What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?
Table of Contents
- What Is a Real Estate Agent?
- A Real Estate Agent's Duties
- Why Buyers and Sellers Need Real Estate Agents
What Is a Real Estate Agent?
A real estate agent is a professional who works to help buyers and sellers negotiate real estate transactions. To become a real estate agent, people must complete training and apply for a license from their state of residence. As a general rule, agents represent the interests of either the buyer or the seller in a specific transaction. Since real estate is a major investment for people, real estate agents help to ensure that the party they represent gets a reasonable contract that meets their needs. They also help buyers and sellers negotiate all aspects of the contract, from initial showings to closing.
The Difference Between Real Estate Agents and REALTORS®
People may use the terms real estate agent and REALTOR® interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. A real estate agent is anyone who has gone through the training and holds an active license for real estate in their area. By comparison, a Realtor is a real estate professional who has an active license but is also a member of their local chapter of the National Association of Realtors. Joining the NAR requires applicants to pay a fee, prove that they have no negative reports on their records, and agree to follow a code of ethics.
A Real Estate Agent's Duties
Real estate agents have a variety of duties. The schedule can be quite variable, although agents may have some control over how they organize it. Agents might spend one or two days in the office generating leads or working on administrative tasks. They may occupy other days with assisting their clients with showings or attending meetings. Some agents prefer to spend some time in the office every day and the rest of their time out, while others may designate specific days out of the office for certain tasks.
Every real estate agent has several administrative duties that they have to complete as part of their business. Each one has its own interval, with some required daily and others less frequently. Some tasks related to the maintenance of their careers and may include:
- Continuing education
- Renewing a license
- Marketing their services
- Maintaining a budget
- Keeping in contact with existing clients for lead generation
- Evaluating new opportunities
Agents have to work on these tasks regularly, despite being busy with the needs of their current and prospective clients. Otherwise, they run the risk of letting their licenses lapse or failing to market themselves effectively. In addition, agents may need to perform administrative tasks related to contracts they are currently working on. This is a time to set a calendar, send emails, or follow up on leads.
For real estate agents to assist buyers and sellers with a real estate transaction, they need to find these clients in the first place. Lead generation is one of the most important parts of being a real estate agent because it is the first step to identifying and securing future clients. Agents have a variety of methods that they can use to produce leads, including:
- Ask friends, family members, and colleagues for references
- Use search engine optimization to increase the likelihood that their website will come up in a search for local agents
- Advertise in the area through mailers, online ads, or other approaches
- Join a lead generation service
- Participate in agent-to-agent referrals
- Engage with their target demographic on social media
In some cases, agents may even find leads by looking at current listings in the area that aren't selling.
Arranging Meetings and Showings
Real estate agents may attend several meetings and showings for each transaction. For example, the average home buyer looks at about 10 homes before they make a final decision. A buyer's agent may go with the buyer to each of those showings, which may last up to an hour or more apiece. As a buyer's agent, an agent must arrange these showings with the seller's agent and confirm that the timing works for everyone.
Agents may also need to participate in a variety of other meetings. These include:
- Initial meetings to secure a client agreement
- Meetings to prepare a seller's house before listing
- Meetings to negotiate aspects of the purchase contract
- Meetings to discuss any obstacles related to the contract
- Final walk-through
- Closing meetings
As a general rule, an agent schedules meetings on their client's behalf. As such, they must be able to coordinate with everyone's schedules and confirm that everybody arrives.
While real estate agents are expected to handle marketing their own services, they must also handle the marketing for every property they are working to sell. These days, buyers expect high-quality listings to grab their attention. If an agent does not invest enough time into creating a beautiful portfolio of pictures or an enticing description for the listing, buyers may show little interest at all.
By comparison, agents who invest more time and money into this step are often rewarded with more interest in the home. That can lead to a quicker sale for a higher price. As such, agents commonly spend time learning about the best methods to market the property and check the success of each strategy. They may need to identify and arrange for services from professional photographers, copywriters, or video producers. Some agents learn how to perform these services personally.
Real estate agents spend a decent amount of time looking for properties for sale in the area. As a general rule, they use the multiple listing service or MLS. This service is available only to licensed agents and brokers and contains information about all available properties in the area that are sold by professionals who participate in the service. It's usually a fairly comprehensive listing, which agents can use to help buyers identify what's available for them.
