One of the most complex and important financial events in peoples' lives is the purchase or sale of a home or investment property. As a result, people usually seek the help of real estate brokers and sales agents when buying or selling real estate. Real estate brokers and sales agents have a thorough knowledge of the real estate market in their community. They know which neighborhoods will best fit clients' needs and budgets. They are familiar with local zoning and tax laws and know where to obtain financing. Agents and brokers also act as an intermediary in price negotiations between buyers and sellers.
Real estate agents usually are independent sales workers who provide their services to a licensed real estate broker on a contract basis. In return, the broker pays the agent a portion of the commission earned from the agent's sale of the property. Brokers are independent business people who sell real estate owned by others; they also may rent and manage properties for a fee. When selling real estate, brokers arrange for title searches and for meetings between buyers and sellers where details of the transactions are agreed upon and the new owners take possession.
A broker may help to arrange favorable financing from a lender for the prospective buyer that often makes the difference between success and failure in closing a sale. In some cases, brokers and agents assume primary responsibility for closing sales; in others, lawyers or lenders do this. Brokers supervise agents who may have many of the same job duties. Brokers also manage their own offices, advertise properties, and handle other business matters. Some combine other types of work, such as selling insurance or practicing law, with their real estate business.
There is more to an agent or broker's job than making sales. They must have properties to sell. Consequently, they spend a significant amount of time obtaining listings - owner agreements to place properties for sale with the firm. When listing a property for sale, agents and brokers compare the listed property with similar properties that have recently sold to determine its competitive market price. Once the property is sold, the agent who sold the property and the agent who obtained the listing both receive a portion of the commission. Thus, agents who sell a property they also listed can increase their commission.