What Is a Real Estate Agent?

When starting out on the home buying process, you might find yourself asking, “What is a real estate agent, anyway?” Sure you’ve heard of the term. But if you’ve never bought a home before, you’ve probably never needed one and you’re not sure why you’d want one now. You can just shop for homes online, right?


Not exactly. With this article, we’ll help you to understand what a real estate agent is and why most people don’t end up buying a home without one.


Qualifications of a real estate agent

It can take some effort to become a real estate agent. Realizing this could help you understand what a real estate agent is and what they do.


It takes anywhere from four to six months to become a licensed real estate professional. Requirements vary by state, but individuals are required to complete a pre-licensing course and licensing exam before they are able to activate their license. They must then join a broker or brokerage firm—brokers have more experience and are licensed to a higher degree.


Some agents may also choose to become members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Only these agents can use the title Realtor and all Realtors must subscribe to NAR's strict Code of Ethics. This code helps describe the type of relationships that realtors have with their clients.


The code states that realtors have a “grave social responsibility and patriotic duty”  to the public and that they should remain “zealous to maintain and improve the standards of their calling and share with their fellow realtors a common responsibility for its integrity and honor.”


It also states that realtors should “continuously strive to become and remain informed on issues affecting real estate” and “willingly share the fruit of their experience and study with others.”


What is a real estate agent’s role?

Considering the above, real estate agents can play an important role in keeping their clients informed about laws, regulations, and steps around the homebuying process. They’ll also help you get through the more straightforward things like home shopping (they typically have access to the most recently listed homes), how to make a competitive offer, deciding on a closing timeline, setting up an inspection, and more.


Most importantly, while the Code of Ethics may outline realtors' responsibilities to each other and the general public—regardless of this code, all agents have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients. The same is true of seller’s agents, which is why it’s important for buyers to have their own agent—you’ll want to have someone on your side who is responsible for representing your interests.


Do you need a real estate agent?

While it’s possible to buy a home without an agent, there are a few reasons why you might want one. Worried about buying a dud? Real estate agents look at houses every day and have a deep understanding of the market. They can help you pick up on critical issues early on—like spotting whether a home might have structural damage before you’ve called out an inspector or asking how much a home owner’s association keeps in arrears.


Are you buying in a competitive market? When there’s an increased demand for homes and an ongoing lack of inventory, you’re likely to find yourself in a bidding war. Having a real estate agent can improve your odds of getting an offer accepted. Your agent can help you determine the value of a home and decide how much you’re willing to invest before it’s best just to walk away.


A real estate agent is a pretty standard part of the home buying process. But it’s good to do your research and find the right one for you. Ready to start the home buying process? Check out some affordable homes near you with Centex Homes.


Looking for more Foundation tips and learning? Return Home here.

Published 04.14.22

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