You may have heard the terms buyer's agent, seller's agent, selling agent, REALTOR® and so on. So what’s the difference? Who will actually represent your interests?
Basically, there are two agents involved in real estate transactions – one on both ends of the deal. But the terminology can be confusing.
A seller’s agent works with the seller to list and market a house.
The agent on the purchaser’s end is the buyer’s agent before the contract is signed and then typically is referred to as the selling agent.
So essentially the seller’s agent and the selling agent help their respective clients agree to terms, such as the offer/sale price and contingencies.
What’s A REALTOR®?
To add to the confusion, you’ll often hear the term REALTOR®. Only members of the National Association of Realtors can call themselves a REALTOR®. As of May 2019, there were more than 1.36 million members of the trade association.
Some real estate agents also have designations after their names that indicate additional training/certification. This includes Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), indicating they’ve completed additional training in handling residential real estate; Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR), indicating they’ve completed additional education in representing buyers; and Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES), indicating they’ve completed training aimed at helping buyers and sellers 50+ years old.
The Buyer’s Agent
If you’re buying for the first time, you’ll want an experienced buyer’s agent to guide you through the process. A buyer's agent can help you with a variety of tasks.
Finding The Right Property
If you contact an agent in person, by telephone or online, they’ll ask about your home buying parameters (location, house type, backyard size, etc.) and start sharing listings that fit your criteria. The agent will preview good prospects and schedule appointments for you to tour the best ones. They’ll also keep an ear to the ground for new listings about to come on the market, which can be especially helpful in competitive real estate markets.
Your agent will also help you determine a good offer price and present your offer. Then they’ll negotiate on your behalf and write up the contracts for you.
Remember, your agent has “been there, done that” when it comes to negotiating a deal. They’ll know how to handle missteps, such as if the home inspector’s report or appraisal isn’t what you’d hoped for. An experienced agent can advise you on how to proceed when there’s a setback and act as a buffer between you and the sellers or their agent if negotiations become heated.
Your agent can often refer you to other people you’ll need during the process, such as a mortgage broker, a real estate attorney or a home inspector.
What Is A Real Estate Broker?
You may hear your agent mention reporting updates on your transaction to his or her broker. A real estate broker may have started as a state-licensed agent but has also passed a broker license exam. A real estate broker can own a real estate firm and hire agents.
Real estate agents must work under a real estate broker to be active licensees.
Finding A Buyer's Agent
First-time buyers should look for a real estate agent with expertise in their desired location who works exclusively with buyers and seems willing to patiently explain the home buying process. In other words, someone you trust, can relate to and are comfortable with.
A good way to find this person is through personal referrals, or if you’re new to an area, read online reviews.
You shouldn’t necessarily sign a contract with the first agent you meet. Instead, it's best to interview at least three agents and ask them what neighborhoods they specialize in, whether or not they have availability to work with you on your timeline and what type of experience they have.
You ideally want someone with a proven track record who works well with other agents and brokers in your area.
Finally, you may want to check with your state’s licensing body to confirm whether an agent you’re considering is licensed or if there are any disciplinary actions or complaints against that agent. Often, you can find this information online in minutes.
In the market for a real estate agent to help you buy your dream home? Let us help you find the agent who’s right for you.