When it comes to buying or selling a property, it’s important to understand the difference between a buyer’s agent and a seller’s agent in real estate.

How they can help you, particularly if you’re buying your first home or investment property?

Where you can find one — and who exactly do you need?

Here is everything you need to know about the roles these two types of agents play and why and when you should think about using them.

Buyer vs seller agent: The key difference

In short, the key difference between a buyer’s vs seller’s agent is who they represent.

A buyers’ agent works exclusively for the buyer to help them buy a property with the least stress, whereas the selling agent works for the vendor to help them sell their property for the best price.

In the end, they’re both working towards the same goal – getting the deal done – but with entirely different objectives in mind.

And it’s important to note that in Australia, an agent cannot legally act for (and accept a commission) from both parties in the transaction – they can only represent either the buyer or seller to avoid a conflict of interest.

What is a buyer’s agent?

A buyer’s agent or buyer’s advocate is an unbiased, licensed real estate professional who solely represents the buyer.

A buyer’s agent is hired by a home buyer to help them navigate through the buying process and help ensure they are buying a property in a fair and reasonable manner and condition, on the best terms, and for the best price achievable in the prevailing market.

A proficient buyer’s agent will be able to give you unbiased and professional recommendations for every property they present without any commitment to any one property.

And the added bonus is because there is no hidden agenda, a buyer’s agent is free to search anywhere in the market, both on- and off-market properties, private sales, and also advertised properties.

What is a seller’s agent?

A seller’s agent is the opposite of a buyer’s agent because instead of working and being paid by the purchaser, the seller’s agent is hired by a homeowner who is looking to sell their property.

They are typically known as real estate agents and are responsible for organising the sales process with the main objective of getting the best price and sale terms possible for the seller, and in the most efficient way possible.

The benefit of a seller’s agent is that they can basically act as a market reporter and dish out their experience and advice, saving a seller the leg work of having to do all the research and finding and negotiating with buyers themselves.

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They will explain what the market could pay for a property and advise about the most effective way to reach potential purchasers.

Because it’s a seller’s agent’s job to present the property in the best possible light, they’ll often choose the best photos possible with flattering descriptions and sell the property leaning heavily on any positives there are to offer, rather than pointing out any negatives to buyers.

What does a buyer’s agent do?

1. Develop a brief

Firstly, a buyer’s agent will work with a buyer to draw up a brief of everything a buyer wants and needs out of a prospective property in order to know what to search for.

This includes budget, what a buyer wants out of the property itself, the neighbourhood, and also helping to identify the best suburbs and locations to fit a buyer’s budget and lifestyle needs.

Now if they are working with investors many buyer’s agents try and deliver strategic investment advice when, in fact, that is not their area of expertise.

I believe property investors should first work with an independent property strategist to formulate a Strategic Property Plan to help them to reach their long-term investment goals and then it’s the buyer’s agent’s job is to implement the plan.

While a good buyer’s agent will have in-depth local real estate knowledge and market perspective for a small segment of Australia’s property market, they will not be in the position to give advice on locations outside their area of expertise.

In fact, they are usually biased and will direct clients to locations the buyer’s agent is comfortable with – even though they may not be the best option for the buyer.

2. Research

Buyers’ agents already have a wealth of information available on recently sold, under contract, and available properties in the location that meets the buyer’s brief which they can use to give a good understanding of that local market.

Having this information to hand not only cuts down the research time for buyers but can also help to manage expectations of what locations and property types are available for the briefed budget.

3. Shortlist potential properties

The buyer’s agent then uses their research and buyers brief to search for and put together a shortlist of the best properties available which meet the criteria.

They would then make appointments to look at and evaluate these properties.

They should then present their client with the most appropriate property for their needs.

4. Evaluate and analyse

Once the buyer has found the ideal property, their buyer’s agent will then help to analyse the price and value before making an offer, then explain the offer to the buyer and advise whether or not they could or should ask for special conditions in the contract.

5. Arrange inspections and tests

A buyer’s agent will attend the property when a valuer inspects it and also help to coordinate things like a pest and building inspection which could help facilitate the exchange of contracts.

They will also point out extra other potential issues which aren’t included in the traditional home inspection but may prevent expensive surprises later down the track.

6. Negotiate and secure

This is the last and final step, and this is where having a buyer’s agent really comes into its own.

