Whether you’re in the market for a new home or selling the one you own now, chances are you’ll want to find a real estate agent who can help you navigate the process.

Listing agents help you market and sell your home. Selling agents help you find and buy one. And while their titles might sound similar, their roles in the transaction are quite different. If you’re serious about buying or selling a home, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the role each type of agent plays, and the advantages of having one in your corner.

The difference between listing and selling agents

Both of these real estate professionals play a key role in the homebuying process, but they work on opposite sides of the transaction. Listing agents represent home sellers — as the name suggests, they create and promote the listing for a home that’s for sale. Somewhat confusingly, selling agents represent the purchaser’s interests and are therefore also known as buyer’s agents.

What does a listing agent do?

A listing agent, also commonly referred to as a seller’s agent, represents the seller in a real estate transaction — they literally list the house on the market. Their job involves setting a competitive price for the home and then bringing in potential buyers to see it. Working with a listing agent gives you access to their expertise and knowledge of the local housing market. They have the most current and detailed information on the sales of comparable properties in your neighborhood, which allows them to price your home correctly.

Once you’ve set a price, listing agents actively market the property. They’ll help style the home to present it in its best light and often hire professional photographers to take high quality pictures. Listing agents not only show the home and hold open houses, but they help evaluate potential buyers as well. When an offer is received, the listing agent walks the seller through the negotiations, handling the paperwork and ultimately closing on the sale. For their services, listing agents typically earn a commission of about 2 to 3 percent of the sale price.

What does a selling agent do?

A selling agent represents the buyer in a home sale. That might sound confusing, but there’s logic behind the terminology: Prior to a contract being signed, the agent representing the buyer is usually called the buyer’s agent, which makes sense. After the two parties agree to terms and the house is under contract, the buyer’s agent can then be referred to as a selling agent. Why? Because they produced a buyer who purchased the home.

A selling agent helps house-hunters find homes for sale that fit their needs. They identify properties their clients might be interested in purchasing, contact the listing agents to set up showings, present the sellers with offers from their clients and guide clients through closing once an offer is accepted.

The services of a selling agent can be especially valuable in a very competitive housing market. Having an experienced agent at your side can help you navigate the competition more successfully, particularly if bidding wars are involved. A selling agent’s commission fee is typically around the same as the listing agent’s: between 2 and 3 percent.

Do you really need one (or the other)?

The internet changed the ways people shop for homes, and the pandemic changed them even further. In fact, more than half — 51 percent — of the homes purchased in 2022 were found online, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

You can certainly go house-hunting or put up a “for sale” sign on your own, but enlisting the help of a professional does offer benefits. In some cases, it might even be necessary: Some listing agents will only accept offers from a buyer’s representative. According to NAR data, 86 percent of buyers and sellers use real estate agents, and agent-assisted listings tend to sell for nearly $100,000 more than “for sale by owner” homes.

Dual agency

Sometimes, the same real estate agent can represent both the seller and the buyer in a transaction. For example, if you attend an open house on your own, love it, and put an offer in directly to the agent who’s holding the open house, that agent would be acting as a dual agent. This practice can make for a smoother transaction, but it can also present a fundamental conflict of interest, since the agent is getting paid based on how much the home sells for. For this reason, dual agency is actually illegal in several states.

Next steps: Find a local agent

For most people, buying or selling a home is one of the largest financial decisions of their lifetime. The right agent can help you avoid pitfalls and secure the best possible deal. Ask friends and family for recommendations, look online, and scan neighborhoods you’re interested in for “for sale” or “sold” signs. Be sure to interview multiple candidates to choose someone who’s a good fit for you — you want an agent who you can work well with and trust to guide you in the right direction.


  • Yes, both listing agents and selling agents typically receive a commission of about 2 to 3 percent of the home’s final sale price. Commissions are often negotiable, though.
  • Yes — a real estate listing agent is so named because they literally list a house on the market and oversee the listing. Since listing agents represent the home seller, they’re also called seller’s agents.
  • Confusingly, yes: The agent who represents the buyer in a real estate transaction is typically called the buyer’s agent, but is sometimes also referred to as the “selling” agent. This is different from the “seller’s” agent, which refers to the agent who represents the seller.