If you’re buying or selling a house, you may be tempted to go it alone. You might be thinking to yourself, I know what kind of house I want. I’ve been looking at places on Zillow for, like, three months! Why the heck do I need a middleman when I can just call the seller and place a bid?
Or maybe you’re trying to sell a home, and your thoughts go like this: Why should I pay someone to sell my house and give them a percentage? I can just do it myself. The market is hot. I’ll just put a sign in the yard and maybe post it on Craigslist.
In both cases, what “Bobby Buyer” and “Sally Seller” are really asking themselves is this: What does a real estate agent actually do?
Good question, young grasshopper. The short answer is that a great real estate agent will walk you through the process of buying or selling a house. They’ll help you find the home of your dreams or get you the most money for your home. It’s that simple. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
What is a real estate agent?
In a nutshell, a real estate agent is a person who is licensed by the state to sell real estate. They usually take a class and are required to pass a test. They’re also generally required to keep their license active, but that varies from state to state.
Find a trusted real estate agent we recommend in your area.
Now, there are also some additional certifications and specializations a real estate agent might have. Depending on their area of expertise, a realtor could have these credentials:
Realtor®: An agent with this title is a member of the National Association of Realtors.
CRS (Certified Residential Specialist): These guys are rock stars. Only top-performing agents get to call themselves this.
ABR® (Accredited Buyer Representative): These agents have completed specific training to represent buyers in a real estate transaction.
SRS (Seller Representative Specialist): These agents have completed specific training to (you guessed it, baby) represent sellers in a real estate transaction.
SRES® (Seniors Real Estate Specialist): These are agents who have completed training to help buyers and/or sellers who are over the age of 50 years old.
Those are a lot of abbreviations to keep up with. You don’t want to choose a real estate agent based solely on their credentials, but do yourself a solid favor and make sure they have the bare minimum qualifications.
Which raises the question: Do you really want bare minimum when it comes to the biggest purchase you’ll ever make?
What does a real estate agent do?
Now, a great real estate agent—like one of our Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs)—has more than just the minimum qualifications. They have encyclopedic knowledge of the area they serve. They know the neighborhoods, they know the schools, they know the parks, and they know the public transportation routes. Heck, they even know who has the best pizza in town.
A great real estate agent has encyclopedic knowledge of the area they serve. They know the neighborhoods, they know the schools, they know the parks, and they know the public transportation routes. Heck, they even know who has the best pizza in town.
Your real estate agent will also be able to walk you through the immense amount of paperwork that comes with buying or selling a house. They’ll take you through all the hoops you need to jump through—like getting your house appraised and negotiating not just the sale price, but also the cost of any repairs that turn up during your home inspection.
It’s a good idea to stop here and break down the differences between a buyer’s agent and a seller’s agent. Because, while a great real estate agent should be good at both things, they are different.
Your real estate agent will also be able to walk you through the immense amount of paperwork that comes with buying or selling a house. They’ll take you through all the hoops you need to jump through—like getting your house appraised and negotiating.
What does a buyer’s agent do?
Okay, so, you know you’re ready to buy a house. You don’t have any debt, you’ve saved up an emergency fund of 3–6 months expenses, and you’ve gotten preapproved for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage. If you’ve haven’t done this yet, you should talk to our friends at Churchill Mortgage.
Now that you’ve been preapproved, let’s get into what a good buyer’s agent does. A buyer’s agent represents the person buying a piece of real estate. Pretty easy, right? So what exactly does that mean for buyers?
They help you find the right house. Because they’re experts in the particular area you’re looking to buy, they know what’s for sale in your price range. They’ll schedule viewings on your schedule, allowing you to take your time in each house so you can really picture living there.
They help you make the right offer and negotiate a good price. This part is important. A good real estate agent who handles dozens of transactions each year is an expert negotiator. They also know how 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.
They help with the paperwork. Buying a house generates an absolutely tremendous amount of paperwork. Your real estate agent can help you keep this organized, and make sure all of your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed—in order and on time.
They can recommend a good home inspector. When it’s time for your home inspection, you’ll want someone in your corner who will make sure you know exactly what problems need immediate repairs. They’ll also give you an idea of any future issues that may arise. Your real estate agent should know a good home inspector.
They can soothe your nerves when things get tough. Stuff happens. Things come up, whether it’s a problem with the appraisal or a hitch in your financing. A great real estate agent has seen it all before, and they know how to keep things moving smoothly to give you peace of mind.
When you’re looking for a house, having a good buyer’s agent on your team is an absolute must. If you think you’re ready to buy a house, check out our Home Buyer’s Guide to see what your next steps should be.
A good real estate agent who handles dozens of transactions each year is an expert negotiator. They also know how similar houses are selling for in your area.
What does a seller’s agent do?
When it comes time to sell your house, you definitely want to work with a good real estate agent. In fact, you would almost be crazy not to.
A lot of people might be tempted to go the For Sale by Owner (FSBO) route. Stick a sign in your yard, maybe post something on Facebook, put an ad on Craigslist, and watch the offers come in. That’s how you save that commission payout, right?
Wrong. The National Association of Realtors has data that shows the average home sold by an agent brings in almost $60,000 more than the average FSBO home sale.(1) That’s a lot of money!
A great seller’s agent who sells a lot of houses will bring experience, knowledge and wisdom to the transaction. They’ll help you:
Determine a good price. Your real estate agent has access to the most accurate and up-to-date pricing data in your neighborhood, and they can run a comparative market analysis. This report will compare your house to similar ones in the area that are currently on the market or have been recently sold. This helps agents set a price that will maximize both the chance of a sale and the amount you’ll make after the sale.
Help with curb appeal and staging. That first impression is everything. Your agent is an expert at curb appeal. They can also help you stage the inside your house so potential buyers will be able to imagine themselves living there.
Pursue all marketing opportunities. You want a real estate agent who knows how to sell houses—which means making sure the people who might want to buy it will see it. That includes advertising your home online where people are looking on sites like Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. They’ll take professional photos and videos—maybe even use a drone to take a high-definition shot of the property. They’ll get your house in front of eyeballs and (more importantly) in front of people who are actively looking to buy.
Negotiate offers without emotion. Folks, this one is huge. If you’ve lived in a house for a long time, you’ve also made lots of memories there. Maybe you grew up there. Maybe it’s the only home your children have ever known. This stuff is emotional, and it can blind you to the real value of your house. Your agent can take the emotion out of it and negotiate on your behalf.
Be a calming presence throughout. Like we said above, stuff happens. Having seen it all, your agent will be able to take you through the ups and downs and reassure you when things get crazy.
Okay, so we’ve established that having a good real estate agent on your side is important, whether you’re buying or selling. And it should be obvious by now, but when it comes to finding a good real estate agent, you don’t necessarily want to go with your second cousin who has a real estate license or a friend from your church small group.
The National Association of Realtors has data that shows the average home sold by an agent brings in almost $60,000 more than the average FSBO home sale.(1)
You want a top-notch agent at the top of their game and in the top of their market.
Find a great real estate agent in your area
Fortunately, we can help! If you’re looking to buy or sell a house, you need to get in touch with one of our real estate ELPs. These rock stars are rooted in your community, and they know exactly what it takes to buy and sell homes in your area.
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.