Do You Need a Listing Agent and a Buying Agent?

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Do you need two agents to buy and sell? A listing agent and a buying agent? Because very few buyers and sellers really understand how real estate agents operate, this huge question often pops up over and over: "How many agents do I need when listing and buying at the same time?" Should one agent represent you in both transactions? Or should you hire a buying agent to help you buy and a listing agent to help you sell?

Before you can adequately weigh the two scenarios, let's look at what each of those job descriptions entails. Many ​agents excel at either selling or listing and promote themselves in that manner. It's not out of the question for an agent to specialize only in listing homes for sale, while another might work strictly with home buyers. Most real estate agents, though, handle about an equal number of buyers and sellers.

Basic Characteristics of a Good Listing (Seller's) Agent

  • Marries the art of tweaking the fine nuances that separate homes and neighborhoods from identical counterparts to the science of comparative market analysis, all of which is designed to compute a reasonably acceptable asking price
  • Offers an extensive marketing campaign comprised of a combination of direct mail, advertising, networking, and online publishing, which entices agents to show and buyers to tour
  • Understands staging; capable of advising sellers on how to prepare the home for sale, in addition to maintaining a referral network of staging professionals and other contractors
  • Has the ability to showcase the home's strengths while downplaying its weaknesses
  • Maintains the upper hand during negotiations and protects the sellers' interest while selling the home for the highest price possible in the shortest period of time

Basic Characteristics of a Good Selling (Buyer's) Agent

  • Is patient, compassionate, a good listener and a problem solver dedicated to figuring out what the buyer wants and delivering it
  • Loves showing homes and understands how homes are constructed, and how to make improvements that boost value
  • Is organized, detail-oriented and possesses excellent follow-up and keen insight into the rock-bottom price a seller may accept
  • Plays well with others and remains gracious, polite and professional, as well as being someone associates call a joy to be around
  • Knows the neighborhood, its perception in the community, and has an intimate knowledge of past and present inventory

    Reasons to Hire Separate Agents

    • If your present home and the neighborhood where you want to buy are located in two different cities, it would probably be beneficial to you to hire separate agents who specialize in each area. Ask your listing agent for a referral to the other agent.
    • Since some agents only list and others exclusively operate as buyer's brokers, you will be paying solely for the expertise you require.
    • Agents who specialize in neighborhoods tend to maintain a backlog of clients who are interested in buying or selling as well, so they might already have a buyer or seller for you.
    • Your listing agent heads a team and would not be the primary agent working with you on the buying side because the listing agent does not work with buyers, preferring instead to refer you to a buyer's agent on the team.

    Reasons for Sole Representation

    • Obviously, with one phone call, you can contact the same agent for two different transactions; it's convenient.
    • Often, the agent can coordinate simultaneous closings through one title company and can share intricate (and progressive) details of the transactions with the title to get that directive accomplished.
    • Sometimes the agent will give you a discount on the listing side if you agree to hire that agent to help you buy. However, the top producers I know say each job requires maximum effort, are two separate transactions, and they refuse to reduce their fees. But it's worth it to ask, especially if agents are competing with each other for your business.
    • You really like and trust your agent. You may believe that your agent is the most qualified and competent agent you can find.