The 6 Types of Real Estate Agents

Becoming a real estate agent is an exciting journey that involves mastering the real estate market and adapting to client needs. While all types of real estate agents are required to take education courses to earn a real estate license, you can choose to work in different roles, each requiring a unique set of skills. From first-time homebuyers to luxury listings, you can handle a wide variety of transactions or choose to specialize in a particular niche. Let’s break down the roles you may find yourself in as a real estate agent.

1. Seller’s Agent or Listing Agent

A person taking a photo of a house with a For Sale sign in front.

The listing agent represents the seller of a property. Each time you meet with a potential seller, you will prepare a listing presentation that includes a comparative market analysis to explain how you can assist them in selling their home. Once a listing agreement is signed, you are responsible for listing the home for sale. You will also be in charge of marketing the property, hosting open houses or coordinating showings, and supporting the sellers through market shifts with up-to-date comps.

This type of real estate agent also negotiates on behalf of the seller during the transaction and cooperates with the buyer’s agents. Once an offer comes in, the listing agent is required to share each offer with the seller. While it is ultimately up to the seller to choose an offer they want to move forward with, the listing agent is there to support the seller in making the best decision.  

Skills of a Listing Agent:

  • Customer service  
  • Negotiation 
  • Time management
  • Local market knowledge 
  • Transaction management 
  • Being detail-oriented 
  • Problem-solving

How Listing Agents Earn Money

Listing agents earn a commission on the final sale price of the property. The listing agent and seller negotiate the commission percentage. Once a rate is agreed upon, both parties sign the listing agreement, which also acts as the compensation agreement. 

Required Education of a Listing Agent

To become a listing agent, you must take the real estate agent prelicensing course and pass the state licensing exam. Once you have done so, you are free to take on listings in the state where you obtained your license. Adding specialized credentials through NAR certification and designation programs such as The Seller Representative Specialist and Pricing Strategy Advisor are great examples of how you can hone your skills as a listing agent. 

2. Buyer’s Agent

A buyer's agent inside a house with clients on a property tour.

The buyer’s agent helps potential homebuyers find a property to purchase. Initially, you will conduct a buyer’s consultation to get to know the buyer and understand their needs. To maintain clarity and protect everyone’s interests, I advise using a buyer’s agency agreement when working with homebuyers. Once that is signed, you can get started! You’ll coordinate showings, host property tours, negotiate on behalf of the buyer, and submit offers. Part of your responsibility as a buyer’s agent is to analyze sold and comparable properties in the area to provide your clients with the information they need to make a fair market value offer. 

Buyer’s agents also have the unique responsibility of working with first-time homebuyers, which may require more in-depth education for the buyer as they go through the process. Attending home inspections, final walkthroughs, and the closing is part of helping your buyer clients feel confident every step of the way. 

Skills of a Buyer’s Agent:

  • Customer service  
  • Negotiation 
  • Empathy
  • Teaching skills 
  • Active listening 
  • Local market knowledge 
  • Transaction management 
  • Ability to network 

How Buyer’s Agents Earn Money

Buyer’s agents have traditionally been paid from the sell side. This is considered a broker co-op fee, which means that the listing agent will cooperate with the buyer’s agent by paying a fee if and when they bring a buyer to purchase the listed property. The co-op fee is based on the percentage the listing agent has negotiated and agreed upon with the seller. 

Required Education of a Buyer’s Agent

To become a buyer’s agent, one must take the real estate agent prelicensing course and pass the licensing exam. Once you have done so, you can start working with buyers in the state where you obtained your license. Adding specialized credentials through NAR certification and designation programs such as Accredited Buyer’s Representative and Real Estate Negotiation Expert are great examples of honing your skills as a buyer’s agent. 

3. Leasing Agent

 A person at a coffee shop looking at rentals on a computer.

A licensed real estate agent can assist clients in leasing property. You can even add leasing deals to your repertoire as a side hustle to fill in the gaps between sales deals. However, in many states, a separate leasing license is available if someone chooses to focus solely on leasing or is still waiting to dive into a full real estate agent role. 

A leasing agent works just like a listing or buyer agent but focuses on helping people find rentals instead of homes to buy. They work with landlords and property management companies to list properties for rent and assist tenants in finding a place to live. Leasing agents also collaborate with investors to secure properties for rental purposes. In some cases, they may even take on the role of property managers if the landlord wants to avoid handling the property themselves. Their responsibilities include coordinating showings, negotiating lease terms, and ensuring the lease is finalized smoothly.

Skills of a Leasing Agent:

  • Customer service  
  • Sales experience 
  • Leasing agreements 
  • Negotiation 
  • Transaction management 
  • Apartment communities  
  • Adaptability and flexibility

How Leasing Agents Earn Money

A leasing agent’s commission is based on the monthly rental amount and is paid similarly to listing and buyer’s agents. When the leasing listing agent is representing an owner of a property, they must negotiate their commission, typically equal to one month’s rent. They would then pay a leasing agent representing the tenant a co-op fee of half the month’s rent or whatever fee was negotiated with the landlord. Rental buildings with in-house leasing agents tend to pay out a month’s rent to a leasing agent who brings them a tenant, which is not split between the two agents. 

Required Education of a Leasing Agent

You can take the real estate agent prelicensing or leasing agent course to become a leasing agent. Regardless of your leasing course, you must still pass the licensing exam. Once you have done so, you can start working with tenants, landlords, and property management companies in the state where you obtained your license. Adding specialized credentials through NAR certification and designation programs such as Certified Property Manager® and Real Estate Investing are great examples of how you can hone your skills as a leasing agent.

