While it’s not required, most people choose to work with a real estate agent to buy or sell a home. In fact, nearly 9 of every 10 buyers and sellers worked with an agent last year.1
But what exactly does a real estate agent do? And how much of the buying or selling process will an agent help you with?
To make a smart choice when deciding to hire professional real estate help, we’ll show you everything a great agent should be able to guide you through.
Let’s get started!
What Is a Real Estate Agent?
First, a real estate agent is a professional who is licensed by the state to help people buy and sell homes. To become licensed, agents usually have to take a class and pass a test.
The cost of a real estate agent is typically a sales commission—a percentage of the home’s purchase price.
What Do Real Estate Agents Do?
A real estate agent’s job is to guide you throughout the entire home buying or selling process. They back you up with expert knowledge, experience and a plan to help you crush your housing goals.
Find a trusted real estate agent we recommend in your area.
Since home buyers and sellers have different needs, there are almost always two real estate agents involved with every home transaction—a buyer’s agent and a seller’s agent (or a listing agent).
Here’s how these two types of agents serve their clients:
What Agents Do for Buyers
Okay, so, if you’re buying a house, a buyer’s agent will guide you through the process of purchasing a home within your budget that fulfills your list of must-haves.
First, they should make sure you’re preapproved for a mortgage so you’re ready to make a competitive offer before you go house hunting. If you’re not preapproved yet, work with a mortgage lender we trust.
Here’s what else buyer’s agents do for you:
- Help you find the right house. Local agents know what’s for sale in your price range. They’ll arrange for viewings on your schedule, allowing you to take your time in each house so you can really picture living there.
- Guide you to make the right offer and negotiate a good price. The best agents are expert negotiators. They also know what similar houses are selling for in your area, so they won’t let you lowball an offer so much that you miss out on a great buy.
- Walk you through the paperwork. Buying a house generates a mountain of paperwork. Your agent will help you stay organized and on time—making sure all of your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.
- Advise you on the home inspection. Your agent should be able to recommend a good home inspector and guide you on what to do if the inspection uncovers serious flaws.
- Soothe your nerves when things get tough. Whether it’s a problem with the appraisal or a hitch in your financing, a great agent knows how to keep things moving smoothly.
When you’re looking to buy a house, having a good buyer’s agent on your team is an absolute must. For more help, check out our Home Buyers Guide.
What Agents Do for Sellers
A listing agent walks you through everything you need to do to get your home ready for sale on the real estate market. They know what it takes to get the home sold on your timeline and for the best price.
Here’s a closer look at exactly what seller’s agents do for you:
- Determine a good price. Your agent has access to the most accurate and up-to-date pricing data in your neighborhood. They’ll help you set a price that’ll maximize both the chance of a sale and the amount you’ll make after the sale.
- Help with curb appeal and staging. Your agent will help you enhance the look of your house from the inside out so potential buyers will be able to imagine themselves living there.
- Drive all marketing efforts. Your agent will make sure the right buyers see your home—including advertising your home online. They’ll take professional photos and videos—maybe even use a drone to take a hi-res shot of the property.
- Negotiate offers without emotion. If you’ve lived in a house for a long time, you’ve also made lots of memories there. Maybe it’s the only home your children have ever known. Emotional ties can blind you to the real value of your house. Your agent can take the emotion out of it and negotiate on your behalf.
- Reassure you if things get hard. Stuff happens. Your agent has seen it all before and will be able to take you through the ups and downs and reassure you when things get crazy.
If you want more guidance throughout the home-selling process, check out our Home Sellers Guide.
Do I Really Need a Real Estate Agent?
Again, you aren’t obligated to work with a real estate agent when buying or selling a house. But they’re more than worth it.
For instance, the seller traditionally covers the cost of both the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent. So if you’re a buyer, working with an agent will most likely be 100% free for you! In that case, you’d be crazy not to use an agent!
But what about sellers? Now, maybe you feel like you could tackle all of the tasks we covered by yourself and save the cost of hiring a real estate agent.
Part of the reason for this is because selling something as expensive as a house by yourself usually comes with a much greater hassle for a lot less money—we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars less!3
Trust us. Paying for the help of an agent to sell your home is worth it.
What’s the Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and a Realtor?
While people commonly refer to real estate agents as “Realtors,” the truth is, the term Realtor is a trademarked brand name—not a profession.
Realtors are real estate agents who join a special membership of agents known as the National Association of Realtors (NAR).4 The NAR provides agents with tools and resources to grow their businesses.
All Realtors are real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are Realtors.
In other words, asking for a “Realtor” when you mean “real estate agent” is a lot like asking for a “Kleenex” when you really mean “tissue.”
There. Now you can take this fun fact and correct people who use it wrong at dinner parties.
Find a Great Real Estate Agent in Your Area
If you’re looking to buy or sell a house, working with a real estate agent is totally worth it. To find a great one, try our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program.
Our ELPs go through a rigorous vetting process, and they’re held to the highest standards of customer service. We wouldn’t endorse them if they weren’t the absolute best of the best.
Are You a Real Estate Agent Wanting to Grow Your Business?
If you’re a real estate agent and want to level up your business, we can help. Our Endorsed Local Providers program helps connect you with buyers and sellers who need rock stars like you to guide them.