The Difference Between a Buyer’s Agent and a Seller’s Agent

It is a common misunderstanding that the term “agent” means that the Realtor acts as an agent to either the buyer or seller. In truth, a real estate agent is an agent of the Broker they represent. It was not all that long ago when both Realtors involved in a real estate transaction worked in the same office and were technically obligated to preserve the rights and interests of the seller, since that is who the Broker was contractually obligated to serve.

That is typically not the case today. Buyer’s agents represent, often contractually, the interests of the buyer and the Seller’s Agent, also known as the Listing Agent, represents the seller. Each has certain responsibilities to those they serve.

The buyer’s agent will offer the following to their clients:

  • Insight to help find and choose the home to buy. Real estate agents used to be the gateway to finding homes that were for sale. Their value in this area has been reduced somewhat as about 86% of homebuyers in one study said the internet was the most useful tool in their home search. Still 79% indicated that their Realtor was a very useful source of information.
    Realtors can still add considerable value here as they may have information on homes for sale that are not officially listed and they may also be able to find information about a home that is not readily available on popular home-search websites. Their experience can help identify things about a home or location that does not align with what you need or want.
  • Experience and information to help you determine a fair price and make an offer. Most of us understand that Realtors know how to access information to determine a fair market value of a home, but making an offer on a home doesn’t mean scribbling a price on a sheet of paper and sliding it across the table to the seller. It means providing a fully-executed contract to purchase the home. Your Realtor will help you navigate the various terms and clauses that are included in that contract and ensure that it protects you as well as the seller.
  • Guidance throughout the home-buying process. Once the price and terms are agreed upon and contract is signed, the fairly complicated process is involved in closing the transaction. A typical home sale that involves mortgage financing involves dozens of third-party service providers such as home inspectors, appraisers, title examiners, attorneys, and so forth. Realtors are involved in that process every day and know not only what it takes to get through it, but also what to do when it slides off the rails a little. Of all the services that a Realtor provides, this may be the most valuable; it is certainly most anxiety-reducing.

The seller’s agent will represent the interests of the seller and:

  • Recommend repairs, improvements or other tasks that can make the home more marketable. Quite often, there are several things that can be done before the home is listed to make it more appealing to buyers, to make it show better, or to increase the value with very little cost. A good Realtor understands the demands of the market and can help you make your home meet those demands, which may help it sell faster and for a higher price.
  • Provide guidance on the market value of the home and advice on pricing. The best sales price depends on a number of factors, including the seller’s priorities. Do they want the absolute highest price for the home or a fast sale? There are often opposing forces at work so determining a price is not as simple as just determining the comparable value.
  • Promote your home. Marketing your home goes beyond putting a sign in the yard, putting it in the MLS so it can be found online, and maybe putting an ad in the local paper or real estate magazine. Today’s Realtors are integrating professional networking and a variety of traditional and digital media strategies to attract specific buyers are searching for a home with characteristics similar to your home.

As with the buyer’s agent, the seller’s agent also helps negotiate the terms of the contract and guide the seller through the transaction.