Difference Between Real Estate Agents Who Work With Sellers or Buyers

Seller's Agent vs Buyer's AgentSkill Set Differences Between Buyers and Sellers Agents

There is almost always some serious skill differences between Realtors who work with buyers vs those who work with sellers.

When most people think of a real estate agent, they think of someone that works with buyers and sellers of homes and other property. And for most purposes this definition is accurate. However, there are areas of specialization in the real estate field, including agents that work just for buyers and agents who work exclusively for sellers.

Understanding these distinctions is important when you are looking to buy or sell a home. You want someone working for you that can accomplish your goals. The saying jack of all trades and master of none can apply to the real estate industry. If you are selling a home, look for a listing specialist. If you are buying a home, look for a skilled buyer’s agent.

If you are selling a home and choose an agent who works with both buyers and sellers on a regular basis, you could be asking for trouble!

There is a huge difference between a real estate agent who works with sellers vs. buyers!

Fundamental Differences Between a Buyer’s Agent and a Listing Agent

Considering how much money may be on the line when you are buying or selling a home, you want to know that the Realtor you hire is best equipped to do what you need done. Over the years I have seen numerous consumers who do not understand the radical differences between the roles and skills a real estate agent should posses depending on which side of the fence they are on. This leads to mistakes choosing the right Realtor for the job. Here is a typical scenario of what I am referring to:

In this example a homeowner is going to be selling their property and decides they should interview three agents. Interviewing multiple agents by the way is something all sellers should consider. Those that make poor choices generally don’t.

  • Agent A derives 90% of their business working with sellers.
  • Agent B derives 90% of their business working with buyers.
  • Agent C does nearly an equal amount of business working with both.

Assuming all three of these agents are competent, agent A almost always will be the best choice. Agent A has a business model that is set up specifically to handle what is required to successfully market homes. Agent B doesn’t do much business working with sellers, so their skill set favors understanding a buyer needs. You may be thinking what about agent C they collaborate with a mix of both? It sounds like they could be a well-rounded agent right? Most of the time the answer would be NO – they would not be a better choice that agent A.

The reason why this is the case is simple, agent C is not going to have the necessary time to do an exceptional job with their seller clients if they are out on the road every day showing homes. Keep in mind agent C works with a lot of buyers. Buyers take a tremendous amount of your time. If an agent is out all day showing homes how in the world could they possibly do what is necessary from a marketing standpoint? Most can’t be as they get spread too thin.

This is why a good agent who works with sellers will often have a few buyers agents they rely on to refer business to within their office. When you are marketing homes well it goes without saying your efforts are going to draw buyer calls. A good seller’s agent is not going to drop everything they are doing and show homes every time a customer calls. If you have ever sold a home before and had a hard time reaching your agent, this is probably why! Agents that have a good sound business model will pick up the phone refer the buyer to someone else who specializes in working with buyers. This is a win-win for the agent as they get a referral fee but also are able to stay focused on working with their seller client.

Another good example of the difference between a great listing agent vs a buyer’s agent is the thought process surrounding an open house. One of the oldest and most archaic forms of marketing in real estate is the public open house. A top producing agent is not going to waste their time doing open houses. A dirty little secret in real estate is the fact that open houses rarely benefit a seller. They help the agent holding the open house to generate additional buyer clients that they can sell homes elsewhere. A listing agent dedicated to making sure their clients homes sell has little interest in generating buyers to work with.

A couple of years ago I interviewed with an owner who was selling their home in Milford Massachusetts. The seller ended up choosing another agent because of the fact they touted open houses. This agent did not do much business, and the house failed to sell. The seller ended up hiring me a few months later and ended up admitting to me what a mistake they made. The agent could never be reached and didn’t return phone calls until the end of the day. The lack of communication was because the agent was always out with buyers and not focused on working with seller clients.

As a homeowner, it is important for you to understand the skill sets that a real estate should possess whether working with a seller or a buyer. Take a look at the outline below.

Here are some key differences in what each does:

Listing Agent Qualifications

  • Sellers Real Estate Agent Pricing skills – One of the most important skills a listing agent must possess is the ability to value a property accurately. When a seller consults with a real estate agent, they expect and deserve an accurate estimate of value. There is nothing that will kill a home sale quicker than an overpriced home. Most agents that specialize in working with sellers will have a strong grasp of how to determine market value as this is what they do all week. An unrealistic seller will not sway a top notch Realtor who knows their stuff. The best of the best will walk away from a listing they know overpriced. An agent who works with a lot of buyers may not have that same rigidness, as they will use the listing to get buyer calls to sell other properties. After all working with buyers is their specialty, not sellers! Homeowners that listen to the wrong real estate agent can end up with an overpriced listing that doesn’t sell. In the end, the owner will sell their home for less than if priced realistically from day one.
  • Marketing skills – A listing agent has to know how to market your home. This is a complex set of skills that take years to develop fully. Not only does it take the time to create an efficient marketing network, but it also takes a bit of innovation to stay on top of the changing marketing landscape. Gone are the days when the average listing agent could throw a sign up in the yard and put out some ads in the newspaper. Marketing houses today requires a comprehensive strategy to get positive results. This includes “enhanced” listing displays in all the online sites where buyers most often frequent. A top seller’s agent will also offer real estate marketing with creativity. Everything they do should be geared to making your home stand out!
  • A top website – Every business today understands the need for a web presence if it wants to excel. Real estate agents, and listing agents, in particular, need to have a good website to advertise the homes they are selling. The site needs to be easy to navigate and offer comprehensive information on the homes they are marketing. Even more importantly, the site should have a decent search engine ranking if it hopes to be seen by home buyers. You can have the greatest looking website around but if nobody can find it it’s pointless.
  • Photography skills – Whether the agent takes the photos or hires, someone, to do it, the importance of good photography cannot be overstated. When a buyer is looking for houses, the first thing he or she sees is the pictures included in the listing. If the pictures are shoddy, they will make the property look unappealing. This will naturally repel potential buyers and hurt the sale. An exceptional listing agent understands the critical nature of how well a home needs to be presented online. A homes presentation can make or break a real estate transaction. Most top notch listing agents will not be taking their photos. They will invest the money in having a professional take them. The quality of photography provided should hold a lot of weight when selecting a Realtor.
  • Honest even if it hurts – When people go to sell their home it is easy to get caught up in the emotional history of the property. You may have raised a family there, or you may have made improvements to the home that you are quite proud of. Naturally, these factors will get you see your house as being the creme of the crop – even if the market may not reflect your perspective. Your listing agent needs to have the courage and insight to explain this fact to you. Overpricing a home is never a good idea and can cause real problems when you are trying to sell. The agent needs to provide honest feedback on your expectations so the house can sell and you can walk away happy. A seller’s agent should not be afraid to tell you that your favorite wallpaper needs to go, and the pink bathroom you love is no longer in style.
  • Feedback system  – a skilled listing agent, should have a system in place that allows you to get feedback from buyers agents after your property has been shown. Obviously, when a showing takes place, you are going to want to understand the buyer’s interest level along with what they liked and disliked. Someone who specializes in working with sellers understands that feedback is a critical element of good communication throughout the home sale process.