This research can be an important step for agents, even if they do not have a buyer currently looking for homes. Spending time looking at current listings gives agents more information about the state of the local real estate market. For example, they may gather information about an increase in preferences for certain types of home improvements, which would help them advise sellers on upgrades they could make. They can also use this information to determine a fair price for a property in a certain area.
Real estate agents are responsible for helping their clients to prepare and negotiate a purchase contract. Typically, a buyer's agent will prepare an offer based on the buyer's preferences and needs. They send the offer to the seller's agent and wait for a response. The seller's agent identifies the details of the offer to the seller and asks for feedback. Throughout, each agent's goal is to ensure that their client's interests are protected, with a fair sale price or incentives.
Once the initial offer has been accepted, negotiation on the contract will continue. As a general rule, buyers may set specific contingencies on the purchase, such as a home inspection, appraisal, or their ability to get financing. For example, if the home inspection or appraisal has unexpected results, an agent may need to negotiate with the other agent to come to a satisfactory conclusion.
Closing on Homes
The final steps of the real estate transaction include closing on the home. The role that the real estate agent plays depends on whether they represent the buyer or the seller. As a general rule, buyer's agents may have more responsibilities to ensure everything is complete for closing. These tasks include:
- Arranging for a title inspection, insurance, and report
- Discussing any information brought up during the title search
- Ensuring that the buyer meets all conditions required for financing
- Confirming that buyer has the information they need to perform a wire transfer
- Staying on top of any concerns related to the closing disclosure
- Participating in a final walk-through of the property
- Scheduling a meeting to sign the final closing documents
- Arrange for a transfer of the keys
There may be other real estate professionals involved in various aspects of this process, but the buyer's agent often needs to keep tabs on the status of each activity for their client's reference. By comparison, a seller's agent may have fewer responsibilities related to closing. Specifically, they should be prepared to answer any questions or concerns the buyer's agent raises, ensure that the seller signs all necessary paperwork, and attend the final closing.
Ultimately, an agent's first responsibility is to represent their clients as much as possible, using the skills and knowledge they have accumulated in their profession. Sometimes, real estate agents have to make decisions that are particularly complicated or require delicate negotiation. It may not necessarily be a choice they would make, but they are doing it on behalf of their clients.
Agents looking for long-term satisfaction and a reliable client base should recognize that they represent the client's interest in any transaction. They may not always secure everything that a client wants from a transaction simply because the process involves multiple parties with conflicting expectations. However, if agents can find a way to negotiate so that both buyers and sellers are happy with the result, they have fulfilled their roles successfully.
Why Buyers and Sellers Need Real Estate Agents
In a world where buyers can search listings in their area without leaving home and make an offer to the seller, real estate agents still have an important role to play. In some cases, an agent's responsibility starts by persuading buyers and sellers that they need the services of an agent in the first place. Like other skilled professionals, real estate agents simplify a difficult transaction that might be even harder for buyers and sellers to handle on their own. The agent is always there to answer questions, give advice, and ensure that their client's interests are protected throughout the transaction.
The simple truth is that real estate transactions are complicated. Without the right knowledge and training, buyers and sellers may end up in a situation far beyond their ability to manage. A mere miscalculation that leads a buyer to make an offer that is higher than they will be able to secure in a loan can lead to an unsuccessful sale. If a seller has little information about what buyers in the area are expecting, they may not meet those needs. Without data on average sale times, which is information they can easily get from a real estate agent, sellers may not even realize something is wrong.
Real estate agents ensure that the sale is more likely to be successful from the beginning. They can prevent common mistakes, like a listing price that is too high. They can ensure that a buyer understands the importance of meeting all the purchase contract terms by the stated deadlines. Agents have experience in preparing and reviewing complicated paperwork to tell quickly if something is uncommon or possibly in error. This expertise can save their clients thousands of dollars or a lot of stress throughout the process.
A real estate agent certainly fills a lot of roles throughout the real estate transaction. They act as a guide to buyers to show them what is available and help them make a wise decision on an investment. They act as an advisor to sellers to show them what they might get as a result of the sale and how best they can achieve it. They perform administrative tasks of all kinds, like managing their own budgets or helping a client negotiate a purchase contract. In sum, agents provide a great deal of assistance throughout a rewarding career.