A real estate agent is a person who is authorized to conduct real estate business in a given state. This is a licensed professional who is educated in real estate matters and has passed a state board exam. In many states, there are significant distinctions between the terms "agent", "salesperson", "broker", etc. In most cases, when speaking of an "agent", the person is talking about a salesperson as opposed to a broker (a broker tends to handle higher-level real estate issues).
Real estate terms for professionals can be very difficult to figure out. In some states, an "agent" is called a "real estate broker", while the broker is called a "qualifying broker". In some states like Colorado, all licensed real estate professionals are considered brokers.
Depending on their education, licensing, and certification, real estate agents may perform tasks such as:
- Handle standard client forms and questionnaires
- Answer basic questions that buyer or seller clients may have
- Review real estate contracts
- Engage in negotiation of prices, up to closing of a deal
- Showcase property and guide clients in walk-throughs and open houses
- Provide clients with some information up to a certain level of knowledge and expertise
Real estate agents or salespersons are sometimes limited in their actual work capacity. For instance, they sometimes need to obtain confirmation from a supervising broker when it comes to more important transaction decisions. For most home buyers, this distinction does not really have any effects. However, for more experienced investors and commercial investors, a broker may be more preferable over a sales agent.
Dual agency is when the same brokerage firm represents both the buyer and the seller in the transaction. This is not so common anymore in some states; however, it can often be acceptable where the same brokerage firm represents the clients, but different agents within the firm represent the buyer and seller respectively. This creates a somewhat different agency relationship.
Dual agency arrangements must always be disclosed to both the buyer and the seller. Undisclosed dual agency work is illegal in all U.S. states. Legal disputes with real estate agents can also involve fraud, misrepresentation, and other issues. A lawsuit is sometimes necessary to allow the plaintiff to recover damages that result from the violations.
Real estate agents are necessary for most real estate transactions. Working with a real estate agent can sometimes involve various legal concerns. You may wish to hire a real estate lawyer if you need assistance with any type of real estate issues. Your attorney can represent you in court and can help you pursue the course of action that best fits your situation.