Listing Agent vs Selling Agent – What’s the Difference?

listing agent vs selling agent

Are you looking to buy or sell a home soon? Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or you’ve been through the process before, you’ll likely want to partner with a real estate agent to help guide you through the complexities of a real estate transaction. But not all agents are created equal – listing agents and selling agents play very different roles in the home buying and selling process. Read on to understand the key differences between these two types of agents so you can make an informed decision when hiring an agent.

Key Takeaways:

Real estate deals involve a lot of moving pieces – paperwork, negotiations, financing, inspections, appraisals, and more. An experienced agent acts as your advisor to help you navigate this complex process. But not all agents serve the same function. Broadly speaking there are two types of real estate agents:

Listing Agents – Also known as seller’s agents, these agents represent the home seller. They help price, market and sell the property on the seller’s behalf.

Selling Agents – Also known as buyer’s agents, these agents represent the home buyer. They help buyers search for and purchase properties that fit their needs and budget.

The key difference lies in who the agent is representing – the seller or the buyer. Let’s take a closer look at the unique roles and responsibilities of listing and selling agents.

What Does a Listing Agent Do?

As their alternate name implies, the listing agent serves the interests of the home seller. Their job is to get the property in front of qualified buyers so it sells quickly and for top dollar. Here are some of the key services a listing agent provides:

  • Pricing strategy – A listing agent will study recent comparable sales and current market conditions to recommend a competitive list price for the home. Pricing it too high could mean it sits on the market, while pricing too low leaves money on the table.
  • Preparing the home for sale – Agents advise sellers on any repairs or improvements that will maximize the home’s appeal and value. They’ll also coordinate professional photography, staging and marketing materials.
  • Listing on MLS – The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is where real estate agents list properties for sale. Listing on MLS ensures maximum exposure.
  • Marketing – Listing agents market homes through online platforms, social media, email campaigns, yard signs, open houses and more. Their goal is to generate buyer interest and traffic.
  • Showings – Listing agents handle all showings and open houses, providing prospective buyers access while also representing the seller’s interests during tours.
  • Offer negotiation – When an offer comes in, listing agents consult with the seller on counteroffers and negotiate the best possible deal on their behalf.
  • Paperwork and closing – Listing agents oversee all the contracts, disclosures and paperwork required to finalize the sale and transfer ownership.

In exchange for these services, the listing agent earns a commission after the sale closes – typically 3% of the home’s sale price, though fees can vary.

What Does a Selling Agent Do?

The selling agent, or buyer’s agent, represents the home buyer throughout the purchase process. Their role is to advocate for the buyer and help them find and acquire the right home at a fair price. Key responsibilities include:

  • Financing – Selling agents connect buyers with lenders to help get pre-approved for a mortgage loan. This shows sellers the buyer is serious.
  • Property search – Agents tap into exclusive MLS data to identify potential properties and set up showings for their buyer clients.
  • Touring homes – Selling agents accompany buyers on home tours. They provide objective feedback on each property in relation to the buyer’s needs.
  • Making offers – Selling agents prepare and submit purchase offers on the buyer’s behalf, negotiating the most favorable terms possible.
  • Inspections – Agents help coordinate inspections and ensure any major issues are addressed by the seller before closing.
  • Paperwork and closing – Like listing agents, selling agents help buyers navigate all the legal documentation and process requirements to finalize the purchase.

The selling agent’s commission also comes out of the home’s purchase price, typically 3%, and is paid by the seller. There are no upfront fees for buyers to work with a selling agent.

Can One Agent Represent Both Parties?

In some cases it is possible for the listing agent and selling agent to be the same person, which is known as dual agency. The single agent would represent both the buyer and the seller in the transaction.

However, this creates an inherent conflict of interest, since the agent cannot objectively advocate for two opposing parties on the same deal. Dual agency is illegal in many states as a result.

Most real estate deals involve two separate agents – a listing agent for the seller and a selling agent for the buyer. This separation of representation protects both parties’ interests.

Who Pays the Agent Commissions?

As mentioned above, real estate agent commissions are baked into the home’s purchase price, meaning the seller ultimately pays both the listing agent and selling agent.

This might seem unfair to sellers, but it actually incentivizes selling agents to bring serious buyers who are ready, willing and able to close the deal. If buyers had to pay their own agent commissions separately, it would significantly increase the buyer’s costs and create a barrier to completing sales.

By making the seller responsible for all agent commissions, the buyer is shielded from these costs which helps facilitate smoother transactions.

Should You Work With an Agent?

With today’s technology and the abundance of information online, it may be tempting to try selling or buying a home without professional representation. However, most experts strongly advise partnering with a qualified real estate agent.

Consider that in 2021, 88% of home sellers worked with a listing agent according to the National Association of Realtors. For buyers, 87% used a selling agent. These high percentages indicate most people view agent representation as indispensable.

The home buying and selling process has many complex legal, financial and procedural requirements. Real estate agents have years of experience and handle hundreds of transactions, so they know how to avoid pitfalls and maximize outcomes for their clients.

As an individual only buying or selling a home occasionally, it’s nearly impossible to match the expertise and negotiating power of a seasoned real estate professional. Before going the DIY route, carefully consider if the time and money you might save is worth the risk and hassle.