4. Commercial Real Estate Agent

One of the pros of being a real estate agent is that you can handle various real estate transactions without needing extra licenses. Conducting commercial real estate is no different. That said, if you plan to work in commercial real estate, make sure to join a brokerage that offers the proper training and support, as it requires different knowledge compared to residential real estate. Commercial real estate agents usually represent building owners, investors, and buyers or tenants.

As a commercial agent, you will share similar responsibilities with listing, buyer, and leasing agents. Some of these include coordinating showings, hosting property tours, negotiating on behalf of the client, submitting offers, marketing properties, and overseeing property inspections. There are a few differences from residential real estate, such as the specific documents you’ll use, your approach to analyzing comparable properties, and the types of properties you’ll be dealing with.

Skills of a Commercial Agent:

  • Customer service  
  • Negotiation 
  • Data analysis 
  • Mathematics  
  • Local market knowledge 
  • Transaction management 
  • Advertising and marketing 
  • Problem-solving

How Commercial Agents Earn Money

In commercial real estate, the building owner (landlord) or seller typically pays the commission to the real estate agents. For lease transactions, the commission is a percentage of the total rent over the full lease term and is usually divided into two parts: half is paid upon lease signing and the balance when the tenant moves in. These percentage amounts are prenegotiated in the listing agreement or proposal and vary for each market. When it comes to commercial purchases, the commission amount is a percentage of the sales price.

Required Education of a Commercial Agent

To become a commercial real estate agent, you must take the same real estate agent prelicensing course and pass the licensing exam. Once you have done so, you can start working with commercial real estate in the state where you obtained your license. Adding specialized credentials through NAR certification and designation programs such as Certified Commercial Investment Member and Society of Industrial and Office REALTORS® are great examples of how you can hone your skills as a commercial agent. 

5. Dual Agent

In a dual agency, one agent represents both the buyer and the seller in a transaction. This type of agency differs from a designated agency, where separate agents represent each side. A dual agent’s unique position requires balancing both parties’ needs and staying impartial when offering guidance during the transaction. 

Understanding agency relationships is crucial to navigating the complex legal responsibilities in real estate transactions. There are various client/agent relationships, and they impact all parties involved differently. Remember, each state has its own laws, so familiarize yourself with the laws in your state so you can be aware of how these regulations affect you. Dual agency is illegal in some states but still allowed in the vast majority. 

Skills of a Dual Agent:

  • Transparency  
  • Mediation 
  • Neutrality and confidentiality
  • Time management
  • Local market knowledge 
  • Transaction management 
  • Problem-solving
  • Paperwork for all parties involved

How Dual Agents Earn Money

Dual agents earn a commission on the final sale price of the property. The commission percentage is negotiated between the seller and the listing agent. To secure payment as a dual agent and avoid potential litigation, you must disclose the dual agency, and all parties must agree to this type of representation. You also must ensure all paperwork reflects that representation and get everyone’s signature. 

Required Education of a Dual Agent

No specific education outside of the regular prelicensing course is required to be a dual agent. However, understanding the limited fiduciary responsibilities is crucial to acting in both the buyer’s and seller’s best interests. 

6. Real Estate Broker

Real estate brokers hold an advanced license and are considered management-level professionals within the industry. They oversee real estate office operations, help agents succeed in the industry by mentoring and training, recruit agents, and have a comprehensive understanding of real estate laws and compliance. Depending on their company, they may continue actively selling real estate. Once licensed as a real estate broker, you can open your own office if you so choose. 

It’s important to note that some states use this term differently. North Carolina, Illinois, and Colorado refer to all licensed real estate agents as “brokers.” In these states, the broker role is called a managing broker, designated broker, or broker-in-charge.

Skills of a Real Estate Broker:

  • Real estate law and compliance 
  • Coaching and training 
  • Local market knowledge 
  • Recruiting  
  • Contracts and transaction management 
  • Ability to network
  • Negotiation 
  • Active listening 

How Real Estate Brokers Earn Money

Real estate brokers typically make a salary as they are often employees of a real estate brokerage. They may also give additional bonuses based on the agents’ performance in their office. 

Required Education of a Real Estate Broker

If you want to become a real estate broker, you must upgrade your license by taking the managing broker course and passing the licensing exam. You can also learn more about this role or gain helpful knowledge to run an office through NAR certification and designation programs such as Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager and At Home With Diversity®

Titles of Real Estate Professionals 

In the real estate industry, there are many different titles that professionals hold, but in short, we’re all real estate agents. The titles vary depending on the state where the licensee operates and their affiliated associations. It also depends on the different types of real estate licenses they hold. Let’s look at some of the titles real estate professionals go by.

  • Real estate agent: A licensed expert who helps others lease, buy, and sell property. This title encompasses both residential and commercial real estate. 
  • Realtor: Used for a real estate agent member of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). 
  • Real estate salesperson: This is interchangeable with Real Estate Agent; the title varies by state. 
  • Real estate broker: This term can be interchangeable with real estate agent and varies by state. However, this is just one type of real estate broker and can be confused with a managing broker or broker-in-charge. 
  • Managing broker or broker-in-charge: The designated broker of a real estate office. This role requires additional schooling and a real estate agent license upgrade.  

FAQs: Types of Real Estate Agents

Bringing It All Together

Now that we’ve covered the different types of real estate agents, you can drill down on how you’d like to operate your business. From listing to leasing and everything in between, you can handle various transactions or choose to specialize in a particular niche. Let us know if you’ve added any designations or plan to upgrade your license.

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