors present proposals to buyers and sellers, essentially competing with each other to earn the customer’s business.
The proposals include the agent’s argument for being best-suited for the sale. Most times, the agent will discount their commission in the proposal to make it more enticing. Often, they’ll also reduce the buyer’s agent commission to save a seller even more money. (Read more about this practice here.)
For buyers, UpNest agents usually offer a commission rebate. The agent applies a percentage of their commission earnings towards certain sale-related expenses, such as closing costs.
How much can sellers save with UpNest?
Our research found that seller savings vary widely, and there are no guarantees.
Based on our shoppers’ experience, on UpNest you can expect to save from 0.05-1% on the typical 2.5-3% listing agent commission. Compared to other agent matching services, that isn’t much.
Here’s an example based on a $400,000 home sale.
|UpNest*||Clever Real Estate||Traditional agent|
|Buyer's agent fee (3%)||$12,000||$12,000||$12,000|
|Total commission fee||$20,000||$16,000||$24,000|
Using UpNest, the biggest savings our shoppers scored was a 2% listing fee. This discount is on par with competitor Ideal Agent and half of Clever‘s built-in rate of 1% (or $3,000 on homes that sell for less than $350,000).
🚨 Beware of savings that come from a lower buyer’s agent fee
Some UpNest agents’ proposals seek to lower costs for sellers by reducing the buyer’s agent commission (typically 2.5-3%). Most of our shoppers’ proposals featured a buyer’s agent commission 0.5-1% lower than the nationwide average.
It’s true that lowering the buyer’s agent commission can save sellers money. But this approach isn’t unique to UpNest.
No matter how you sell your home, you control the buyer’s agent commission. Technically, you can always offer less if you want to — or none at all.
However, lowering the buyer’s agent commission can be risky in some situations. If you decrease it too much, some buyer’s agents may lose the incentive to show your home to their clients because they know they’ll potentially earn less on your deal than on others offering higher rates.
In a hot seller’s market or on an especially attractive property, you may be able to drop the buyer’s agent commission a bit without negative repercussions.
🚨 Don’t be fooled by creative “savings” math
When reviewing an UpNest agent’s proposal, focus on the listing fee discount, not the buyer’s agent commission, to compare the savings to another brand or agent.
Any agent you sign with will recommend a competitive buyer’s agent commission — i.e., the lowest amount you can offer without jeopardizing your ability to sell.
Can buyers save money with UpNest?
Yes, most UpNest agent proposals for buyers include what the company calls a “home buyer rebate.” More widely known as a commission rebate, this is a financial incentive some realtors offer to attract new clients.
With a commission rebate, the real estate agent shares a portion of their commission on the deal with the buyer. These funds are typically issued as credits that can only be spent in certain ways, like on the buyer’s closing costs.
Commission rebates are regulated. They require approval from your lender and are not available in eight states (see below).
If you qualify for a home buyer rebate, UpNest agents generally offer between 0.3-0.75% of the sale price. On a $400,000 home sale, this equals $1,500-3,000.
🚨 We recommend cash back rewards over commission rebates
Instead of a commission rebate, Clever offers buyers a cash back incentive. Cash back is preferable in most situations, because it’s less complicated and can be spent any way you want.
Clever gives eligible buyers a check for 0.5% of the purchase price back after closing. With the Clever Cash Back program, you don’t have to seek lender approval. Qualified buyers get the full amount, guaranteed.
🚨 Buyer rebates aren’t legal everywhere
As of this writing, commission rebates are prohibited in eight states:
📌 Important note if you’re buying and selling
UpNest’s agent proposals only show the agent’s listing discount, not their commission rebate percentage. However, our shoppers checked with an UpNest representative who told us you can ask each agent directly about their commission rebate percentage. We recommend doing this upfront before you sign with an agent, so there’s no confusion later in the process.
✍ Editor’s Note
As part of its incentives for home buyers, UpNest offers a $150 Amazon gift card. UpNest Advisors use this as a selling point for the service. In UpNest reviews posted online, many past UpNest customers seem more excited about the Amazon gift card than their realtor’s performance or commission savings.
While Amazon gift cards certainly come in handy when moving into a new place, please note that the gift card’s value is pocket change compared to the investment of a home. Don’t let such a minimal incentive sway your decision when choosing a realtor.
At the low end of the spectrum, the savings you’ll achieve by working with our friends at Clever vs. UpNest can buy you more than 20 $150 Amazon gift cards!
