Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Real Estate Agents

But Didn't Know Who to Ask

Female real estate agent and woman in front of house for sale
••• Leland Bobbe/Photodisc/Getty Images

Real estate agents can make or break your deal. You owe it yourself and to your financial future to understand how they work, and this is no small challenge.

Do you know the difference between a REALTOR® and a real estate agent? Do you really need an agent, or would you be better off finding or selling a home by yourself? Which type of real estate agency might be best for you? There are two types, single and dual.

Should you sign with a buyer's broker? Can you go to open houses and call other agents if an agent is e-mailing you listings? How are real estate agents paid and who pays them? What are the different types of listing agreements?

Understand the answers before you start looking for an agent to represent you.

Finding and Hiring Real Estate Agents

Agents are like any other profession. Some are good, some are bad, and some are in between.

Few agents will acknowledge that they get more than half their deals simply because they're in the right place at the right time—not necessarily because they're competent. Just watch enough HGTV and BRAVO TV shows and that point will become crystal clear to you. Want a pro? Here's how to find a competent agent and make sure you get the services you truly deserve:

About Working With Real Estate Agents

Can you call your agent at 9:00 at night? How about 6 AM? Can you work with more than one agent at a time? How much trouble can you get into if you sign multiple purchase agreements through multiple agents? If a listing agent shows you a home, can you call your brother-in-law to write the offer and represent you? What if you're unhappy or your agent doesn't live up to your expectations? Can you get rid of the agent? How do you cancel a listing contract? If you've ever thought about these questions, these articles are for you.

About Real Estate Commissions

How agents get paid and whether it's insulting to try to negotiate a commission are the two most often asked questions from buyers and sellers. It's not that complicated but it sure seems that way on the surface, doesn't it? After all, what makes agents worth all that money? What do they do to deserve six-figure incomes anyway? Does the amount of the commission depend on whether the it's a hot or cold market? Is it possible to get maximum exposure for your home with a minimum-service agent? The answers might surprise you.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.