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Real Estate Agents and Brokers

The Job

The primary responsibility of real estate brokers and agents is to help clients buy, sell, rent, or lease a piece of real estate. Real estate is defined as a piece of land or property and all improvements attached to it. The property may be residential, commercial, or agricultural. When people wish to put property up for sale or rent, they contract with real estate brokers to arrange the sale and to represent them in the transaction. This contract with a broker is called a listing.

One of the main duties of brokers is to actively solicit listings for the agency. They develop leads for potential listings by distributing promotional items, by advertising in local publications, and by showing other available properties in open houses. They also spend a great deal of time on the phone exploring leads gathered from various sources, including personal contacts.

Once a listing is obtained, real estate agents analyze the property to present it in the best possible light to prospective buyers. They have to recognize and promote the property's strong selling points. A residential real estate agent might emphasize such attributes as a home's layout or proximity to schools, for example. Agents develop descriptions to be used with photographs of the property in ads and promotions on Web sites and in print literature. Many real estate Web sites now feature what's know as 360 (as in 360 degrees) virtual real estate tours, videos that walk viewers through properties. To make a piece of real estate more attractive to prospective buyers, agents may also advise homeowners on ways to improve the look of their property to be sold.

Agents must also determine the fair market value for each property up for sale. They compare their client's real estate with similar properties in the area that have recently been sold to decide upon a fair asking price. The broker and any agents of the brokerage work to obtain the highest bid for a property because their earnings are dependent on the sale price. Owners usually sign a contract agreeing that if their property is sold, they will pay the agent a percentage of the selling price.

When the property is ready to be shown for sale, agents contact buyers and arrange a convenient time for them to see the property. If the property is vacant, the broker usually retains the key. To adjust to the schedules of potential buyers, agents frequently show properties in the late afternoon or evening and on weekends. Because a representative of the broker's firm is usually on the premises in each house, weekend showings are a good way to put part-time or beginning agents to work.

An agent may have to meet several times with a prospective buyer to discuss and view available properties. When the buyer decides on a property, the agent must bring the buyer and seller together at terms agreeable to both. In many cases, different brokers will represent the seller and buyer. Agents may have to present several counteroffers to reach a compromise suitable to both parties.

Once the contract is signed by both the buyer and the seller, the agent must see to it that all terms of the contract are carried out before the closing date. For example, if the seller has agreed to repairs or a home inspection, the agent must make sure these are carried out or the sale cannot be completed.

Brokers often provide buyers with information on loans to finance their purchase. They also arrange for title searches and title insurance. A broker's knowledge, resourcefulness, and creativity in arranging financing that is favorable to the buyer can mean the difference between success and failure in closing a sale. In some cases, agents assume the responsibilities of closing the sale, but the closing process is increasingly handled by lawyers or loan officers.

Commercial or agricultural real estate agents operate in much the same fashion. Their clients usually have specific and prioritized needs. For example, a trucking firm might require their property to be located near major highways. These real estate specialists often conduct extensive searches to meet clients' specifications. They usually make fewer but larger sales, resulting in higher commissions.

In addition to selling real estate, some brokers rent and manage properties for a fee. Some brokers combine other types of work, such as selling insurance or practicing law, with their real estate businesses.