How does UpNest make money?
UpNest takes a percentage of the commission its partner agents earn on deals for buyers and sellers referred through UpNest. This is known as a referral fee, and it’s how all agent matching services make money.
UpNest also has a home loan service that presumably makes money for the company.
✍ Editor’s Note
If you’ve decided UpNest is the best agent matching service for you, don’t assume that its home loan service is as well. Always research complementary services independently. Check out at least 2-3 options so you can comparison shop and determine the one that best meets your needs.
Why do agents work with companies like UpNest?
Compared to other means of marketing and advertising, joining the UpNest agent network and paying a referral fee to the company for successful sales offers a more cost-effective and lower risk way for realtors to find new customers.
Real estate agents typically spend a lot of time and money on marketing to attract new business. There’s no guarantee that those investments will generate returns, since not every deal closes. Plus, this takes time away from working on deals, which is how realtors make money.
UpNest delivers a steady stream of new prospective customers to agents at no upfront cost. This lowers the agent’s risk, since they only have to pay UpNest for deals that close. It also saves the agent time, which allows them to close more deals.
The bottom line is a higher volume of customer leads means agents can earn less on each deal (by offering lower commission rates, providing buyer rebates, and paying referral fees) and still turn a profit while growing their businesses.
UpNest reviews: Major benefits and drawbacks
UpNest reviews are generally favorable, with a score of 4.6 out of 5.
Overall, our mystery shoppers liked the service they received. Their agent matches were good; they had many sales and specialized local knowledge, even in small towns. This differs from some competitors with minimal coverage outside of major cities (MyAgentFinder, for example).
Our shoppers found UpNest’s customer dashboard especially helpful for comparison shopping and informing their agent choice. But they encountered difficulties when they tried to reach out to their UpNest Advisors, particularly via phone.
Additionally, UpNest’s inconsistent and marginal cost savings didn’t impress our shoppers compared to those of similar services they’ve shopped, like Clever and Ideal Agent. Clever, for example, offers the same free service, customer support, and high-quality agent selection for less than half the cost of the BEST UpNest proposal we saw. And Clever’s rates are 100% guaranteed.
UpNest pros and cons
✅ Sign-up is simple and agent matches arrive quickly
It only takes a few minutes to sign up for UpNest online. The questions buyers and sellers must answer are simple and straightforward.
Once you’ve signed up, your agent matches arrive fast. Some populate immediately, and most arrive within 60 minutes (although our shoppers had a few stragglers). All agent matches include a proposal full of useful information to help you pick a realtor.
Our mystery shoppers were well on their way to connecting with an agent within an hour of signing up for UpNest. Most agent matching services offer similar speed and convenience benefits.
Many UpNest reviews share an appreciation for the service’s simplicity.
✅ Agent matches are on target
In our shoppers’ experience, all of UpNest’s agent matches were good. Realtors had solid track records and credible experience in their targeted neighborhoods.
Even in smaller and more rural towns, matches were based in the targeted area and had specialized neighborhood knowledge. This isn’t typical of most services we’ve researched.
Each shopper received between two and six matches. They appreciated the selection, so they could research each and then select a handful to interview.
Like most agent matching services, UpNest requires that agents meet certain criteria before joining its network to ensure they are experienced and knowledgeable. These criteria include:
- A current license
- Three years’ industry experience
- Top 5% sales performance in their local area
- A minimum of six transactions in past 12 months
The company appears to enforce these requirements, so you can rest assured the agents you’ll find on UpNest meet these minimum standards.
Most UpNest reviewers were happy with the quality of their agent.
✍ Editor’s Note
Always interview at least two to three realtors before deciding which (if any) is right for you. Just because UpNest says they’re a match, it doesn’t mean they are. You can always supplement UpNest’s results with a DIY search for an agent.
Or you can try out another agent matching service and take a look at their recommendations as well. UpNest and its competitors are all free, no-obligation services.
✅ Customer dashboard facilitates comparison shopping
The UpNest customer dashboard is one of the best our shoppers have seen.
The proposals agents deliver through the dashboard are full of useful information that helps streamline the agent shopping process. UpNest provided our shoppers with information they wanted so they didn’t have to conduct independent research on their matches. It was all right there, including:
- Videos about the agent
- Statistics on experience and sales
- Answers to common questions
- Details about what they do and do not include in their service, such as:
- Home staging
- Drone photography
- Unlimited showings
UpNest’s dashboard also includes links to contact your matches or your Advisor with the click of a button.
