Listing Agent, Selling Agent, Seller’s Agent: What’s the Difference?

Keeping track of the differences between a listing agent, selling agent, seller’s agent, and even buyer’s agent can be a bit challenging, so learning to recognize what these terms refer to in real estate quickly can help you move forward confidently with buying or selling your home. Below we’ve broken down what each of these terms means in real estate, the differences between them, and their expected responsibilities.

What is a listing agent?

A listing agent, also known as the seller’s agent, is a real estate agent who represents a home seller in a real estate transaction. A listing agent is responsible for assisting their client throughout the home selling process, which includes pricing the home, staging the interior and exterior, marketing the property, negotiating offers in the seller's best interest, and so much more. 

What is a selling agent?

A selling agent, more commonly known as a buyer’s agent, represents the homebuyer finding a house and guiding them through purchasing a home. However, a bit of a title transition occurs, which can be confusing for any prospective homebuyer, especially if you’re buying a home for the first time. Before the homebuyer and seller contract is signed, an agent working with a potential homebuyer is technically called a “buyer’s agent.” However, once the house goes under contract, the agent is referred to as the “selling agent,” not to be confused with the seller’s agent. This change is because the agent helped a buyer find a home and helped sell a property.

A selling agent will help search for properties that meet the buyer’s budget and desired characteristics, give house tours, submit and negotiate an offer on the buyer’s behalf, and ensure their client gets the best deal possible.

What’s the difference between a listing agent and a selling agent?

The main difference between a listing agent and a selling agent is who they represent – the listing agent represents the home seller, and the selling agent represents the homebuyer. There are also differences in the scope of services they provide and their role in the transaction. While some real estate agents may specialize in one side of the transaction, real estate licenses typically allow an agent or broker to represent a buyer or a seller as part of their practice.

What does a listing (seller’s) agent do?

A listing agent handles the sale of the house for the seller. They guide the seller through the process and are responsive to the seller’s questions. More specifically, the price and list the house, market the house to buyers and steer the negotiations with the buyer’s agent. 

A good listing agent with an exclusive right to sell the home uses their experience and knowledge to make your home stand out among all the other homes that are currently for sale, strategically price your house to sell based on comps in your area and depending on what’s happening in your local housing market, and ultimately help you during negotiations to help you sell your home for the best possible price.

Responsibilities of a listing agent

The listing agreement

The selling process begins with the listing agreement, a written contract that gives the agent the exclusive right to sell the property on your behalf. In this agreement, the listing agent’s commission, obligations, and responsibilities are specified. A signed agreement gives the agent the sole authority to market and sells the house within a set time frame.

Pricing your house

Soon after the listing agreement is signed, the agent will research similar homes that sold within the past few months in the area and give you the results in comparative market analysis (CMA), or what’s also known as a “comp.” The CMA shows similar homes and what they sold for if they are still on the market or were taken off the market. The agent will also know how long a typical home takes to sell in the local market. This information helps the listing agent determine the fair market value for your home and decide on the best (and most realistic) asking price to list your home.

Pricing a property is a delicate and tricky task and arguably one of the most important steps in the process. Using an online calculator to find how much your home is worth can give you a reasonable estimate. However, online calculators are not formal home appraisals. Always seek out the in-person expertise of a real estate agent or professional appraiser.

Prepping for the market

As part of an agent’s responsibilities of helping you decide on how to best prep your house to be on the market, they’ll also advise on which inspections and disclosure forms are required, if any. Another important aspect of preparing your home to sell is making any updates or repairs to the home, so it’s more appealing to buyers. Improvements might include replacing the roof, painting, performing a thorough cleaning, or improving the landscaping. 

A listing agent should also recommend contractors and service providers to assist with these repairs and improvements.

Marketing your house

Once the agent compares properties and settles on the appropriate pricing strategy for your home, they’ll find effective ways to market the home to potential buyers, such as professional photos and a 3D walkthrough

Your listing agent also writes the listing description, creates the sales brochures, places the “For Sale” sign in front of the house, and markets the property through both online and offline channels. They will either give you tips on staging your home yourself or recommend a professional home stager. 

Negotiating offers

The listing agent presents all offers to the seller and helps with considering multiple offer scenarios, and navigate bidding wars. Once the seller decides to accept an offer, the listing agent negotiates transaction details with the buyer’s agent. They also request and organize documentation from the buyer and make sure that all purchase contract terms are met. 

A good listing agent proactively communicates with their client, quickly responds to any questions, and keeps negotiations moving forward. An important, although unofficial, the listing agent's role is to keep everything as low-stress as possible.

Additionally, the listing agent advises the seller on various contingencies listed in an offer and contract, such as an inspection contingency or a home sale contingency.

Closing the sale

Although the closing is typically handled by a title or escrow company, the listing agent might recommend a specific company they like to work with because of their record for a quick closing, for example. The listing agent keeps the client updated on the closing timeline and ensures the entire process runs as smoothly as possible.

What does a selling (buyer’s) agent do?

A buyer’s agent is a licensed real estate agent who guides the buyer through the entire home buying process. They locate properties to present to the buyer, answer questions and offer advice. This agent typically works for a different brokerage than the listing agent. 

Responsibilities of a selling agent

Share homes that meet their client’s criteria

Since home buyers typically look for a home that works within their budget and has specific characteristics, like having three bedrooms, the buyer’s agent will provide lists of homes that meet your requirements. Multiple listing services (MLS) are the primary source of home listings information because they contain real-time information on virtually every home listed for sale in a given area and are the primary source where agents will pull data on houses for sale in the area you’re looking to move. 

Buyer’s agents typically know the local market very well and have a sense of what homes will actually sell for. So when you decide on a home you’d like to make an offer on, the buyer’s agent will help you decide on how much you should offer and which contingencies you might want to include. 

Tour properties with their client

Selling agents also present the house to their clients, which involves highlighting the home’s strongest selling points, pointing out any red flags, and addressing any questions or concerns the buyer may have.

Submit offers and assist with negotiations

Once the buyer narrows down their interesting properties, the buyer’s agent advises them on pricing and negotiation. They’ll also help their clients structure and prepare offers. Then they negotiate with the listing agent to help get their buyer the best possible price and overall deal. 

They should do all of this as the buyer’s advocate, looking out for the buyer’s best interests.

Recommend other professionals

Throughout the homebuying process, buyers may be required to work with a mortgage lender, title companies, home inspectors, contractors, and more. A selling agent will recommend reputable local experts they’ve used in the past and trust. 

How are listing agents and selling agents paid?

The listing agent and selling agent are paid a commission, around 5%–6% of the home’s sale price, and evenly split between the buyer’s agent and seller’s agent. This, however, can vary depending on the agent and location. The home seller typically pays the real estate commission for both the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. 

When the listing agent is also the selling agent (dual agency)

A dual agency occurs when one agent represents the buyer and the seller in the same real estate transaction. The main ethical dilemma with the dual agency is that the agent has to remain completely neutral to both the buyer and the seller and cannot put the interests of one party over another. This means you lose one of the biggest perks of working with a real estate agent – their responsibility to get you the best deal possible.  

In every state, a dual agent must disclose to the buyer and seller that they’ll represent both sides of the transaction and get approval beforehand. A dual agent cannot represent both clients without them knowing. Each state has its own laws around dual agency, so it’s important to look into your state’s regulations before signing any dual agency agreements.


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