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The Difference Between Hiring a Buyer’s Agent to Sell Your Home vs an Expert Listing Agent

Elaine Comerford

Veteran New York City broker Elaine Comerford is known for her masterful ability to bring organization and calm to an often fragmented and archaic pro...

Veteran New York City broker Elaine Comerford is known for her masterful ability to bring organization and calm to an often fragmented and archaic pro...

Oct 6 7 minutes read

So you've decided to sell your home... Now it’s time to find a real estate agent.

While you’re researching prospective real estate agents to interview, you’ll often come across two terms you may not be familiar with: buyer’s agents and listing agents. Though many potential sellers make the mistake in thinking that any real estate agent can sell your home, these terms indicate a difference in background and perspective when it comes to the process of selling a home. Here’s what you need to know before you decide to interview a buyer’s agent or a listing agent:

What is a Buyer’s Agent?

A buyer’s agent is obligated to put the best interests of the buyers in mind. In fact, a buyer’s agent contract will clearly state their fiduciary responsibility to the buyer. They’re diligent about everything relating to condition: Disclosures, inspection reports, making sure that any updates and repairs were reported properly. They know potential problems when they see them. A buyer’s agent is focused on price — after all, the goal of a buyer is to pay the least amount of money for the property that suits their needs. 

Professionally speaking, the goal of a buyer’s agent is to make a sale. They know how to engage buyers who would be interested in a home and how to best show a home in a way that appeals to a buyer. That diligence about condition translates into knowing where they can negotiate on price. A buyer’s agent also knows what can be changed easily and the improvements that would add value to a home. 

For some sellers, hiring a buyer’s agent is an attractive idea because you’d theoretically benefit from their specialized insights. Because they show so many homes and spend so much time with buyers, you’d get a peek into the minds of what potential homeowners want right now. However, hiring the buyer's agent that helped you find your home to sell it a few years later may not be the best option.

Can a Seller Hire a Buyer’s Agent?

Here’s the issue: How to actually hire a buyer’s agent to represent the sale of your home. Remember, buyer’s agents are obligated to the best interests of a buyer, not a seller. So, exclusive buyer’s agents likely will not work with a seller. 

Some buyer’s agents will work with a seller who will need to buy a property in the same area by handling both transactions. Occasionally, these agents can offer you a discount on services relating to listing your home, but this would depend on the real estate agent. If you don’t want to make multiple calls to multiple real estate agents, having sole representation for both transactions would cut down on the back-and-forth. 

Then, there are real estate agents who are generalists, but have expertise representing buyers and may even market their experience as a buyer’s agent on their websites. However, they are not exclusive buyer’s agents. You can ask these real estate agents to “put on their buyer’s agent” hat (so to speak) as you work together. 

What is a Listing Agent?

A listing agent is a real estate agent who specializes in working with sellers. They have a seller’s best interests in mind, which is to get the most money for their property in the shortest timeframe. Listing agents may also have specific expertise in a type of home: Historic homes, luxury properties, townhouses, condos, vacation homes, or even specific styles (like mid-century modern homes). 

Like a buyer’s agent, a listing agent is focused on making a sale. However, the route they take to get to the sale is a bit different. Their job is to achieve or exceed your asking price. Arriving at the price is based on comparable properties, plus specifics to your home that may add value. Then, the listing agent develops a marketing strategy to get buyers and agents interested but also presents your home in the best light. A listing agent will also spend time on staging your home and other changes you can make to bring out the beauty of your home. 

Listing agents have insights on what convinces buyers to make an offer on a home, how to distinguish your listing from similar homes, and how to adjust your strategy based on current local marketing conditions. Further, listing agents have an advantage when it comes to negotiation. They’re more likely to set a higher asking price than an agent who deals more with the buyers’ side of transactions. 

Why Should I Hire a Listing Agent?

When hiring an agent to sell your home it's important to understand the different aspects that go into the sale from preparation and marketing to showings and negotiation. An agent that specializes in listing and selling homes will be prepared with a plan for your listing to come to market in the most effective way possible. 

Often times, what happens before a property is listed are the most important parts of selling the property. Between pricing strategy, staging, photography, videography, and online marketing listing agents have proven tactics for each of these steps. Once you're ready to list your home your listing agent will walk you through all of the steps of the process such as hosting open houses and navigating multiple offer situations. 

A buyer's agent may not be prepared or trained to handle all of the aspects of the sale as efficiently and successfully as a listing agent. Now more than ever, having an expert in your corner during a real estate transaction is vital to the sale of your home.

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