A real estate agent is a licensed professional who helps buyers and sellers in
property transactions. They usually work on commission, receiving a cut of the sales
price. Some agents choose to work on their own, while others associate with a
brokerage firm or other real estate entity. Real estate agents and brokers spend
much of their time away from the office, scouting properties or meeting with
prospective clients. They may also attend networking events to promote their
business and build a client network.
For homebuyers, real estate agents find listings in the multiple listing service (MLS)
and other property databases. They can also set up showings, take photos and
prepare listings and marketing collateral for a home. Real estate agents can also
help homebuyers get preapproved for mortgages and assist with the loan process, if
Real estate professionals also assist homebuyers with locating commercial
properties, such as retail spaces or warehouses. These are known as commercial real
estate, and they typically require a different set of skills than residential properties.
Buyers need help understanding the real estate process and navigating paperwork,
including contracts, disclosures and other legal documents. Real estate agents can
explain terms like escrow, contingency and tenancy and answer questions about
financing options and loan programs.
Sellers also need guidance throughout the selling process, from setting an asking
price to preparing a home for showings and finding suitable buyers. If the home does
not sell right away, agents can offer advice about lowering the asking price or
staging the home for a faster sale.
As part of the marketing process, real estate agents can create virtual tours and
post homes on a variety of websites for potential buyers to view. They can also use
social media and their own networks to connect with prospects.
Throughout the buying and selling process, real estate agents act as go-betweens
for their principal parties, communicating offers and counteroffers, and advising on
inspections, moving and other transaction details. Depending on state laws, agents
can also represent both the buyer and the seller in a transaction, which is called
dual agency. Consumers should always ask agents whether they are representing
them or the other party in a transaction.
Choosing the best real estate agent can make the process of buying or selling your
home easier and less stressful. As you interview agents, ask about their experience
and track record and request references from previous clients. It is a red flag if an
agent declines to provide you with contact information for past clients. This could
indicate that they are not as professional as they claim or that they do not know the
local market well.