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Listing Agent vs. Selling Agent

An illustration of a selling agent standing in front of a house and handing keys to a couple with a child and a stroller.

Listing Agent vs. Selling Agent | What Is a Listing Agent? | What Is a Selling Agent? | What Is a Dual Agent? | How Do Real Estate Agents Get Paid?

The terms “listing agent” and “selling agent” can be confusing. Here’s the difference:

  • A listing agent is a seller’s agent who helps list and sell a home.
  • A selling agent is a buyer’s agent who helps find and purchase a home.

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, we strongly recommend working with a good agent who helps you navigate the complicated, high-stakes process of buying or selling a home while looking out for your best interests – potentially saving you thousands of dollars and protecting you from bad deals.

A seller typically pays an agent’s commission, but it’s almost certainly worth the money, as agented homes sell for substantially more than homes sold without an agent (over $50,000 more on average, according to the National Association of Realtors.

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Listing Agent vs. Selling Agent

Listing Agent (Seller’s Agent) Selling Agent (Buyer’s Agent)
Represents the seller’s interests throughout the deal Represents the buyer’s interests throughout the deal
Lists the seller’s home on the market Helps the buyer find listings that match their budget and specifications
Helps come up with a list price Helps come up with an offer
Negotiates the sale price upward as much as possible to maximize seller’s profit Negotiates the sale price downward as much as possible to save buyer money
Guides seller through the closing process Guides buyer through the closing process
Makes half the commission Makes half the commission
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What Is a Listing Agent?

A listing agent, also known as a seller’s agent, is the person who lists the property that the seller is putting on the market.

At the beginning of the sale process, the seller signs a listing agreement that gives their listing agent the exclusive right to sell the house (and earn the commission that comes with it) and states that the listing agent has a duty to look after the seller’s best financial interests.

The listing agent is the home seller’s partner, advocate, advisor, guide, and negotiator throughout the sale process. They help the seller get the property ready for the market, assist in navigating the market once their home is officially listed for sale, and guide the seller through the rest of the sale process.

What Listing Agents Do

Come Up with a Competitive List Price

Setting the right list price is part art, part science. Set it too low, and you may get a lot of interest, but you’ll be leaving a lot of money on the table. Set it too high, and you may make more money if it sells, but you’ll drive away many buyers.

A good agent will have a grasp of the local market dynamics and understand just where to set your list price so you’ll attract a lot of buyers and make the most of your sale.

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Help Prepare the Home for Listing

Even the nicest, newest homes need a little refreshing before they hit the market. An experienced listing agent knows what buyers are looking for in a home and where your home may fall a little short. Their advice on pre-listing renovations or repairs is also an extremely valuable resource.

List the Home on MLSs

Multiple listing services (MLSs) are private databases where real estate professionals post new property listings. When your agent puts your home on your local MLS, it will show up on huge real estate sites like Zillow, Redfin, and, so it’s absolutely vital.

Run Showings and Open Houses

Buyers will want to see your home before they make an offer, and your listing agent will know how to show it off to its best advantage — accentuating its best qualities, downplaying its not-so-great qualities, and subtly encouraging competition and interest from multiple buyers.

Market the Property

Getting your final sale price as high as possible is going to require competition among multiple interested buyers, so getting your home as much exposure as possible is of utmost importance. Your listing agent will get your home out there through conventional channels like MLSs and social media, as well as their professional network.

Negotiate Price and Contingencies

Once you have offers rolling in, your agent will help you select among qualified buyers and negotiate with the buyer’s selling agent to get you the highest listing price they can.

Guide Seller Through Closing

The closing process can be a confusing, high-stakes matter, and your agent can let you know what to expect, what will be required of you, and make sure all the legal and financial requirements are properly handled.

What Is a Selling Agent?

A selling agent, also known as a buyer’s agent, helps the buyer find and purchase a house.

