What Do Real Estate Agents Do?

Real estate agents are the people behind the scenes making your dream of home ownership come true. Their job might seem simple but it isn’t.

In short, real estate agents help people buy and sell homes. A listing agent is often referred to as the “seller’s agent.” A “buyer’s agent” represents the person buying the home.

A licensed professional sworn to represent the seller
A licensed professional sworn to represent the buyer

Sometimes people use the term, REALTOR, to refer to a real estate agent. The term REALTOR is licensed by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The NAR is, in part, a lobbying organization that monitors legislation that could hurt or help the housing industry. It’s easy to see how people can confuse the two terms. Realtors must be in good standing with the NAR to use the title. The organization represents more than 1.5 million members nationwide. It educates agents and its members are required to abide by a code of ethics.

The licensing process is rigorous. Different stages of licensing require different levels of education and ongoing training.

A broker is an agent with advanced education and experience. Brokers are legally qualified to oversee agents. Brokers oversee the real estate transactions coordinated by the agents in the brokerage. Following are some of the brokers’ tasks:

  • ensure agents comply with legal and ethical standards of real estate selling and purchasing
  • make sure all paperwork is correct and complete
  • oversee the reporting and recording of funds relevant to the sale or purchase
  • coordinate company branding and marketing

Many brokers also act as real estate agents. In a real estate office, the buck stops with the broker.

There are many different types of brokers. We’ll cover that in another blog.

An agent member of the National Association of Realtors in good standing
An agent with advanced education and experience also qualified to oversee agents

‘Do I have to have a real estate agent?’

Do you have to have a real estate agent to buy or sell a home in Utah? No, but it really helps, for first-time buyers and seasoned purchasers, alike. The Wasatch Front real estate market is difficult to maneuver. It is a hot market that’s leveling off. That doesn’t mean people have stopped buying homes. There is significant competition for all kinds of properties. Unless you know how to negotiate the process completely, you need a real estate agent. If you buy or sell a home without one, it could end up being very costly.

An attorney can also assist with a real estate transaction but their role in the process is much less hands-on.

Who is footing the bill?

In Utah, it is most common for a seller to pay for the services of professional agents. When a document such as an Exclusive Right to Sell is signed, the listing agent and seller will agree on the amount of compensation to be paid to the agent. The commission runs right about 6 percent of the sale price. When the home sale transaction closes, the commission comes right off the top. The listing agent and buyer’s agent divide the commission.

What can an agent do that I can’t do?

You’re probably very smart. You likely could do what a real estate agent does. Unless you are a licensed real estate agent, you likely won’t know how. You can figure it out, there’s no doubt, but mistakes are costly and it’s risky.

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Listing Agent

It is the listing or seller’s agent’s responsibility to represent the best interests of the seller. Following are just a few of the tasks listing agents handle:

  • perform a professional assessment of the value of the property based on adjusted comparative data, current market conditions, and the history and condition of the home
  • advise you about ways to make your home more saleable
  • advise you about the potential return on any investments to make your home saleable
  • complete all relevant documents and file or present them according to Utah real estate law 
  • negotiate with the buyer’s agent to get the best possible price for a client’s home
  • prepare and deliver all required documents to the buyer correctly and on time
  • arrange for inspections and other relevant professional services required throughout the due diligence process
  • host open houses
  • market the property
  • speak directly with potential buyers or their agents if professionally represented
  • work directly with the title company
  • accompany the seller at settlement if requested
  • facilitate money transactions including earnest money, down payments, etc. 
  • research and study the local housing market, the national market, and interest rate trends

Buyer’s Agent

Many people confuse the roles of listing and buyer’s agents. The seller has professional representation and so should the buyer. The best news is, buyers get that representation at no extra cost.

When you are ready to shop for homes, your buyer’s agent is responsible for showing you homes within your price range and in your desired geographic location. Your agent will help you find homes using a multiple listing service to which all agents contribute.

This is important: It is the buyer’s agent’s responsibility to schedule appointments and show you the homes you want to see. Don’t try to spare your buyer’s agent time and effort by directly reaching out to the listing agent. Showing homes is part of the buyer’s agent’s job.

Following are some of a buyer’s agent’s responsibilities:

  • locate homes for sale that meet your needs
  • arrange for you to see the homes you want to see
  • place an offer on a home you want to buy
  • negotiate with the seller’s agent during the offer/counteroffer process
  • advise you about earnest money, down payments, and the buying process
  • help you through the entire due diligence process by making sure all deadlines are met, all property details are disclosed, and required repairs are made
  • complete, deliver, and file all necessary documents on time

If you are moving to a new area, your buyer’s agent will help you become familiar with your new community. An agent can direct you to important relocation information about taxes, schools, utilities, your HOA, area shopping, employment opportunities, and other local topics of interest. For an example of information I provide about Salt Lake City’s Downtown, The Avenues, Ballpark, Fairpark, and other Salt Lake neighborhoods, just click on the link.

In some cases, one real estate agent can act as the buyer’s and the seller’s agent. You must sign a Dual Agency Contract. It is more common to have two different agents, but in some cases, dual agency is acceptable.

What do real estate agents do? They save you a great deal of time, legal exposure, hassle, and money throughout the home selling and purchasing processes.

Joel Carson - Utah's # real estate agent

Joel Carson is the President and Principle Broker of Utah Real Estate with over 30 years of experience buying and selling real estate in the greater Salt Lake City area.

Have questions? Call or text me at 801-673-3333

Article Last Updated: March 5, 2024

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