By Brandon Cornett | © 2019, all rights reserved | Copyright policy
Summary: This article outlines some of the key responsibilities of a real estate listing agent, as well as a basic job description.
If you're planning to sell your home, a listing agent could help you in many ways. These real estate professionals have the insight and experience needed to sell a house quickly, and for the best possible price.
But not all agents are created equally. Some will do everything they can to get your house sold. Others will "coast" along and wait for their commission checks. It's like any other industry -- there are good listing agents and bad ones. Our goal is to help you find the good ones.
Below, you'll learn about the key responsibilities of a real estate listing agent, along with a job description. We've even provided a 15-point checklist you can use when screening agents.
Before we go any further, we need to cover some terminology. What is a real estate listing agent, anyway? This is the person you hire to help sell your home. They are also referred to as seller's agents. Among other things, they will list your home for sale on the Multiple Listing Service, so that other agents can view it (hence the term real estate listing agent). But this is the bare minimum of their responsibilities, as you will see below.
15 Responsibilities of a Listing Agent
There are 15 specific tasks your agent should help you with, at a minimum. Here's a list of responsibilities for real estate listing agents.
- Researching the local real estate market
- Helping you determine the asking price
- Helping you identify the key selling points
- Giving you a property disclosure form
- Taking pictures of your home for marketing
- Adding your home to the MLS
- Adding your home to Realtor.com and other sites
- Placing a "For Sale" sign in your yard
- Putting a lockbox on your door
- Coordinating visits / showings with buyers
- Making sure buyers have financing (e.g., pre-approval)
- Holding an open house, if warranted
- Presenting offers from buyers
- Negotiating with buyers on your behalf
- Attending the closing / settlement, if applicable
These aren't the only things a real estate listing agent will do for you. These are just the minimum responsibilities they should fulfill. Some agents are truly go-getters, and they will go above and beyond the items listed above. At a minimum, though, you want to make sure your listing agent will perform all of the items on this list (with the possible exceptions of items 12 and 15).
Print this page and use it as a checklist, if you like. Go down the list and ask the real estate agent how he or she will fulfill each of these key responsibilities.
Let's take a closer look at the items on this list.
1. Researching the local real estate market
Your listing agent should be an expert on the local real estate market. He or she should know how long homes are staying on the market before being sold (which is referred to as average days on market). Your agent should know how much similar homes are selling for in the area. He or she should understand how much leverage you have, as a seller, and how much the buyer has.
Are you in a classic buyer's market, a seller's market, or somewhere in between? A good real estate listing agent will answer all of these questions for you -- it's one of their key responsibilities.
2. Helping you to determine the asking price
Pricing is the most important step when selling your house. Home staging and marketing area also important. But your success (or failure) will mostly come down to the price. This is also where a lot of homeowners make mistakes.
You live in your home, so you have an emotional attachment to it. But you're also trying to sell it, so you need to view it like a product at the same time. An experienced real estate listing agent will help you separate your emotions from the realities of the housing market. He or she will use comparable sales to determine the asking price. More than anything else, this is what determines the true market value of a home.
3. Helping you identify the key selling points.
Buyers will spot some of the good points in your house. They will notice the size, the location, and the general layout of the home. But it certainly doesn't hurt to point some things out for them -- especially when those features might be missed at first glance.
Your real estate listing agent should help you identify these selling points. He or she should also promote them to potential buyers.
For example, let's say you're selling a house that is pre-wired for surround sound. This is a nice benefit. But it might not be apparent to someone who is just walking through the home. So you would definitely want to point out this feature to potential buyers. Your listing agent should make a list of such selling points (the seen and the unseen) and present it to everyone who visits your home.
You can include selling points on the MLS listing, on Realtor.com, etc. I recommend going a step further and having a list of features on paper, available to people as soon as they walk in the front door. That way, they can notice the features while they are on site. This is one of core responsibilities of a real estate listing agent.
4. Giving you a property disclosure form.
This item varies from state to state. Depending on where you live, you may be obligated to make certain disclosures to potential buyers. For instance, you might have to disclose the age of the roof, the type of heating and cooling system you have, and other items relating to the condition of your property. Your listing agent should know about your state's requirements, and should provide you with the proper form(s) to fill out.
5. Taking pictures of your home for marketing purposes.
In my opinion, every real estate agent should own a high-quality camera. Most buyers start their house hunting online these days. They look at property photos to decide which homes they want to visit, and which ones to take off the list. So in some cases, the quality of the photos can decide whether or not a potential buyer visits your house.
This is part of a real estate listing agent's job. Your agent should take high-quality photos of the interior and exterior of your house. There are no hard and fast rules as to the number of photos, but 12 is a good start. You need to show people enough to get them interested in a visit. On the flip side, you need photos to weed out the people who will never make an offer on your house (like somebody who wants a contemporary style home when yours is traditional).
Pictures help bring the right kinds of buyers to your house. That's why it's a key responsibility for a real estate listing agent.
6. Adding your home to the MLS for marketing purposes.
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a database of homes that are for sale. It serves other functions as well, but this is the primary function you're concerned with as a seller. Home buyers gain access to the MLS through their real estate agents. So, if you want to put your listing in front of the largest possible audience, you need to put it on the MLS. This is another one of the core responsibilities for a listing agent. Your agent should add your home to the MLS as part of a broader marketing plan.
