What’s The Difference Between A Listing Agent Vs. A Selling Agent?

7 Min Read
Updated Nov. 23, 2023
Written By
Miranda Crace
Realtor showing home to couple.

Whether you’re buying a home or selling a home, you’ll probably be working with a real estate agent. The agents involved in a real estate transaction are most commonly referred to as the listing agent and the selling agent.

But which one works for the buyer and which one works for the seller? It can get a bit confusing, even for those who have a general knowledge of the real estate world. With this in mind, let’s take a close-up look at the role of a listing agent versus a selling agent and how to tell the difference between the two.

What Is A Listing Agent?

The listing agent works with the home seller to help them sell their home and get the best possible price. This real estate professional is called the listing agent because they’re responsible for putting the home on the multiple listing service (MLS) and serving as the key point of contact for potential buyers.

To add to the potential confusion surrounding the terms “listing agent” and “selling agent,” the listing agent may also be referred to as the seller’s agent – who isn’t the selling agent that represents the buyer.

What Does The Listing Agent Do?

While a lot more can be said about the role of a listing agent, their key responsibilities often include:

  • Working with the seller to determine the right list price for their home
  • Listing the home on the MLS and other real estate websites
  • Advising the seller on virtual walk-throughs and getting the best photos for their listing
  • Advising the seller on how to stage their home
  • Organizing and setting up open houses and showings
  • Helping the seller review potential offers to select the best one
  • Negotiating the contract or purchase offer with the selling agent
  • Helping the seller navigate the closing process and providing the necessary paperwork at closing

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What Is A Selling Agent?

The selling agent is a real estate professional who works with a home buyer during the buying process. They may be referred to as the buyer’s agent during the house-hunting phase since they’re advising a home buyer and helping the buyer find the perfect home for their preferences and needs. However, once the contract negotiation process starts, the legal status of the buyer’s agent changes, and they technically become just the “selling agent.”

Again, selling agent versus seller’s agent can be especially confusing. Maybe even more confusing than selling agent versus listing agent. But the selling agent represents the buyer, while the seller’s agent represents the seller. The buyer’s agent becomes the selling agent because they’re serving as the agent who’s helping negotiate the home sale on behalf of the buyer.

What Does A Selling Agent Do?

We’ve discussed what a listing agent does for a home seller, but when the offer is accepted, the selling agent will have the following responsibilities to the buyer:

  • Negotiating the terms of the offer with the listing agent
  • Working with the buyer and their lender to coordinate the home appraisal and home inspections
  • Renegotiating the offer in the event that the inspection reveals problems or the home appraisal comes in lower than expected
  • Advising the buyer on how to respond to potential problems with buying the home that may require the buyer to pull out of the contract
  • Helping the buyer navigate the underwriting and closing process

How Do The Selling Agent And Listing Agent Get Paid?

When a home seller agrees to partner with a brokerage or real estate agent, they sign an agreement to work exclusively with that agent or brokerage. They don’t need to pay any money upfront, but the agent or brokerage becomes entitled to a commission based on the final sales price of the home. While this amount – expressed as a percentage – can vary, it’s usually around 5% to 6% of the home sale.

Once the sale of the home is complete, the listing agent receives the commission and splits the money with the selling agent.

Since buyers have to pay their closing costs out-of-pocket while the sellers’ closing costs are deducted from the money they receive from the sale, having the seller pay the agents’ commission makes the most sense. With the commission coming from the sale, it also gives both agents an incentive to make the home sale price a fair one.

Also, if the selling agent did a good job, there’s a good chance they’ll become the listing agent if the new homeowners choose to sell in the future.

Can The Listing Agent And Selling Agent Be The Same Person?

In some cases, it’s possible for a real estate agent to be both the selling agent and the listing agent. Commonly known as dual agency, this may occur in situations where a listing agent has a home listed for sale and they’re also representing a buyer who wants to purchase the home.

Dual agency can have some advantages, such as an expedited process, but it runs the risk of the real estate agent not being willing or able to act in the best interests of both the buyer and seller.

It should also be noted that dual agency isn’t legal in all states. If your buyer’s agent and the listing agent are the same person, they may recommend that another real estate agent act as the selling agent to help negotiate the contract.

In this case, the listing agent may be entitled to a larger share of the commission since they did the legwork as the buyer’s agent, even if they didn’t act as the selling agent.

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Listing Agent Vs. Selling Agent FAQs

Still have questions about which real estate agent works for you and which one works for the other party? We have some helpful answers below.

Can a listing agent and a selling agent work for the same broker?

It’s possible for two agents who work for the same brokerage to act as the listing agent and selling agent, respectively. This is often referred to as designated agency, and it usually happens if agents from the same brokerage are representing different clients. It may also be required or recommended if dual agency isn’t allowed.

Do I need to use a listing agent or a selling agent?

It’s possible to buy a home without using a selling agent, and it’s possible to list your home as For Sale By Owner (FSBO) without a listing agent. In either case or both cases, you may save money on the commission. The drawback is that you wouldn’t benefit from the knowledge and experience that a real estate agent can provide. If you’re buying a house without a real estate agent, you’ll also be responsible for handling all the paperwork and negotiating, which could be both tedious and extra challenging if you’re not an expert on the home buying process.

Does my selling agent or listing agent need to be a REALTOR®?

Real estate agents are real estate professionals who’ve met the state licensing requirements to be qualified to help people buy, sell or rent real estate. A REALTOR®  is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and may also be a real estate agent. Your real estate agent doesn’t need to be a REALTOR®, but it’s best to ask questions that will ensure they’re properly licensed.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, you now have a clearer understanding of the terms listing agent, selling agent, buyer’s agent and seller’s agent so you’ll know who does what when you go to buy or sell a home. If you’re starting or about to start the house-hunting process, you’ll be best served also . And if you have questions about that, you can always ask your selling agent for their advice.

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