What's the Difference Between a Buyer's Agent and Listing Agent?
What is the difference between a buyer’s and seller's agent?
The buyer’s and seller’s agents have similar goals: to get their clients the best deal and to close the home sale. But their responsibilities through the process are different. When it comes to selling your house, it might seem like there are a lot of professionals involved. Each side of the transaction will have representation at every stage and it could be difficult to keep the parties, and who they work for, straight. Two professionals whose functions are important to distinguish are the buyer’s real estate agent and the seller’s.
The most basic difference between the buyer’s and seller’s agents is that they represent opposite interests. The buyer’s agent is responsible for making sure the buyer gets the best deal possible and the seller’s agent does the same for the seller. Sometimes the seller’s agent (also known as the listing agent) can also represent the buyer, but this is rare (and illegal in some states).
If you have asked the seller’s agent to represent you as the buyer, make sure you get a detailed contract stating exactly what their responsibilities are to each party. Usually, the seller’s agent has a fiduciary responsibility to the seller and if that’s the case, they can’t also represent your financial interests as they might be at odds.
All this being said, the skills required to be a buyer’s or seller’s agent are similar so agents often represent both parties, just in different transactions. Some will find they really enjoy working on one side of the transaction and will thus specialize. But don’t be alarmed if your seller’s agent has represented buyers before and vice versa.
Typical Seller’s Agent Responsibilities:
- Give sellers an initial home consultation where they do a full walk-through and provide suggestions on how to clean, declutter, stage, and update to make the home more valuable.
- Provide seller with referrals for contractors to perform suggested updates.
- Help sellers stage the property if they decide not to hire a professional stager.
- Hire a professional photographer to take photos of the property for marketing purposes.
- Place professional signage at the property.
- Help seller price home correctly to ensure it sells for the highest value in the quickest amount of time.
- Develop marketing materials and a professional website with a virtual tour using professional photographs and often a video tour.
- Host open houses and private tours of the home.
- Ensure buyers are pre-approved for a loan.
- Attend the home inspection and appraisal tours.
- Negotiate inspection issues with the buyer’s agent.
- Assist in solving any title issues.
- Assist in coordinating communication between the title officer, seller, and buyer so that there are no surprises at the closing table.
- Finalize loose ends before closing.
- Assist with the closing process by making sure the seller has the correct documents and understands what they say.
- Ensure the correct signatures are in the right places.
- Earn between a 2.5% and 3.5% commission, depending on their agreement with the buyer’s agent (the seller usually pays a commission of 5% to 7%, which is then shared with the buyer’s agent).
Typical Buyer’s Agent Responsibilities:
- Help buyers locate good sources for mortgage loans and assist them in getting pre-approved.
- Map active, under contract, and recently sold properties that meet buyers’ criteria to give them an understanding of the market. The idea is to show buyers in which neighborhoods these properties are located and how fast they sell so that they’re not caught off-guard when they make an offer.
- Make appointments to tour homes and drive buyers to these appointments.
- Advise buyers on the resale potential of the home.
- Help buyers analyze the price and value of a home before making an offer.
- Explain the standard offer form and provide advice on whether they should ask for further contingencies.
- Recommend trusted home inspectors and suggest additional inspections if they feel these are necessary.
As you can see, the buyer’s and seller’s agents have different roles but similar goals. They both want the best deal for their client, they want the sale to close, and they both want their clients to feel good about their experience so they will refer others to them. Educating yourself on their different roles can help you interview prospective agents and then decide who will give you the best service.