Even though they have the word “selling” in their job title, it’s important to remember that their loyalties lie entirely with the buyer, whose interests they’ll represent in the sale transaction. The selling agent has a duty to advance the buyer’s financial interests.

In general, the selling agent helps the buyer find homes that fit their budget and specifications, negotiates the best possible price (and contingencies), and guides them through the long closing process.

What Selling Agents Do

Show the Buyer Suitable Listings

A good selling agent understands exactly what their client is looking for and will take them to listings that fit that description. In addition to publicly listed properties, they’ll likely know about hidden “pocket listings” that other agents are quietly selling, too.

Assist with Financing

A selling agent can connect a buyer to a good lender and help them be pre-approved for a mortgage. Submitting that pre-approval letter with your offer can show sellers that you are a serious candidate, especially in competitive markets.

Advise on the Property and Initial Offer

A selling agent will bring an experienced, objective eye to a showing and can offer advice on a property’s true value and its prospects on the market.

They’ll be able to tell a buyer if a home is overpriced, or if the property will sell quickly or sit in the local market for a while. And when the buyer is ready to make an offer, the selling agent can help them come up with an offer that a seller will take seriously but won’t break the bank.

Negotiate the Sale Price and Contingencies

Once the offer is accepted, the selling agent will negotiate the finer points of the deal, including contingencies that could save the buyer from purchasing a home with serious problems and post-inspection price adjustments for needed repairs.

Guide the Buyer Through Closing

A good selling agent will guide their client through the complicated closing process, help them with all the paperwork, and get the sale across the finish line.

Some agent-matching services will even offer you cash back after you close on a house using one of their agents.

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» Read More: 9 Best Companies for Low Commission Real Estate Agents

What Is a Dual Agent?

A dual agent is when one agent represents both the buyer and the seller in a real estate transaction.

If this seems like a potential conflict of interest, it is — and that’s why it’s banned in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, Texas, and Vermont.

In a conventional real estate deal, the listing agent and the selling agent negotiate with each other and agree on a deal that reflects the interests of both buyer and seller equally.

When there’s only one agent involved, it’s hard for both parties to be equally and fairly serviced. They can use privileged information to skew the deal — for example, if the dual agent knows the seller is under time pressure to sell fast, they may advise the buyer to make a lowball offer.

And the dual agent gets both commissions in a deal, meaning there’s a big financial incentive for the agent to close the deal any way they can. It’s wise for both buyers and sellers to avoid dual agents, even if they’re legal in their market.

How Do Real Estate Agents Get Paid?

A conventional real estate agent makes money solely through commission.

According to a recent study, the average real estate commission in 2022 is 5.49% of the sale price. This money is deducted from the seller’s proceeds at closing and split between both the listing agent and the selling agent – around 2.8% each, on average.

For the sale of a $375,000 home each agent earns a commission of around $10,000. While that may sound like a lot of money, it’s payment for what was likely weeks of work to guide the deal over the finish line.

Agents provide their clients with valuable services. Thorough advice about timing the listing or improving the property before listing can increase the sale price of the home by far more than their eventual commission. And buyer’s agents can negotiate to dramatically reduce the buyer’s price or win valuable repair concessions.

Typically, agents more than earn their commission. But sometimes they’ll even provide their services for a lower commission, such as when they work with an agent matching service.

Our friends at Clever Real Estate match high-quality customers with top agents in their area. You get a quick way to find the best agents in your area, free service, access to licensed experts, a high quality experience, and savings on commission or cash back after closing.

» Read More: What Is the Average Realtor Commission? (2022 Data)

Recommended Reading

Frequently Asked Questions About Listing Agents and Selling Agents

Who does the seller’s agent represent?

A seller’s agent represents the seller of a house in a real estate transaction. These agents are also known as listing agents and are different from selling agents. Learn more about the difference between listing agents and selling agents.

What is a listing agent?

A listing agent is a real estate agent who helps sellers list and sell their properties. These agents are also known as sellers’ agents. Learn more about what a listing agent does.

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