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Different Types of Real Estate Experts

Buying your first house can be very exciting. Fortunately, you'll receive lots of expert help, but even the experts can be hard to sort out.

Real estate agent: An individual licensed by the state to represent a seller or a buyer in a real estate transaction. All agents work for a broker or brokerage firm, unless they have their own brokerage license. Agents may accompany you to visit a lender, show you properties, and coordinate the real estate team during purchase negotiations, including the lender, appraiser, closing agent, and title company. Agents are known by many terms; some describe professional distinctions while others describe the specific role of an agent in a transaction. An agent who writes up and presents a buyer's offer is called the selling agent, even if he or she also listed the house for the seller and will be paid by the seller. Unless they specify that they're exclusively representing the buyer (and you should ask), it's assumed that agents also represent the seller.

RealtorŪ: An agent or broker who is a member of the National Association Of Realtors and who thus abides by NAR's code of ethics. While NAR membership may inspire buyer confidence, finding a good experienced agent who's the right fit for you is key, even if they are not registered with an association.

What Duties Will The Agent Owe To You?

If the agent represents the seller: The agent typically becomes the Seller's agent either by entering into a listing agreement with the Seller or by agreeing to act as a subagent through a listing agent. A subagent may work in a different real estate office. A Seller's agent can assist the Buyer but does not represent the Buyer. A Seller's agent must place the interests of the Seller first. The Buyer should not tell a Seller's agent anything the Buyer would not want the Seller to know, because a Seller's agent must disclose to the Seller any material information he or she knows.

If the agent represents the buyer: The agent typically becomes the Buyer's agent by entering into an agreement to represent the Buyer. A Buyer's agent can assist the Seller but does not represent the Seller. A Buyer's agent must place the interest of the Buyer first. The Seller should not tell a Buyer's agent anything the Seller would not want the Buyer to know, because a Buyer's agent must disclose to the Buyer any material information he or she knows.

If the agent represents both (this is called Dual Agency): An agent may not represent both parties to a transaction unless the agent complies with specific requirements established by law. In addition to providing the parties with this form, the agent must enter into a written agreement with each party which authorizes the agent to represent more than one party and sets forth who will pay the agent's fee. The agent is required to treat both parties honestly and impartially so as not to favor one party or work to the disadvantage of any party. Unless written permission from the appropriate party is obtained, the agent is prohibited from disclosing: (a) that the Seller will accept a price less than the asking price; (b) that the Buyer will pay a price greater than the price submitted in a written offer; (c) any confidential information; or (d) any other information a party specifically instructs the agent in writing not to disclose, unless disclosure is required by law. The agent's duties to each party are more limited if he or she represents both parties than if the agent only represented one party, because there are potential conflicts of interest when an agent represents more than one party. The agent is obligated to inform each party of all facts the a gent knows which would affect the party's decision to permit the agent to represent both the Seller and the Buyer.

Real estate broker: An individual or firm that holds a state brokerage license and serves as an agent of the buyer or seller. Like other agents, brokers receive a commission - typically a percentage of the selling price of the home, usually paid by the seller. The difference between brokers and other agents is that while they are required to have a sales background, brokers must take additional courses and pass a brokerage exam. It allows them legally to run their own office.