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What Does A Real Estate Agent Do?

Kevin Payne4-Minute Read
October 27, 2021

Real estate agents play an essential role in home buying and selling. According to a 2020 National Association of REALTORS® report, 88% of buyers went through a real estate agent or broker to purchase their house. But what exactly is their role in the buying and selling of a home or property? It’s important to understand their role in those processes, as well as their legal obligations. Here’s a quick guide to what real estate agents do.

What Is A Real Estate Agent?

Real estate agents are licensed professionals who organize real estate transactions between buyers and sellers. Agents who represent sellers are also called listing agents. Buyer’s agents are exactly what they sound like – they’re real estate agents who represent buyers.

You may also hear real estate agents referred to as REALTORS®. Real estate agents and REALTORS® perform the same essential functions, but REALTORS® are agents or brokers who are also members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).

Real estate agents can be both listing agents and buyer’s agents, but typically not for the same real estate transaction. Real estate agents walk their clients through the entire home buying or selling process, providing valuable knowledge and information at each step.

Real estate agents are typically compensated by commission, which is a percentage of a property’s purchase price, otherwise known as REALTOR® fees.

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What Real Estate Agents Do

Real estate agents and brokerage companies act in the best interest of their clients, whether they are a listing agent or a buyer’s agent. Both act as a liaison between the parties, including during offers and counteroffers. They’re available to answer any questions that may arise during the process. Real estate agents on both sides also:

  • Walk their client through any necessary paperwork
  • Communicate with their client and other parties involved
  • Provide information on the home inspection process
  • Continue to support their client through the closing process

While both types of agents are involved, both provide different services to clients. One thing to keep in mind is that all real estate agents should be:

  • Familiar with the local housing market, including pricing
  • Knowledgeable on local and state real estate laws
  • Understanding of their clients’ needs

Here’s a look at what real estate agents do on both sides of a real estate transaction.

What Does A Real Estate Agent Do For A Seller?

Homeowners looking to sell their homes turn to listing agents. Listing agents provide clients with an unbiased valuation of their home and help set a listing price. Real estate agents are in tune with the market, so they also make suggestions for home updates that will lead to a successful home sale.

Listing agents also handle marketing a home listing. This includes entering the home into the local multiple listing service (MLS) database. Marketing is also done through networking with other real estate agents, and by creating advertisements and setting up open houses, among other methods.

It’s vital for listing agents to vet buyers, too. Not everyone is a serious buyer. Listing agents often check on a potential buyer’s finances before arranging a showing or accepting an offer. Listing agents know the right questions to ask to find out if a prospective home buyer can afford to buy the home or not.

Listing agents also negotiate various aspects of a home sale on behalf of their client. They may negotiate the price of the home or smaller expenses like closing costs, home warranties and any fees. There are legal actions that occur during the process of selling a home that fall on a real estate agent as well. Their job includes preparing, submitting and filing any documents, like contracts and agreements.

What Does A Real Estate Agent Do For A Buyer?

Buyer’s agents search for local properties that match their client’s requirements and price range. This involves searching online but also scouting houses in person. They also set up showings and inform clients on the local area and housing market.

It’s also important for real estate agents to make sure clients are preapproved for a mortgage. Being preapproved shows your agent, the homeowners and their agents that you’re serious about buying a house.

Once you’ve found a house you’re interested in, real estate agents help submit bids and negotiate on your behalf throughout the buying process.

Real estate agents also help set up home appraisals and inspections. Often, they have existing relationships with reputable people in the industry who provide those services.

There’s a lot of paperwork that occurs during the home buying process. It’s a real estate agent's job to guide you through all of the contracts, agreements and other documents necessary when buying a home. They also are the ones who submit paperwork on your behalf.

From first contact to closing, your real estate agent is your connection to all parties involved when buying a house.

What Role Do Agents Play At Closing?

Real estate agents also play a role during the closing period. Throughout the process, agents communicate between their client and the other party. Communication continues the entire time their clients are closing on a house. They may suggest a final walkthrough of the home close to the closing date. This allows you to check for any damage that has occurred since the initial contract.

Real estate agents also look over every document, ensuring accuracy and that all terms and conditions have been met before the home deed is transferred. Mistakes happen, and it’s an agent’s job to find and correct them before everything is finalized.

Agents also represent you at any meetings or contract signings. Several different parties can be involved in the closing process, depending on which state you’re in, including real estate attorneys, a title or escrow agent, a mortgage lender, sellers and buyers, and real estate agents. Agents represent their clients’ best interest not only until the sale is final, but also work to maintain a relationship.

What Happens If You Don’t Have An Agent?

If you’re buying or selling a house yourself, all of the real estate agent duties mentioned earlier become your responsibility. If you’re selling your home without a REALTOR®, you’re in charge of listing your home, marketing it, setting up showings and open houses, providing necessary paperwork, negotiating price and working with the other party’s real estate agent.

If you’re buying a house without a REALTOR®, you have your hands full, too. You’ll submit bids, negotiate pricing, line up inspections and handle all of the legal tasks associated with buying a home. It’s a lot to oversee, especially if you don’t have experience or knowledge of real estate transactions. It’s not impossible to represent yourself, whether you’re a buyer or seller, but it’s a considerable time and energy commitment.

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Still not sure what a real estate agent does? Take a look at these frequently asked questions.

How do you become a real estate agent?

Before your real estate agent can help you buy or sell a house, they’ll need to acquire their real estate license. License requirements vary by state, so prospective agents will need to research the state where they want to work and make sure they meet all the necessary requirements.

Securing your license means passing a test, which includes sections on the real estate industry generally and state-specific guidelines. From there, many recently licensed agents will work for an individual broker or brokerage company as they gain experience.

What does an average day as a real estate agent look like?

Though it can depend on the specific type of real estate work they do, real estate agents often juggle several tasks on any given day. On top of their normal duties, such as researching the market, networking with other real estate professionals and attending closings, agents also need to maintain and grow their client base. Typically, this requires communication in the form of emails, calls, texts, social media posts and more.

Depending on where they work and how much work they have, real estate agents may outsource some of their tasks, like filing paperwork, to an administrative assistant.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re a buyer or seller, a good real estate agent has the insight to help you navigate the world of real estate transactions – from the start of the sale to the closing table. Even more, your agent can help you assemble your legal documents, search for homes or prospective buyers and communicate with other parties involved in the sale.

If you’re unsure where to start your home search, your best bet may be to find a quality real estate agent who can help you buy a home or search for homes in your area.

Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne is a personal finance and travel writer who writes about family finances, banking, credit cards, and loans. Kevin lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife and four kids.