What Is A Listing Agent And What Can The Right One Do For You?

7 Min Read
Updated Feb. 16, 2024
Written By
Lauren Nowacki
Listing agent speaking to clients.

Buying a home is a big investment – and you have the opportunity to cash in on that investment when you sell your home. But a lot goes into selling a house, and it might be more than you initially assume. If you’re thinking of selling, you’ll probably want to work with a listing agent to help you market your home, deal with potential buyers, work through paperwork and close on the home.

Let’s take a closer look at the role of a listing agent and how they differ from a buyer’s agent. You’ll also learn how a listing agent can make the home selling process run significantly smoother – and hopefully get you a great return on your investment.

What Is A Listing Agent?

A listing agent is a real estate professional who represents the seller in a real estate transaction. The listing agent, or seller’s agent, lists the home for sale and works on the seller’s behalf to sell the home at the best price and under the best terms for their client.

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Listing Agent Vs. Buyer’s Agent

In most real estate transactions, two types of agents are involved: a listing agent and a buyer’s agent. Listing agents help sellers price, stage and market their property, show it off to prospective buyers and negotiate offers. A buyer’s agent represents the interests of the home buyer in a real estate transaction and works to help them find their new home and negotiate a fair price.

What Is Dual Agency?

In some instances, a buyer and seller may use the same agent. However, this practice – known as dual agency – is frowned upon (and illegal in some states) because it can become a conflict of interest. If an agent does work with both buyer and seller, they shouldn’t work in the interests of either party but focus on moving the transaction forward, which can be hard to do.

Selling Agent Vs. Listing Agent

Some sources use the term “selling agent” or “seller’s agent” as a synonym for a buyer’s agent. However, a selling agent is a real estate professional who’s working on behalf of the seller. Therefore, a listing agent, selling agent and seller’s agent all refer to the agent representing the seller – not the buyer – in a real estate transaction.

What Are The Benefits Of Working With A Listing Agent?

Selling a home can be a bit stressful, especially for first-time sellers who don’t know what to expect. A listing agent can help by taking on some of the burden and providing the information and resources needed to help sellers make informed decisions. Here are some tasks the listing agent will typically perform throughout the process of selling your home:

  • Provide professional consultation. A listing agent can help prepare you for the process by walking you through each step and telling you what’s coming next.
  • Determine an asking price for the home. Setting a competitive price gives your house a better chance of selling for the highest price possible as quickly as possible. A listing agent will do a comparative market analysis (CMA) of your home to find the best price based on your home’s square footage, age, location and features.
  • Market and sell your home. Your listing agent will list your home on the multiple listing service, or MLS, which is an online home-selling database that buyer’s agents use to find homes for sale for their clients.
  • Offer staging and photography. Your listing agent may also make staging recommendations and hire a photographer to show off your home’s functionality and unique features.
  • Schedule showings. When a buyer finds a home they love, they or their agent will coordinate a showing with your listing agent.
  • Host an open house. Your agent may also host open houses, which are designated times that potential buyers can walk through the home without an appointment. The listing agent may also be present during the showing to answer questions about the property.
  • Communicate and negotiate with buyers and their agents on your behalf. Strong communication is key when buying a home to cut down on stress and misunderstandings. A listing agent will manage the entire process, handling paperwork and negotiating the final sale price and terms of the sale with your interests in mind.
  • Recommend other professionals. Seasoned listing agents may come with a plethora of professionals who they’ve worked with over the years and who can make the selling process smoother. Such professionals may include real estate attorneys, inspectors, stagers and those who specialize in home improvement.

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Who Pays A Listing Agent?

Real estate agents typically make money through commissions. A commission is a certain percentage taken from the proceeds of the sale. The percentage of a real estate commission is usually around 6% of the final sale price (unless otherwise specified in the contract) and divided  among the buyer’s agent, the listing agent and each agent’s real estate brokerage.

Since the money is coming from the proceeds, the seller technically is the one paying for both the listing agent and buyer’s agent. However, the buyer – or, more specifically, the buyer’s mortgage lender – provides the money the seller receives. When figuring out your listing agent’s pay, ask questions – and don’t be afraid to negotiate. Just remember that negotiations are only available between the listing agent and the seller.

How To Find The Right Listing Agent

You’ll want to make sure your agent, who might also be a REALTOR®, is licensed and has experience, references and a professional website where you can learn more about them and their qualifications and professional successes. Remember that most real estate agents work with buyers and sellers, but some may specialize in one or the other.

Once you find a few agents through referrals or online research, speak with them face-to-face to ensure they meet your professional needs and have the right personality for the job. Questions to ask real estate agents during an interview include:

  • Is this your full-time job?
  • How long have you worked in real estate?
  • What type of experience do you have selling homes?
  • How many homes did you sell last year?
  • What’s the best way to communicate with you, and how long does it typically take you to respond?
  • What hours do you typically work?
  • How do you plan on marketing my home?
  • Why should I choose you as my listing agent?
  • Do you have recommendations or reviews from previous clients?

Can You End A Contract With A Listing Agent?

When you sign a contract with a listing agent, you’re agreeing to work with them exclusively for at least 90 days. If, after those 90 days, your listing hasn’t been getting enough traction, you may want to reconsider extending the contract and work with a new agent to sell your home.

Disadvantages Of Ending A Contract With Your Selling Agent

Switching agents could set you back because you may have to repeat the process of searching for an agent, interviewing potential candidates and providing them all of the necessary information to sell your home.

You may also have to give your new listing agent time to complete their own comparative market analysis and create a new listing for your home. That means your home will be on the market longer, possibly raising a few eyebrows from potential buyers.

Advantages Of Ending A Contract With Your Seller’s Agent

You could benefit from taking your property off the market for a period of time and relisting it. This is a strategy that sharp agents sometimes use to get your listing back at the top of MLS searches. Keep in mind, though: A record will exist of the last time it was on the market, so this marketing tactic may not always work.

Real Estate Listing Agent FAQs

Here are a few questions people often ask about listing agents.

Do I need a listing agent to sell my home?

You’re not legally obligated to hire a listing agent or other real estate professional to sell your home. But, although not required, using an agent is highly recommended because of their expertise.

Should I use a listing agent to buy a home?

It might seem easier to use the same agent to sell and buy a home, but this is where dual agency – which is illegal in some states – comes into play. It’s best to use a listing agent to sell your current residence, then use a buyer’s agent to buy your next home.

Why is using a listing agent important?

A listing agent is someone worth having on your side when selling your home. They help you set a competitive price, prepare for staging and showings, handle negotiations and so on. A seller’s agent takes the work out of selling your home so you can focus on your upcoming move.

The Bottom Line

Listing agents, like other real estate agents, are certified mortgage industry professionals who have the training, resources and influence to make your home selling process significantly smoother. They may even be able to help you get a great return on your investment.