Reviewers agree that UpNest’s platform facilitates comparison shopping.
Other competing services (like Ideal Agent and MyAgentFinder) handle all communication via phone and text. You’ll receive your agents’ names and contact information from these companies, and that’s it. The level of detail UpNest supplies is a huge step above most of the competition.
⚠️ Savings are inconsistent and often minimal compared to other options
UpNest’s model includes a savings element for customers. Agents bid against each other for your business. To make their proposals more enticing, agents can reduce their commission rates or offer rebates. For some background on commission rates, see above.
UpNest’s marketplace model creates potential savings for sellers and buyers. But because commission rates aren’t pre-negotiated, nothing is guaranteed. We found discounts varied from several thousand dollars to effectively zero.
The lowest listing fee rate we saw in a proposal was 2%, compared to the typical 2.5-3% rate. And remember, that’s not guaranteed.
Some reviewers are satisfied with that rate and UpNest’s service in general.
Others felt that the savings were nothing special.
In contrast, when you find an agent with Clever, you’ll pay a flat $3,000 listing fee or just 1% if the home sells for more than $350,000. In other words, compared to UpNest’s best-case scenario, Clever offers the same free matching service and agent quality for literally half the price — or less!
Where available, UpNest’s buyer rebates were similarly inconsistent, ranging from 0.3-0.75% of the final sale price. Clever, on the other hand, offers 0.5% Clever Cash Back on qualifying purchases, no matter which agent you choose.
While we’re glad UpNest helps customers achieve some level of savings, it’s not guaranteed. Clever gives its customers significant and consistent savings no matter which agent they choose.
⚠️ Representatives are sometimes really helpful, and sometimes really not
Our shoppers contacted UpNest a few times via phone to ask questions. Most of the time, the people they spoke to were very knowledgeable.
One Advisor was particularly helpful, making personalized recommendations on which agent matched the shopper’s needs best. He seemed to have worked with a few of the agents previously, and he shared anecdotes like, “He’s a really skilled closer, and in this crazy market, buyers need someone who can close to set them apart.”
Some reviewers appreciate the help and responsiveness of UpNest’s representatives.
However, one person who answered UpNest’s main number was not at all helpful. He didn’t seem to understand basic tenets of real estate (for example, that commissions typically equal about 6%) and was unable to answer simple questions like, “Can you tell me a little more about how UpNest works?”
We don’t want to suggest that one bad apple spoils the barrel, but speaking to this representative did not give our shopper a good first impression of UpNest.
This reviewer agrees that some of UpNest’s employees don’t represent the company well.
All Clever concierges are licensed real estate agents with a background in the industry. They’re able to provide buyers and sellers with informed, valuable advice throughout the transaction.
⛔️ UpNest Advisors are difficult to reach
Our shoppers had a hard time talking with anyone from UpNest.
One of our shoppers never spoke to their Advisor, as he never answered his phone. The shopper was on the East Coast and the Advisor on the West Coast, so we wondered if the time difference might have something to do with it.
UpNest appears to keep Pacific time business hours, and doesn’t answer its main phone line until after 11 a.m. Eastern time. Most nationwide businesses like UpNest account for time differences by assigning some representatives earlier hours to accommodate all customers. We found it very strange that UpNest would not do this.
Even during Pacific time business hours, UpNest’s main line and those of its Advisors often ring busy or aren’t answered.
Since phone contact wasn’t working out, one of our shoppers used the chat box on UpNest’s site to ask questions. Their chat questions were never answered or acknowledged. Instead, they received a message that no one was available to chat because it was outside business hours (except it definitely was not).
Reviewers were similarly disappointed with UpNest’s responsiveness.
If you prefer to talk on the phone with someone, or if you are a first-time buyer and have a lot of questions, UpNest might not be a fit for you. Our shoppers’ difficulty in connecting with a person to talk to was unique among agent matching services. It was also very frustrating and gave us an unprofessional impression.
Top UpNest alternatives in 2021
Clever Real Estate
Clever Real EstateFULL REVIEW
- List for $3,000 or 1%
- Up to 0.5% cash back for buyers
- Helpful, licensed Concierge
Clever is a free, no-obligation service that matches home sellers and buyers with top-rated, local real estate agents nationwide. Unlike most of its competitors, Clever pre-negotiates big discounts with its agent network, so customers land major savings! Sellers can save up to 50% on realtor commission fees. Buyers can qualify for 0.5% of their purchase price back after closing.
