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What does a real estate agent do?

When you’re selling your house, your real estate agent, also called a Realtor, is like your personal consultant, advising you on everything from pricing and staging your home to negotiating with buyers. While hiring a real estate agent isn’t required when selling your home, the experience, expertise, and resources they bring may be well worth their commission.

What do real estate agents do?

  • Selling strategy. They use their knowledge of the local market to evaluate comparable homes, suggest an appropriate listing price, and advise you on the best way to present your home. They also identify your home’s most attractive selling points, flag any potential issues, and recommend improvements that matter most to buyers in your area.1 
  • Marketing. They arrange for professional photos and a virtual tour, write an enticing description and list your property on the multiple listing service (MLS), create postcards and other advertising materials, and network with other real estate agents to increase buyer interest.1 
  • Open houses and showings. They arrange for potential buyers to visit the property; coordinate, promote, and host open houses, including special broker-only showings, and answer questions and provide documents such as disclosure packets to potentially interested buyers and their agents.1 
  • Offers and negotiations. They vet potential buyers and help evaluate the strength of each offer, advising you on whether to accept, reject, or make a counteroffer. They also engage with the buyer’s agent on final price and negotiate requests made while in escrow, including issues that may arise during the inspection.1
  • Paperwork. They help coordinate preparation of disclosure and other needed forms and documents.1 They also work with the buyer’s agent and lawyer to arrange for offer letters, contracts, and other key documents to be signed by all parties. 
  • Referrals. Realtors can usually connect you with specialists and tradespeople to help with the sale process. These can include staging professionals, cleaning services, fix-it/repair services, painters, landscapers, photographers, storage facilities, and more. 

Finding a real estate agent

Most people find their real estate agent through a referral from a friend, neighbor, or relative, or they use an agent they’ve worked with before.2 The internet is also a good place to find qualified agents in your area. Whether you use a referral or find someone on your own, ask questions to make sure the agent is a good fit to sell your home. Some things to look for include:3  
  • The right experience. Make sure your real estate agent has experience selling in your neighborhood, at your price point, and your property type, such as a condo, townhouse, or single-family home. 
  • Sale-to-list price ratio. Look for an agent who, on average, has a record of getting more for their sellers than their peers. 
  • A history of going above and beyond. Talk to prior clients of the agent, if you can, to get a sense how they work with sellers. 
  • Commission rate. Find out how much you’ll pay. Commission is typically 4% to 7% of the home’s sale price, paid by the seller (you), with half going to the seller’s agent and half to the buyer’s agent. 
Working with an agent is a team effort, so when you meet, be ready to discuss your home’s basics, such as square footage, lot size, property taxes, HOA fees, average utilities, and recent upgrades. Also be sure to disclose any known issues, such as roof, plumbing, or electrical issues, and let your agent know your budget for making repairs or upgrades.3

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1. Jean Folger, “What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?,” Investopedia, July 12, 2022, 2. "2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report," National Association of REALTORS® Research Group, March 28, 2023, 3. Erika Riley and Christopher Rogacz, "How to Sell a House with a Realtor, From Home Prep to Closing Day," HomeLight, March 19, 2022,

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.

Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.