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What does a Real Estate Agent do?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A real estate agent is a person who helps people either sell their property or purchase property. The property usually is a house, but it also might be another type of structure or empty land. An agent must know the market value of properties, be able to evaluate positive and negative aspects of properties, know how to advertise and know how to negotiate a sale. He or she also often works with financial institutions to help people get the loans they need to be able to buy properties. The agent typically works on commission and will earn a small percentage of each sale that he or she helps complete.

Helping Buyers

To help someone buy a house, the agent first must find out what type of house the client wants, the price of house the buyer can afford as well as all of the locations that would be acceptable. Then, usually using a networking system that exists for home sales, the agent then identifies for-sale properties that fit the necessary criteria. He or she will take the client to many sites for first-hand looks at the houses, explain the positive and negative features of each, give estimates of fair values for the properties and answer any questions the client might have. If the buyer decides to make an offer on a house, the agent helps choose an offer price and makes the offer to the seller's agent.

Before a purchase can be completed, the agent usually must work with other professionals in the real estate industry to ensure that all of the paperwork has been completed properly and the client has the necessary funding. This might involve working with bank managers or lenders, home assessors and mortgage brokers. The agent then arranges a meeting where the client will sign all of the paperwork and receive the keys to his or her new home.

Helping Sellers

When a client wants to sell a house, the real estate agent helps set a price. The asking price is often based on recent sales of similar homes in the same area. An agent also will advise the clients about how to prepare the house for display to make it as appealing as possible to potential buyers, such as keeping it clean, giving rooms simple decorations, making basic repairs and painting walls. The agent then advertises the home to other agents and the general public.

When someone is interested in the house, the agent arranges to show it to the potential buyer, often working with the buyer's real estate agent. Agents also might hold open houses — periods of time when anyone is invited to walk through the for-sale homes and ask questions or get information from the agents. When an offer is made on a house, the agent will advise the client about whether to accept it and will process the sale if the offer is accepted.

Training and Licensing

A real estate agent usually is formally trained during special classes for the job, but on-the-job training is common as well. In most places, a person must pass an examination that allows him or her to become licensed. Someone who is licensed can legally work as a real estate agent only in the jurisdiction that issued the license. A college degree usually is not required to be an agent, but many jurisdictions require a person to be of at least a certain age to become licensed. A background check is often necessary as well.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon1001003 — On Feb 15, 2019

Is it reasonable to think that a realtor has actually walked through the house before they show it to you?

If you say you want a house with no foundation and roof issues and that the electricity and plumbing be up to city code, and they keep sending you links online for houses that are clearly not up to this standard.

Again what does a realtor do?

The realtor showed us a house and the first question I asked was when the roof was put on, they didn't know, the house was moldy, the electricity was not up to code and there were foundation issues.

So I switched to another realty company, told them what my expectations were and 2 hours later I got an email with links to two other houses that we had already seen that we not up to code. So I wrote her back and said this house on this street is not livable while it is being fixed up, and that there were foundation issues and electrical issues, the other other house outside of city limits literally says on the description that all the trash has not been removed from the property and it does need work.

Do realtors just depend on websites themselves and not know what is going on?

By anon933797 — On Feb 17, 2014

Basically a miniscule amount of data entry, and depositing/cashing a check.

By anon334489 — On May 13, 2013

I contacted a realtor in 2012 in Illinois. I made it very clear I was selling my home, to be sold as is. She set the price range from $179k to $185k. This gave me some wiggle room to work with, knowing my home had some needs. It is a solid brick, two-bedroom, two-bath, has a full basement, a stone fireplace, total of three and a half garages and many unique stone and brick amenities. The home was built by a masonry and has many new things, like an $18,000 well, new water heater, concrete ramp, outside stairway, a unique location and property on the river. When I got the first offer, my Realtor started by telling me what a great offer this is: pre-approved, no contingencies and his offer is $144k, plus I pay his $4k closing. We had further counters back and forth. Now, three months later, my home may not even appraise out at $150k. I said no, and finally she convinced me, or should I say coerced me to agree to the $150k and his closing.

As we were going over agreement points, I saw “Sold as Is not initialed by buyer.” The Realtor tells me to initial it and she'll get me a revised copy. I was out of state at this time, so all this was being done by phone and fax.

After about a week, I was contacted by the lawyer my realtor got for me, telling me this buyer has a list of things (big things – most very obvious as you view my home) he wants done to go forward. I said no to all and another week went by. Then I hear he'll take some of my personal big ticket items. Again I said no. I am done, and besides, with all of the time that has passed, the closing date won't work and I still have no appraisal.

