Oh My God Jill! Where do we begin. I can only speak from my own experience... but we do almost anything our clients need us to do. Yes of course there is the research, the pre-viewing, completing paperwork, representing our clients interests in the transaction, protecting the clients rights, holding the other agent accountable and making sure any of the dozens of deadlines arent missed, meeting inspectors, roofers, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, delivery people, cleaners, exterminators, loan officers, title officers, the cement guy, the stucco guy, the paint guy, and any one else required. There is also relisting the property when the other party pulls out, changes of status, fighting with the appraiser, marketing the property on half a dozen websites, running off squatters, driving 20 miles each way twice per week to make sure the house is still clean, flyers are in the box, make sure the sign is still up and the house/shed are still locked, the sign in sheet still has room (and while you are at it, compare the sign in to lock box report and follow up on everyone that has been in the house). You, the agent, drive out to the house and wait for your client who may or may not show up, and smile even though you are late to pick up the kids when he does show up one hour late. You track all phone calls, activity, records, letters, and reports maintaining them in a file. You store furniture to stage the house, move it in and out... oh and you bought it too.
Then you are a friend, holding the clients hand through the worries, delays, stuff the ex has done to them, the stresses, problems and difficulties in their life. When the client takes initiative and does or says something they probably shouldn't have, you fix it. You pick up your clients kids, parts, tools, furniture, mail, records from county, and food-on-the-way.
You the realtor do all this without getting any money up front, hoping that the deal will close, and that when one of their friends or family has to buy or sell, that they will remember you first. By the way, you do this for up to a half dozen clientsat the same time and keep it all straight.
By the way, the above description is just one transaction that I am currently working on. I figure that if nothing else needs my help, when this transaction closes (if it closes), I will be at about $10/hour, less actual expenses and overhead (and we have a lot).
Of course every deal isn't like that, but we commit to putting the client first, and if he/she is a good guy and tries to do right, we don't fire our clients, even if we are losing money of the deal. My clients never question that I earn my commission and have never asked me to discount it.
If you want to know why we get paid "so much money" ask a FSBO (for sale by owner) who has had his home on the market for 6 months to a year, a family that is about to be foreclosed for being 4 months behind, the family who had to move out of town to start the new job and leave the house behind, the parents who have to get their kid into the new shool before the first semester. We get paid so much because we are worth it!
By the way, I was so driven to answer you, that I haven't read anything the other realtos wrote yet. I will do it now, but I want to say ditto to the 17 agents that answered you. We work hard and wait long for our money.