What type of real estate agent do I need?

Before you start looking for an agent, think about the type you need. Some represent the seller. Some represent the buyer. And some do both. Here’s a brief explanation of each.

Buyer’s agent

As you might guess, a buyer’s agent represents the buyer in a real estate transaction. This includes finding listings in the buyer’s price range, scheduling showings, taking the lead when it’s time to make an offer and guiding negotiations with the seller to get the best deal for the buyer. When a contract’s accepted, the agent leads the buyer through the closing process. 

Selling agent

Now, here’s where it might get a little confusing. When a seller accepts the buyer’s contract, the agent representing the buyer becomes known as the selling agent since that person is responsible for “selling” the home to the buyer. The terms “selling agent” and “buyer’s agent” are often used interchangeably. But the important thing to remember is the agent continues to represent the buyer’s interests.

Seller’s agent

On the flip side, the seller’s agent — also known as the listing agent — represents the seller’s interest. A seller’s agent makes recommendations about the sale price of a home, lists the property being sold on the multiple listing service, or MLS, and markets the property. The seller’s agent also schedules open houses and negotiates on the seller’s behalf.

If you use the same agent to sell your existing home and help you buy a new one, your agent acts as the seller’s agent on the sale of your current home and the buyer’s agent on the purchase of your new home.

Your real estate agent’s obligation to you

When you choose an agent, you’ll typically be asked to sign a buyer’s agreement (if you’re buying) or a listing agreement (if you’re selling). When you sign with an agent, they’re generally obligated to act in your best interest.

But what happens if your buyer’s agent is also the listing agent on a property you want to buy or vice versa? That’s known as dual agency, and it’s legal in many states. However, it can make representing both the buyer’s and seller’s best interests more difficult.

If your agent does have dual agency, your agent is required to tell you. It’s up to you to understand all the potential conflicts of interest, and to decide whether you want to work with someone who’s not representing only you in the transaction. It’s a tricky situation, so you should proceed with caution. Be sure to have a full and frank conversation with the agent before you sign on.