Interesting. My best guess then is that real estate dollars dont seem like real money to most people. For two reasons: because the amounts are so high that 1-3% of a million bucks feels negligible-- its just not a sum of cash that people are used to dealing with. So they don't think rationally.
and because many buyers and sellers are riding high on massive tax free equity gains. Why not splurge on $30k for "peace of mind" if you've made $600k in equity over the course of the last 20 years.
I agree about the real money. If people had to pay for real estate fees up-front guaranteed they would be much lower; however, the fees come out on the back-end of the sale so you are right it just doesn't feel "real" to most people.
It is funny how much people will haggle for a 30k kitchen (where material, labour, install, etc. is a huge portion of the cost) but they won't haggle over a 30k commission where the inputs are professional photos, floorplan, and a few other small things that altogether add up to less than $500.