- Partners with full-service agents from top brokerages like Century 21 and RE/MAX
- Provides multiple agent matches so you can compare and choose the best fit
- Pre-negotiates low rates with agent network
- As with most agent matching services, customers may have fewer agent options in certain rural areas
Like UpNest, Clever is a free service that connects buyers and sellers with top local agents.
A big difference between the two companies is that Clever’s Concierge team is licensed and knowledgeable about real estate. UpNest does not require this level of training, and its Advisors are hit or miss.
Both Clever and UpNest provide thoughtful agent matches and plenty of them so you can determine the realtor who’s best for you.
Though UpNest’s model encourages agents to offer lower commission rates for sellers and rebates for buyers, the savings you’ll get are minimal and inconsistent.
Clever pre-negotiates commission savings on every deal. You can sell for a flat $3,000 or 1% listing fee (on home sales greater than $350,000). Eligible buyers get a check for 0.5% Clever Cash Back.
Ideal AgentFULL REVIEW
- List for 2%
- Limited agent network
- Licensed, helpful concierge
Ideal Agent can match you with a top-rated local realtor who has agreed to offer full service for a discounted 2% listing fee. Ideal Agent has strict standards for its agent network, claiming it only works with agents whose sales numbers are in the top 1% of their local markets. Notably, Ideal Agent only provides customers with one agent match, so if comparing options is important to you, it might not be a good choice. And while it does offer built-in savings for sellers, they’re not as significant as those offered by some top competitors, like Clever.
- Offers some built-in savings for home sellers
- Sets high performance standards for its agent network
- Offers a discounted 2.5% buyer’s agent commission, which might disincentivize realtors from showing your home to clients
- Only matches you with one agent
- Its limited network size may mean spotty coverage in smaller towns and rural areas
Ideal Agent is another no-cost agent matching service that offers customers discounted commission rates.
However, while UpNest provides buyers and sellers two to six agent matches to choose from, Ideal Agent only delivers one match.
Ideal Agent’s agent network is much smaller than UpNest’s (450 agents vs.14,000), so coverage isn’t as thorough, especially outside of major cities.
Realtors who work with Ideal Agent will list your home for a 2% commission plus a 2.5% buyer’s agent commission.
- Automated match process
- Impressive localized coverage
- No built-in commission savings
HomeLight is the largest agent matching service in America, with more than 28,000 agents in its network. That means more choice in terms of agents and brokerages relative to its competitors — particularly in rural and small town markets. The agent matching process is fully automated, which makes it a bit more streamlined but also comes with some quality risks. HomeLight does not offer any kind of commission savings for home sellers or buyers.
- Well-known and established agent matching service
- More choice in terms of agents and brokerages
- May offer better coverage in small towns and rural markets
- Does not pre-negotiate savings for customers
- Process is 100% automated — lack of human oversight can result in bad matches
- Many customer reviews cite unsolicited calls and spam emails after signing up on the HomeLight website
HomeLight is a real estate company that offers an agent matching service with an easy-to-use online platform.
Compared to UpNest’s agent network of 14,000, HomeLight’s is double the size, so realtor matches are good in terms of local area knowledge. But any agent can join HomeLight — the company doesn’t list any minimal criteria for experience or sales numbers.
HomeLight doesn’t pre-negotiate discounted rates with its agents. So, if you are looking for savings, it’s not the service for you.
Should I work with UpNest?
UpNest is a free service and there’s no obligation to work with one of its agents once you sign up, so there’s no harm in trying it out.
UpNest is easy to use. It provides agent matches quickly, and its dashboard facilitates comparison shopping.
We like that UpNest encourages agents to drop their rates to help buyers and sellers save money. But our friends at Clever do that, too. And Clever’s rates are better and guaranteed no matter which agent you choose.
To get the best possible value, try both free services and see how the agents stack up!
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How much does UpNest cost?
UpNest is free for home buyers and sellers. Some UpNest agents may offer reduced commission rates of around 2-2.5%. Alternative services offer 1% commission rates.
Is UpNest legitimate?
Yes, UpNest is a legitimate and licensed agent matching service. However, the commission discounts UpNest agents offer are inconsistent. As one of the company's top selling points, this is misleading to customers.