Buyer Agent Qualifications

  • Buyer's Agents Know Towns & NeighborhoodsUnderstand towns and neighborhoods – When you are looking to buy a house you need to have as much accurate information as you can. Agents that help buyers find homes should know their towns inside and out, down to the level of individual neighborhoods. You can’t help a person find his or her dream home if you don’t know where to look. A good buyer’s agent will understand key differences between one neighborhood to the next that can have an effect on market value.
  • Property values – A buyer agent needs to have a firm grasp on what different properties are worth. This is a calculation that varies from home to home, but will probably include factors like location, school district, square footage, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms and all the various amenities that can be found in a home. To make things even more complicated, the agent must understand the value of all these different factors based on where the house is in the particular city.
  • Negotiating skills – Once the agent helps you find the home you actually want, it is time for negotiations to begin. If you have ever haggled at a flea market you have some idea of how bargaining can go – except with a home, you are haggling over much more valuable merchandise. You want an agent that has a good history of getting what his or her clients want at the negotiating table. You also want an agent that can help you understand what to fight for and what to concede on.

There is of course some overlap of the skills necessary for representing both buyers and sellers. For example every real estate agent needs to have the ability to understand how market value is calculated so they can adequately represent their client. If you don’t possess this skill you might as well quit and do something different. Frankly there are a lot of real estate agents who don’t belong in the business but that is an article for another day.

The best real estate agents will also have good negotiating skills as they represent their respective clients. Not only at the initial stage when an offer is made but also when home inspection items need to be negotiated. This can be one of the most stressful points in a transaction but one that needs to be managed with a solid head on your shoulders. You certainly don’t want a drama queen. An agent who can keep both sides on track and come to a meeting of the minds is vital.

Lastly and most important both a buyer’s agent and seller’s agent owes their clients undivided loyalty, disclosure, reasonable care, obedience to lawful instruction, confidentiality and accountability. Unfortunately some of the less professional agents in the industry don’t understand this concept. While they are in the minority these agents think only about one thing – their own pocket book. This is the type of agent you want to stay clear off!

Pick the Right Agent for Your Needs

Buyer's Agent vs Seller's Agent - Have a Game PlanIf you are buying a home, you are most likely to get the best experience when working with a buyer’s agent. This person will already be helping other buyers find homes and negotiate good deals. They should have a strong understanding of the towns and neighborhoods you have expressed interest in. It is important that the agent you are working with has an understanding of specialized purchases as well. For example a good buyer’s agent will know the right questions to ask when buying a lake home. The element of being located on a lake adds a whole different layer of considerations for a purchases as you will see in our guide.

Another good example would be when purchasing a condo there are different considerations a buyer should have than when buying a single family home. It is only a well rounded buyer’s agent that understands the dramatic differences that must be considered in these transactions. Educating a buyer of these things is what separates a true buyer’s agent from someone who just shows homes.

If you are selling a home, you need to work with a listing agent. Trying to get a buyer agent to sell your home is asking for unnecessary complications. If he or she is out on the road showing houses it will make it very difficult to do the necessary day to day marketing tasks or to provide you the one-on-one feedback and steady communication you need to get the house sold.

Whether you are buying or selling, pick the right agent for your needs and you are sure to be better off in the long run. Whether you are buying or selling a home it is important to ask the agent you are working with how much business they derive from each.  By now you hopefully understand it should be skewed heavily towards working with sellers if you are selling and just the opposite if you are buying.

Other Helpful Articles That Distinguish a Buyer’s Agent and Seller’s Agent

Use these additional resources to help make the right choice when selecting a Realtor to work with.

About the author: The above Real Estate information on the difference between real estate agents who work with sellers or buyers was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 29+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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  1. says

    Bill, great post. Interesting, your blog points out that being a good real estate agent is not rocket science. But, it does require a lot of time and hard work and there are a few select agents in the market place that are willing and understand that concept. Thanks.

    • says

      You are right Rick it is not rocket science but none the less there are plenty of Realtors that lack the common sense necessary to be in this industry. If it can be frustrating for me you know there are many consumers that are left scratching their heads when an agent cannot do what should be easy.

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