Real estate agents help their clients buy, sell, and rent commercial and residential properties. There are also real estate agents that sell industrial and agricultural real estate, but the majority sell residential properties. To become a real estate agent, you must be at least 18 years old, successfully complete real estate courses, and pass a real estate exam. Be sure to check for any required licensing, too. Often real estate agents will earn 5 percent to 6 percent of the total home sale price for their work in representing their client. Typically this commission is split equally between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. Here is an overview of what a real estate agent does, according to the United States Department of Labor:
- Represent clients who are looking to buy, sell and rent properties.
- Stay knowledgeable about regional real estate prices, mortgages, market conditions and related information, and advise clients accordingly.
- Determine competitive market prices by comparing properties.
- Create and publicize lists of properties for sale, including details such as location and features.
- Market properties through advertisements, open houses and listing services.
- Show prospective buyers or renters properties.
- Present purchase offers to sellers for consideration.
- Mediate negotiations between buyer and seller.
- Ensure that all terms of purchase contracts are met.
- Prepare documents, such as loyalty contracts, purchase agreements and deeds.
Real estate agents and real estate brokers both help clients buy, sell, and rent residential and commercial properties. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, real estate brokers are licensed to manage their own real estate businesses. Real estate agents cannot have their own real estate office and must work under a broker. Real estate brokers often have real estate firms and employ real estate agents. Those real estate agents may be employees of the firm, or they may work on contract and earn part of any commission they bring into the firm.
If you are a homeowner ready to sell or a buyer in the market for a new home, either a real estate broker or a real estate agent can help you achieve your goal. What is more important than their title is their track record and client success stories. When interviewing real estate agents or brokers to help you buy or sell a home, ask about their recent sales history as compared with the original listing prices. If you’re selling a home, ask how they would market your home and what price they would list it at. Whether you hire an agent or broker, you want a professional who will have your best interests at heart.
When you’re hiring a real estate agent you want to find a qualified pro who can negotiate the best deal for your home — whether you’re buying or selling. Reading reviews will help you weed out obvious bad operators; you want to work with someone who treats their clients with fairness and respect. That said, you also want someone who can play hardball and maximize your real estate deal. Ask for references from recent clients, and be sure to call them.
Experts encourage you to interview more than one prospective real estate agent before hiring. A home sale or home purchase is a big deal — sometimes the biggest deal in a person’s life — and you want to find an agent who will work hard for you. In today’s market, having a real estate agent who is social media savvy and has an attractive online presence is critical. Ask the agent how they plan to market your house. Review their listings, and ask yourself if they have professional photos with homes that are professionally staged. If the answer is no, they might not have the marketing savvy you’re looking for. Ask what price they would list your house at and why. Pay attention to how they communicate with you during your initial interviewing phase. Are they too busy to respond for several days? Are they clear and helpful? This information is a clue to how they’ll engage during the entire process.
Real estate agents typically don’t charge a set rate to their clients, but rather earn a commission on the price of the final home sale. In traditional real estate, there is a buyer’s agent and a seller’s agent. The two agents receive 5 percent to 6 percent of the final home sale price and split it evenly, meaning they each earn roughly 2.5 percent to 3 percent of the total home sale. If you are a home seller, you may have fees associated with the sale that are above and beyond the commission the agents earn. The real estate agent may have you pay marketing fees, MLS fees, early cancellation fees, or more. Always ask pricing details before signing a contract so you clearly understand your financial obligations. Here are some of the average (and common) costs that can arise when selling a home:
- Home inspection: $200-$350 or more, depending on region.
- Home appraisal: $250-$400 or more, depending on region.
- Professional real estate photography: $275-$550 or more, depending on photographer, square footage of house, and special requests like sunset shots.
- Closing costs: Often split between the seller and buyer. An average range for the buyer to pay is between 3 percent and 4 percent, with the seller paying a lower fee at 1 percent to 3 percent of the home’s price.