Real Estate Agents: What are they and do you need one to buy or sell your house?

Aalto Insights Team
Jan 21, 2023

What is a Real Estate Agent?

Real estate agents, also known as Realtors, play an important role in the traditional process of buying and selling of homes. Agents can also handle leasing or rental properties (both residential and commercial). 

The definition of a real estate agent is a licensed professional who is trained and educated in all aspects of real estate transactions and the real estate market. They are normally affiliated with a real estate brokerage and have their license as a salesperson in the real estate industry.

Types of Real Estate Agents

There are two main categories of real estate agents: those who work for a real estate broker or realty, known as an agent, and those who are licensed brokers themselves, usually known as ‘brokers’. 

A broker or associate broker is someone who has completed additional education and passed a broker's license exam, and is now able to open their own brokerage and hire agents to work under them.

What is a listing agent?

A listing agent is a real estate professional who represents the homeowners or sellers in a transaction and oversees the entire selling process. 

Their role is to come up with a price or price range for the home based on the market and the home’s value. They then market the property, handle showings, negotiate offers, and facilitate the home sales process through closing in exchange for a fee paid by the seller. 

They are typically paid a real estate commission, which is a percentage of the sales price of the property, by the seller.

What is a buyer’s agent?

A buyer's agent represents the potential buyer in a transaction and are usually well versed in the local real estate market and inventory in their area. 

They help their clients find properties that match their needs and budget, usually schedule open houses, negotiate offers, and guide buyers through the closing process. 

They can also help refer buyers to lenders or mortgage providers to help with financing and assist with the escrow process. Buyer’s agents are typically paid a real estate commission, but in this case it is usually split between the buyer's and seller's agent. 

It is important to note that in most states, agents are legally obligated to act in the best interest of their client, so the seller's agent is legally required to act in the best interest of the seller, and the buyer's agent is legally required to act in the best interest of the buyer.

Professional organizations that agents can be a part of

Realtors are also members of National Association of Realtors (NAR), which is a professional organization within the real estate business that holds its members to a strict code of ethics and provides them with various resources to help them succeed.

Agents can also have various designations such as ABR (Accredited Buyer Representative) or CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) that signify their additional training and expertise in specialized areas. Often you will see more designations associated with agents who have more years of experience in the real estate industry.

How to become a licensed real estate agent

To become a licensed real estate agent, there are a few steps that need to be taken. 

The first step is to complete a pre-licensing course, which is typically around 60-90 hours of class. Once the course is completed, you will need to pass the local real estate licensing exam for your state.

Once the exam is passed, you must then find a broker team to join or real estate brokerage to sponsor you, and submit your application and fees to your state real estate board.

An agent's role in a real estate transaction

As a real estate agent, you are normally responsible for showing homes to potential buyers, hosting open houses, and negotiating offers on behalf of your clients. 

Additionally, you may assist first-time homebuyers and more experienced home buyers in finding lending options and help them navigate the housing market. Normally, agents will develop a list of frequently asked questions or FAQs that can be shared with less experienced home buyers to guide them through the real estate process. 

To be a full-time, successful real estate agent, a solid understanding of the local housing market and a strong network that includes property management companies, lenders, new home builders, and other industry professionals is key. 

It is also crucial to be fully versed in local multiple listing services (MLS) and ensure adherence to fair housing laws and regulations.

If you have any questions please share them with us: We’d love to hear from you! Ready to get started on your home journey? Head to

Aalto is a real estate broker licensed by the State of California, License #02062727 and abides by Equal Housing Opportunity laws. This article has been prepared solely for information purposes only. The information herein is based on information generally available to the public and/or from sources believed to be reliable. No representation or warranty can be given with respect to the accuracy of the information. Aalto disclaims any and all liability relating to this article.

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