Tips for Choosing a Listing or Selling Agent

Not all real estate agents are created equal. Here are a few tips for finding the best agent for your needs:

  • Get referrals – Speak to recent buyers and sellers and ask who they used and if they’d recommend them. Referrals from trusted sources are invaluable.
  • Check online reviews – Research agent reviews on sites like Zillow, Realtor.com and Google to gauge client satisfaction. Look for consistent positive feedback.
  • Interview multiple candidates – Meet with a few agents in person before deciding. Ask about their experience, typical deals, marketing tactics and negotiations strategies. Go with someone you’re comfortable with.
  • Consider niche experience – For unique properties like luxury homes or condos, look for an agent well-versed in those specialty markets.
  • Verify licensure – Ensure any agent you’re considering is properly licensed by your state’s real estate commission. This guarantees they’ve met all educational and ethics requirements.

Taking the time find the right agent for your needs and personality is well worth the effort. A knowledgeable pro who’s done hundreds of deals similar to yours is an invaluable ally.

Q: What is the difference between a listing realtor and a buyer’s agent?

A: The main difference between a listing realtor and a buyer’s agent is that the listing realtor works with the seller to list their home for sale, while the buyer’s agent represents the potential buyer in purchasing a home. Listing agents will help you navigate the real estate market and negotiate an acceptable selling price on your behalf. A good listing agent can also help you understand what type of commission they receive from the sale of your home, as well as any other terms of your listing agreement.

Q: Do I need a listing agent if I want to sell my home without an agent?

A: While it is possible to sell your home without an agent, having an experienced listing agent can be beneficial. A good listing broker can help you navigate the complexities of finding buyers, negotiating prices and understanding local regulations. In addition, they will also handle paperwork on behalf of both parties.

Q: How does a listing agent and a selling agent work together?

A: When you work with a real estate agent to buy or sell a home, there are two different types of agents involved; the listing agent and the selling (or buyer’s) agent. The listing agent works on behalf of the seller to list their home for sale, while the selling (or buyer’s) agents represent potential buyers in purchasing homes. In some cases, one person may act as both an Agent and Listing Agent – this is known as dual agency.

Q: What is included in a typical Listing Agreement?

A: A typical Listing Agreement outlines all of the terms under which your property will be listed for sale. This includes details about pricing, marketing efforts that will be taken by the Agent, when payments or commissions are due, as well as any contingencies or special instructions from either party.

Q: What type of real estate Agent do I need for buying/selling my house?

A: You will need either a Listing Agent or Selling (or Buyer’s) Agent depending on whether you are buying or selling your house. For sellers, it is recommended that you use an experienced Listing Agent who can help you understand how to best market your property and negotiate acceptable offers from buyers. For buyers, you should look for an experienced Selling (or Buyer’s) Agent who can help guide you through potential properties that fit your needs.

Q: What is the role of an Agent if I’m both buying and selling my house?

A: If you are both buying and selling a house at once then it is possible for one person to act as both an Agent and Listing Agent – this is known as dual agency. In these cases it is important to have clearly defined roles so each party understands what tasks each may take on during negotiations.

Q: What does it mean when someone says “the agent also receives commission with the listing”?

A: This means that when someone lists their property with an Agent – either for sale or rent – they agree to pay them some form of commission in exchange for their services in helping them find suitable buyers/tenants. This amount varies depending on how much work was required by the Agent during negotiations.

Q: How do I find out who my local Listing Agents are?

A : You can search online for local real estate agents who specialize in listings or contact your state’s Real Estate Commission office directly for more information.

Q: What happens if I don’t have an Agent when I buy or sell my home?

A: Without an Agent, sellers will be responsible for finding potential buyers themselves, understanding local regulations related to buying & selling, negotiating prices & contracts, handling paperwork, etc. For buyers, without an Agent they will not have access to market knowledge & resources that could make them more competitive in making offers. It’s always advisable to work with Agents when dealing with complex transactions like these.

Q: How does a Listing Agent differ from a Selling (or Buyer’s) Agent?

A: The main difference between these two types of Agents lies in whom they represent during transactions. The Listing Agent works on behalf of sellers while Selling (or Buyer’s) Agents represent potential buyers. Both play important roles throughout negotiations & provide valuable advice throughout all stages.

Major Points:

  • Listing agents represent the seller while selling agents represent the buyer. This avoids conflicts of interest.
  • Listing agents market and sell the home, selling agents help buyers find and purchase properties.
  • Even though sellers pay all commissions, having a selling agent benefits buyers.
  • Most experts recommend using a real estate agent, whether you’re buying or selling.
  • When choosing an agent, get referrals, research online reviews, interview candidates, and verify proper licensing.

The buying or selling process can feel overwhelming. But the right real estate agent will help minimize stress and maximize results by leveraging their experience, networks and negotiation skills on your behalf. Understand the difference between listing and selling agents so you can make the best choice for your situation.

Did you know that, according to a survey by Richard Morrison, 72% of sellers were satisfied with their listing agent experience, while 80% of buyers were satisfied with their selling agent experience? With the right agent for the job, individuals on both sides of a real estate transaction report high rates of satisfaction.

So take your time, do your research, and partner with the real estate agent that’s the best fit for your needs – whether you’re on the buying or selling side! With an experienced professional guiding you through the complex process, you’ll be well-positioned for a successful and less stressful real estate experience.


Ready to turn your real estate dreams into reality? Contact Richard Morrison, Vancouver’s top realtor with 20+ years of experience. As a Medallion Club member and RE/MAX Hall of Fame award winning agent, he’s the expert you need on your side. Whether buying, selling, or investing, Richard’s personalized approach and deep market insights ensure a successful transaction. Reach out to Richard today at (778) 900-2235 and make your real estate journey seamless and rewarding.

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