Buying or selling a home? Here’s how you can earn bonus Amex points in the process
The act of buying or selling a home can be an incredibly complicated process — not to mention an expensive one. From appraisals to inspections to mortgages, there are many hassles that can cost you time, money or both.
So wouldn’t it be nice to earn a ton of valuable, transferable points when you finally get to the closing table?
Well, it turns out that this wish isn’t a fantasy — thanks to a company called Real Buyer Network (or RBN). If you buy or sell a house using one of RBN’s participating agents, you’ll take home up to one American Express Membership Rewards point for every dollar of the final purchase price of the dwelling.
Sound too good to be true? That was my initial reaction when I first heard about RBN. But after talking with CEO Kipp Lassetter and connecting with a participating agent and one of his happy clients, I’ve realized that this is a viable way to boost your Membership Rewards balance.
Hear directly from Kipp by tuning in to our Facebook Live this Thursday May 27 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time / 11 a.m. Pacific Time.
If you’re planning to buy or sell a home and you’re not currently working with an agent, here’s how you can take home a huge haul of Amex points.
Signing up for RBN
Before you can even think about those points hitting your account, you need to first sign up for RBN’s services. To do so, visit this page and enter your city or zip code, then click Next. From there, click Create a Profile and follow the on-screen prompts to submit your information and schedule a consultation with a member of RBN’s concierge team — who will help find you the best agent for your needs.
According to RBN’s website, these agents are “selected by invitation only” — those who have a proven track record in a given area. While any agent can apply, only those who pass the detailed pre-screening process become a part of the program.
While the consultation may seem like an unnecessary extra step, it’s nevertheless a critical one.
“A good agent to me was the most important thing,” Larry Aronson, an RBN client, told me earlier this month. He first submitted his information to RBN last year as he worked on moving from California to North Carolina. RBN came back to him with a few options, and he picked Thomas Wohl — an agent in the Raleigh-Durham area.
And Thomas wasn’t just any agent. He brought nearly three decades of real estate experience to the table, starting with Coldwell Banker and then Remax before moving to fast-growing eXp Realty two years ago. When I chatted with him, he pointed out that referrals are a two-way street. An agent not only wants a quality client; a client should want the best agent.
“It matters who they do business with,” Thomas said. “It’s all about the professional knowledge … you want to make sure you have great experience in combination with expertise.”
And ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to work with the RBN agent. As Larry put it, “If he wasn’t a good agent, I would’ve forgotten the points.”
Working with a participating agent
Once you’ve been paired with an agent and decide to move forward, the process is no different than a standard real estate transaction. If you’re enlisting the help of an agent to sell your house, he/she will go through the normal steps of getting pictures, pulling comps (prices of similar houses that recently sold in your area) and setting up your listing.
And if you’re looking to buy a house, it’s the same story.
Most notably, there’s no added cost to the customer. I explicitly asked this question of RBN’s CEO, Kipp Lassetter, and he confirmed that they own a referral brokerage — where a participating agent pays a referral fee for the lead, whether it’s on the seller’s or buyer’s side of the transaction. This does appear on the closing statement, but it’s borne by the participating agent, not the consumer.
And the program has some notable cheerleaders.
“Best decision I ever made,” Larry said about his choice of RBN (and Thomas in particular). While he and his wife had some other recommendations, he wanted to look into RBN first — recognizing the sizeable number of points he’d need for a return trip to Africa.
“The thing that set [Thomas] apart — and you can read the review I’ve written about him — is that he was never interested in selling or buying a house. That was secondary. He wanted us to buy the right house.” And even though it took he and his wife several months to do so (including a three-month stay in an Airbnb), Larry describes the house they ultimately bought as a “perfect fit” for them.
Thomas echoed this sentiment.
“I do think that people or consumers should pay more attention to their agent, their reputation, their experience and what they do for them,” he told me. “If you treat your agent as a commodity, the result is going to be just that … an agent should be a good team with a buyer or a seller.”
Earning Amex points
While RBN prides itself on the quality of agents it offers, the ability to earn American Express Membership Rewards points is a fantastic deal sweetener. As noted above, both buying and selling a house with an RBN agent will earn you up to one Amex point per dollar of the purchase or sale price.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Up to” sounds like there’s some gray area, some opaque terms that could lead you to miss out on the points entirely.
Not true, according to RBN’s CEO.
“It’s based on the common commission structure” for the seller, Kipp said — for example, 6% of the purchase price, divided evenly between the buyer’s agent and seller’s agent. “As those vary off the structure, it will influence the amount of points.”
In other words, as long as there’s a typical commission agreement in place, the one-point-to-one-dollar ratio will stand.
That’s right. If you sell your house with an RBN agent for $250,000 with a standard, 6% commission, you’ll take home 250,000 Amex points (worth $5,000 based on TPG’s most recent valuations). And the points should post to your account within a few business days of the closing, Kipp said.
Buying or selling a house is a massive undertaking, and for many Americans, it represents the single biggest transaction they’ll be a part of in their lifetimes. And once the documents are signed, wouldn’t it be nice to snag a big payday of points?
That’s where RBN comes in. If you’re planning to buy (or sell) a house in the coming months and don’t currently have a real estate agent, consider working with a participating agent from RBN. You’ll not only gain access to a pre-selected pool of top-notch agents; you’ll also unlock the ability to earn hundreds of thousands of Amex points shortly after closing.
To explore more, visit this page and enter your information. Your next trip may be even closer than you think.
Want more information? Tune into our Facebook Live with CEO Kipp Lassetter — this Thursday May 27 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time
The general process of using RBN is covered above, but we’ve put together this list of FAQs that we’ve heard from others in the interest of providing a comprehensive view into the program.
Is this available everywhere in the United States?
According to Kipp, RBN is “available through the U.S., and we have not (so far) had any problems recruiting agents or finding or fulfilling a request.” However, we pushed a bit on this. If someone went to register in rural Kansas (as an example), would there be someone to support that client?
Not necessarily, but that doesn’t mean it’s off the table.
“Do we have — right now — someone sitting on the bench in Topeka, Kansas?” Kipp asked, rhetorically. “No, not necessarily. But we have a relationship with a luxury real estate network that is national, and we go through it to source real estate agents.”
In fact, Larry said that when he first contacted RBN, there was no one in the area he was looking to buy — but within a few days, they were able to bring on multiple options, including Thomas.
Can I use my existing agent?
This is where things get tricky. If you already have an agent — be it to sell your house or buy a new one — you won’t be eligible for the Amex points. This is disclosed directly in RBN’s terms:
“RBN respects existing contractual obligations with agents and their clients. Customers with existing agent agreements are not eligible to earn RBN Rewards.”
While existing agents can apply to become a part of RBN, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be accepted.
What if I don’t have an eligible American Express card?
While we hope everyone has at least one card that earns valuable Membership Rewards points, you fortunately don’t need one at the time of purchase. RBN will hold your earnings for you until you’re ready to add one to your wallet. This is especially notable for those who take out a mortgage, as the last thing you should do is apply for a new line of credit during the underwriting process.
When you are ready to grab one, here are a couple of great options:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the card in the first six months of card membership.
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.
Am I charging the cost of the house to my credit card?
Absolutely not. Kipp says that this is one of the top misconceptions about the program. The only involvement from American Express is the bonus you get after closing; you aren’t actually using your credit card to purchase the house, nor are you using it to pay any deposits, title costs or mortgage fees.
Featured photo by Martin Barraud/Getty Images.
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