Some companies rebate a portion of their commissions to the buyer, or charge a lower commission than other realtors in the area. Some individual realtors do it with permission from their brokers. Some realtors do it on a case by case basis, or to help bring a transaction together.
It is a business model, not a moral, ethical, or expertise failing or superiority on the part of the realtor or brokerage.
As a consumer, you need to decide if the services being offered, as well as the personality of the individual, fit with what you need in a Silicon Valley realtor.
If you need more hand holding, someone who answers his/her phone at 10 PM, someone who spends a lot of time/money on marketing, someone who responds to emails or texts immediately, a discount broker may not be right for you. If you need someone with a key to get you in a home and who can write a contract for you, but does not get overly involved in your decision making, or puts your home on mls and just collects offers you may do better with a discount broker.
You may hear from full service brokers that discount brokers are less skilled or they would not be discount brokers. I disagree. Analogies do not always apply, but I doubt the people who run Walmart are any less skilled at retail marketing than the owners of Neiman Marcus, it is just a different business model.
Now I can say this because I am NOT a discount realtor. I personally bring a lot to the table, and cutting my commission is not one of the things I bring. Instead I offer extra services, like free staging and cosmetic upgrades for my sellers, and extensive, specialized knowledge about short sales, probate, and trust sales. However, I strongly believe that the consumer has the right to chose what business model works best for them, just as I have the right to decide which business model a brokerage has that works best for me. I choose Keller Williams Realty while other agents may choose Coldwell Banker or Remax. Coldwell Banker is not incompetent or morally bankrupt, it just is not the right fit for me.
So if you are in the market for a realtor to help you buy or sell a house, take some time to talk to some, assess your needs, and see how the individual business model fits with what is most important to you.
If you have any questions about buying or selling real estate in Santa Clara or San Mateo County please feel free to contact me.