What Real Estate Agents Do

A real estate agent greeting a couple at a house viewing
•••

Noel Hendrickson / Getty Images

Real estate agents are licensed to help sellers sell and buyers buy real estate and are generally licensed to operate, negotiate, and arrange sales under the supervision of a real estate broker. Negotiating and arranging sales can mean showing property, listing a property, filling in contracts, listing agreements and purchase contracts, and other duties.

Real estate laws, agent duties, and licensing are regulated by state laws, so any information in this article can and likely will vary by state. Also, it is usually a requirement for property managers to be licensed in real estate as well. The vast majority of real estate agents are engaged in residential real estate listing and sales. 

Listing Homes for Sale

When homeowners decide they want to sell their homes, the vast majority will call a real estate brokerage to work with an agent to get their homes listed on the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This database is shared among all local brokerage members, who then work to bring in a buyer for the home. In listing a home, the real estate agent will be performing the following duties and activities:

    • Determine the home's value in the current market for a listing price.
    • Advise the homeowner in readying the home for listing and showings.
    • Enter the home into the MLS database.
    • Market the home to other agents and brokerage members of the MLS.
    • Market the home in print, and other traditional media, as well as on the Internet.
    • Supervise and/or schedule home showings.
    • Report to the seller any interest and feedback from buyers who have seen the home.
    • When a buyer makes an offer, help the seller to try to get the price they want and to obtain a signed purchase agreement.
    • Coordinate the process from signing the contract to closing the deal, including scheduling inspections, preparing documents and other items necessary to close.

Working with Buyers

For many years the "live or die by listings" saying applied. However, established dedicated buyer agents can do quite well these days. 

The same brokerage and agent listing a home is seldom the one who will also work with a buyer. The MLS allows any other brokerage or agent to bring a buyer who makes an offer. So, an agent, though being allowed to work with both sides in a transaction, is usually only working with the seller or the buyer. Let's look at some of the duties and activities of an agent working with buyers:

    • Help the buyers to locate and view homes that meet their requirements.
    • Help them with securing a mortgage.
    • Advise them on the area, market conditions, and if they believe that their homes of interest are priced right or not.
    • Work with them to craft the initial offer in a purchase agreement.
    • Work with them through negotiations and counter-offers with the seller(s).
    • After a purchase contract is executed, coordinate the transaction process on the buyer side.
    • Coordinate/schedule appraisals, inspections, and other activities related to the transaction.
    • Deliver and explain all documents, title insurance, deeds, etc.
    • Work with them through the closing and getting their keys.

While real estate agents are often compared to travel agents when discussing the changes brought about by the Internet, they do add value to the transaction process. They may be less valuable in the location of homes because of the Internet, but helping buyers and sellers get value and get through the process is a valuable service.