7. Adding your home to Realtor.com and other high-visibility websites.
Realtor.com is the most popular real estate listing websites online today. Each day, hundreds of thousands of people use this website to view homes for sale. As a marketer, you want to go "where the eyeballs are" -- and you can rest assured they're on this website.
When marketing your home, you need to put it in front of the largest audience as quickly as possible. This is the key to success. By listing your house on the MLS and Realtor.com, you will accomplish this goal. Your real estate listing agent should list your property on both of these services, at a minimum. It would be helpful if they listed you on Trulia.com and Zillow.com, as well. These sites also get hundreds of thousands of visitors each day.
8. Placing a for-sale sign in your yard.
There's not much to say about this one. But it is one the responsibilities for real estate listing agents. So it deserves to be mentioned in brief. Believe it or not, there are still some home buyers out there who prefer to drive around in search of homes (rather than using the Internet as a starting point). This is where the classic "For Sale" sign proves useful. It also helps the Internet shoppers find your house, if they decide to visit.
The yard sign also tells your neighbors you're listing your home. And they might know someone who would love to buy your house. You never know! So make sure your listing agent uses yard signs.
9. Putting a lockbox on your door for buyers' agents.
The lockbox has been an essential real estate tool for decades, though they've gotten much more advanced over the years. Today, most lockboxes are electronic. The buyer's agent can use his or her smart phone to open the lock.
Your house key goes inside the box. This gives other agents a way to let their buyers into the home, without you having to be present. They schedule a visit. You get out of the way. And the lockbox gives them access. They would then lock up on the way out, to keep your home secure. Make sure your seller's agent has access to lockboxes.
10. Coordinating visits / showings with buyers and their agents.
A real estate seller's agent will generally handle this responsibility for you, as well. The buyers will schedule a visit by having their agent contact yours. But sometimes, this can become overly complicated. If the buyers have to schedule a visit with your agent, who then has to clear it with you, it just adds an extra link in the chain of communication. It might be easiest to have the buyers' agents contact you directly. It's certainly more efficient this way. There are different ways to handle it.
The key is to discuss it with the seller's agent in advance, so you are both on the same page. You need a plan for handling phone calls.
11. Making sure buyers have financing lined up.
There's nothing worse than leaving your house for a buyer who hasn't even spoken to a lender yet. It's a waste of everyone's time. You only want qualified buyers to visit your home. These are people who have been pre-approved by a mortgage lender for a sufficient amount, or else have enough money to pay cash for the home. Either way, you want to ensure buyers have some form of financing lined up.
This is another one of the key responsibilities for a real estate seller's agent. You should not have to do this. Your agent should handle it for you. He or she should shield you from "lookie-loos" and unqualified buyers. Just be sure to ask about this, when you're going through your list of questions.
12. Holding an open house, if there's enough market activity.
The open house has become something of a dinosaur in the real estate world. This has to do with the slow housing markets we've been seeing, ever since the housing crisis began in 2008.
Some seller's agents simply refuse to hold open houses, due to a lack of buyer activity. So they end up sitting around the house all day with maybe one or two visitors -- or no visitors at all. Instead, they often choose to put a lockbox on the door, so the buyers and their agents can come on their own. It's one more thing to ask about at your first meeting.
13. Presenting offers from buyers.
The real estate seller's agent is also responsible for accepting offers from potential buyers, and presenting those offers to the seller. More importantly, your agent should help you put the offer into perspective.
The buyer's offer might include the following components:
- The exact amount they are offering for your house
- The amount of earnest money they are paying
- The desired closing / settlement date.
- Any contingencies requested by the buyer (like a home inspection contingency)
The seller's real estate agent should explain each of these items. He or she should help you determine if the offer price is reasonable, based on the current market value of your home. At this stage, you need to remember that it's called an "asking price" for a reason. Be flexible and realistic. You don't want to lose a qualified buyer just because they're offering a little less than your asking price.
You should also consider the type of real estate market you are in. Are you in a slow market, where homes take a long time to sell? If so, you'll need to be even more flexible with the price. If you're in a buyer's market where homes are selling fast, you'll have more leverage when it comes to the price.
A real estate seller's agent will put these things into perspective for you, to help you make an informed and logical decision. This is where their experience becomes invaluable.
14. Negotiating with buyers on your behalf.
This is a key responsibility for the seller's real estate agent. When a buyer presents an offer, you basically have three choices:
- You can accept the offer, as presented.
- You can reject the offer with no counter.
- You can make a counteroffer.
Your agent will communicate your decision to the buyers, through their agent. If you've made a counteroffer back to the buyers, they have the same three choices mentioned above. They can accept your counter, make another counteroffer, or reject it and walk away from the deal.
A good seller's agent will explain why you have made a certain counteroffer. Maybe your home has certain unique features that add value, above and beyond the comparable sales in the area. Maybe the buyers made an offer that was much lower than those comps. Either way, your real estate agent should be communicating the reasons for your decision. It's one of their core responsibilities.
15. Attending the closing / settlement process, if applicable.
Closing / settlement is the final step in the home-buying process. This is when ownership of the property is officially transferred from the seller to the buyer. In the eastern part of the U.S., it is usually referred to as "settlement." In the western part of the country, it's usually called "closing."
In the east, the buyers' and sellers' real estate agents typically attend the settlement with their clients. In the west, the buyers and sellers usually attend closing on their own (and individually from one another). So depending on where you live, there is a chance the real estate seller's agent will attend this process with you.