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PORTLAND-If you want to give up a percentage of your commission, Steve Johnson will give you the money long before the deal closes. The native Oregonian has purchased the Northwest franchise rights for Commission Express, which pays brokers their deal commission before it closes in exchange for between 8% and 14% of the amount they are set to receive.

Johnson, most recently chief executive officer of a business-to-business application service provider named signOnline Inc., opened one retail location at 8215 SW Tualatin-Sherwood Rd. in mid-August, and plans to open a second in Bellevue in October. The Tualatin office is the 37th Commission Express office nationwide. “We had a transaction the second day we were in business and we’re adding more every day,” Johnson tells GlobeSt.com.

Johnson says only about 20% of his business is commercial, in part because he restricts those clients to lease renewals and other simple deals that will close quickly. The average transaction is about $6,000 on the residential side, and about $15,000 on the commercial side. Johnson says he’s brokered two commercial sales since he’s been open, one a small office complex and the other a small strip mall.

“I must meet the broker in person on the first occasion so that the master documents can be signed and notarized” says Johnson, who also formerly ran a similar business for trucking invoices. “After that, subsequent transactions can be done by fax, generally in a couple of hours.”

Johnson suspects there’s somewhere between $700,000 and $800,000 in commissions being disbursed in the greater Portland are every 90 days or less and probably about twice that in the Seattle area. Moreover, he only needs a small piece of it to be profitable. “It’s a relatively low overhead business,” says Johnson, who is using private investors along with his own capital to fund the operation. “It’s really just the cost of funds and low administration and advertising fees.”

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