A real estate agent can be extremely helpful during the home buying or selling process. But who should you contact? Is one type of agent better than the next? 

Here’s a basic guide to explain the differences between a buyer’s agent and listing agent. We also include a fun fact about selling agents that most people may not have known.

Buyer’s agent definition

A buyer’s agent helps their client find properties, most often using the multiple listing service (MLS).  They contact the listing agent to set up showings, help their client create an offer, and present the offer to the listing agent. The transaction ends with guiding their client through closing once an offer is accepted.

You may think the buyer’s agent works with the selling agent when you’ve found a property you’re interested in. However, that’s wrong. A selling agent is the buyer’s agent. That’s right, the terms “buyer’s agent” and “selling agent” are often used interchangeably. That’s because once there is a contract on a home, the buyer’s agent technically becomes a selling agent because they brought in a buyer to purchase the home. So that means there is no difference between a seller’s agent and a buyer’s agent — they are two of the same.

Listing agent responsibilities

A real estate listing agent represents a home seller. They are the person who can guide you through marketing your property to negotiations and beyond. Or, if you’re the buyer, they will be the person reviewing your offer. Listing agents are commonly mistaken for selling agents, but as you’ve read above, they are not the same person unless they happen to be representing the buyer and seller.

When the listing agent is the selling agent 

Ready for a little more confusion and another agent title? An agent can also be considered a “transaction broker.” When a real estate agent ends up working for both the buyer and the seller, the single agent must transition to becoming a transaction broker, meaning they don’t technically represent either person, but instead they represent the transaction.

Do you have to use a real estate agent?

In our ever-changing digital world, you may hear of options to sell your home to a company like Zillow or Redfin. It’s an option that allows for a home sale to happen on your exact timeline; however, it may result in a loss of proceeds because the offer is lower (since there is no commission) and there are fees involved. People often choose this route when they need a quick home sale or are moving out of state.

You may also want to consider doing everything on your own. FSBO (pronounced Fizbo) means for sale by owner. This route often takes a lot of time because you are responsible for all stages of home listing — from marketing to showings, and of course negotiations and closing. Make sure to educate yourself on state laws before choosing the FSBO option.

Hiring a listing or buyer’s agent to represent you will cost you money in commission, but is very well worth it. When working with an experienced agent, you benefit from extensive market exposure, professional negotiations, and a clear understanding of documents and legalese when the time comes to close.

Can I use one agent to buy and sell a home at the same time?

The short answer is yes, you can use one agent when buying and selling a home at the same time. Some real estate agents are full-service agents, meaning they can represent you as a listing agent for your home sale, and they can be a selling (or buyer’s) agent during your new home search. Depending on who you hire, you may be able to cut a deal and negotiate a lower commission.

The bottom line

When interviewing real estate agents, make sure you take your time and ask the right questions. It’s essential to hire a real estate professional who will look out for your best interests. Choosing the right agent gives you the advantage of selling your home for top dollar or getting you into your dream home.