I heard nothing for another week. Then, he said he will take the house as is, and I was told I must go through with sale or be sued. There were so many other unethical things done during this month of torture. All I wanted to do was sell my home, but I am not underwater, behind on my mortgage or in foreclosure. So if this is how I am being abused, intimidated, and manipulated by my own Realtor and lawyer, what are they doing to those who are being forced to sell their homes, and what should I do?

I no longer want to sell my home using either of these people who were suppose to have my back and looking out for my interests, yet tell me I am in trouble. Now I am told I must sell to this buyer. What are my rights?

By anon327012 — On Mar 25, 2013

If we live in a different state from the one in which we bought a new house, once the house is recorded and the closing complete, is it kosher for the agent to mail keys to us?

By anon304870 — On Nov 22, 2012

What is the responsibility of a deals secretary? That was my question.

By anon155990 — On Feb 25, 2011

I agree with anon153900, above. I am starting courses to work in this industry and anon is right, commission is not that much. They need to change the system, every couple of years the way Real estate works is changing making it hard for agents to make any money. And desk fees, photo copies, fax's, an agent pays for it all. Even if you work for a top broker, you technically work for your self, so you have to bear the cost of it all. That being said, you get what you put into it. Work hard and you will see some financial reward. It may take years though.

By anon153900 — On Feb 18, 2011

First off, let's do the math. Yes agents get around 6 percent (but it is negotiable) so $200k sales price nets 12k in commissions paid. Big payday for the Realtor right? Wrong! Now the listing agent must split the $12k with the buyers agent so that knocks it down to $6k, of which the listing agent will again split with the broker or office that they work for, so now they have $3k-$4k left of which they have to pay advertising expenses, taxes, fuel, etc.

Fact is, most agents actually get to keep around 1.5 percent of the commissions! So that's $15k in pretax earnings for every million dollars sold! Not to mention the fees that are sucked from an agent every year in the form of MLS and Realtor dues, license fees, office fees, etc. It takes around $5000 just in annual fees before they even earn a commission dollar.

All in all, we realtors don't make a killing like everyone thinks, just to clear it up with the math.

Now as for the posts with the questions about inspection reports, and who should pay what,etc.

This is what our job is for. We don't spend all day driving around showing people homes, and taking clients to lunch like on bravo. Our job is to make sure that you get the most out of your real estate transaction. Meaning you get more money when you sell, and you are protected from oversights when you buy. The realtor should take care of all of the issues that you are looking at, along with presenting your side to the listing party. Hope this clears things up a little.

By bonuscd — On Feb 11, 2011

One does not need a realtor, nor will I ever use one in the Madison WI area. I had a very bad experience with two so called top rated realtors in the Madison Wi.

both realtors did not know what degrees were. They advertised on their website that they are up to date with a real estate laws -- just words.

So now I have studied up on how to sell your house without using a realtor and save money to the buyer. Let's get real: realtors charge 6 percent to sell your home, so lets do the math: 200k listing at 6 percent = $12,000 dollars. 250k listing at 6 percent = $15,000. 300k listing = $18,000 -- you get the message.

One more thought: Once you sign the inspection report, this lets the realtor off the hook for any legal action in case they screwed up and they do all the time.

By anon136348 — On Dec 22, 2010

We are interested in a certain house, and have had an inspection. We have the report, and now are wondering who's typically responsible for applying dollar amounts to the things that need to be fixed?

We would like money taken off the price of the house in the form of a closing credit.

By anon127123 — On Nov 15, 2010

Thanks everyone for your comments – much appreciated!

By anon34842 — On Jun 29, 2009

We are interested in a certain house, and have had an inspection. We have the report, and now are wondering who's typically responsible for applying dollar amounts to the things that need to be fixed? Is it the agent, the buyer, or the attorney? We would like money taken off the price of the house in the form of a closing credit. But am I or my fiance supposed to be the ones doing this type of legwork?

By anon30796 — On Apr 24, 2009

What happens when a buyer uses a realty brokerage and enters into an agreement of purchase and sale with an illegal builder?

What should the realtor have done to protect the client?

By brscpa — On Sep 09, 2008

Hello uccg1: The top agents I have worked with do not count the number of listings. Instead, they count the number of dollars closed, e.g. the one, two, and three million dollar club for annual closed deals. Listings mean nothing, closing is all that matters.

By uccg1 — On Jul 19, 2008

How many listings does a top sales agent do on an average monthly basis, or annually?

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor...
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