By having a relationship with many agents and by speaking their language, a proficient buyer’s agent will be able to negotiate on your behalf, get inside information on how the sale is progressing, and achieve the best possible price and terms for you.

As a great negotiator, they will not only level the playing field, they should keep the scales to their advantage by knowing how to negotiate on your behalf.

Not only that but they will help to decipher any documents, agreements, or title commitments for you, the buyer, and coordinate communication between the lender, conveyancer the vendor, his agent, and the buyer.

And finally, a buyer’s agent will ensure their buyer has the correct documents and is able to understand them, and signs in the right places in the required timeframe.

5 benefits of using a buyer’s agent

Of course, some buyers might ask: “Why to pay money for something you can do yourself?”.

And it’s a good question.

Here are 5 reasons you need a buyers agent on your side:

  1. Their research saves you money – they know what’s really going on in the property market – after all, they’re in it all day.
  2. Their skills reduce your stress.
    Buying a home or investment property can be about as nerve-racking as it gets.
    It’s emotional, exhausting, and sometimes terribly discouraging.
    A buyers’ agent’s job is to make the process as hassle-free as possible for you.
  3. Their experience saves you time – and this is one of your most precious assets.
    Using a buyers’ agent will give you back your weekends.
  4. Their industry knowledge levels the playing field – selling agents are not your friend, they represent their client – the seller.
  5. Their industry contacts widen your options – they have access to every property for sale and a good buyers’ agent even has access to silent – “off-market sales” that you may never find out about.

How do I find a good buyers’ agent?

Not all buyers’ agents are the same.

Here are some questions you could ask your buyers’ agent before engaging them:

1. Are you a fully licensed real estate agent?

Be wary of hiring someone who doesn’t hold a full real estate license and hasn’t had extensive experience in the property industry.

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There are many people out there calling themselves buyers’ agents or buyers’ advocates who are not licensed, estate agents.

Don’t risk putting what could be one of the largest purchases in your life in the hands of somebody who hasn’t had the years of experience necessary to negotiate on your behalf.

Don’t be tempted to engage somebody just because they offer lower fees.

If they can provide great service and add real value for their clients, they wouldn’t have to win new business by offering low fees. You want a great negotiator on your side!

And beware. There is currently a swag of the new buyer’s agent who only a few months ago had different jobs.

Avoid these enthusiastic amateurs – let them learn the skills representing other people – can you really afford to take a chance?

2. Are you a member of the State Real Estate Institute?

This should give you the reassurance that they are operating to professional industry standards.

3. Do you have current professional indemnity insurance? 

If something goes wrong with your property purchase, you will have absolutely no recourse if this is not the case.

4. Are you a dedicated buyers’ agent?

Or are they just a division of a real estate agency or a one-man-band working from home or out of a post office box?

They can’t offer a high standard of service when searching and negotiating for properties for their clients unless they are dedicated professionals focused on this process.

5. Do you specialise in the geographic location and the price range I am looking at?

If the buyers’ agent doesn’t have a strong recent track record of buying in the area you are looking at purchasing in, we suggest you don’t engage their services.

Don’t be shy to ask them for the results of at least four recent purchases in the area you are looking at buying in.

6. Do you have access to “silent sales?”

Many properties that are sold never hit the public market.

It is imperative that your buyers’ agent has years of personal relationships with all of the real estate agents in the area you are looking at purchasing in, so as soon as properties come up for sale you have access to these before they go to the general public.

What does a seller’s agent do?

Similar to a buyer’s agent, a seller’s agent, or real estate agent also has set strategies that help to sell a home.

Here are 6 key things a seller’s agent can do for a vendor:

1. Property presentation

A seller’s agent can help make the property stand out from the crowd to lure in potential buyers.

Anything from staging, to decluttering or even pointing out minor work that can be done to boost the price, the seller’s agent is armed with a wealth of useful information for how to get the most out of the sale.

2. Marketing

A great seller’s agent will know the best way to market the property in order to reach the most amount of (suitable) buyers, attract interest and maximise the sale price.

3. Drive engagement

Much like marketing, a seller’s agent is great at driving interest and engagement from sellers, including drumming up competition between buyers with the objective of pushing the sale price higher.

4. Pricing

This is where using a top-selling agent comes into their own.

These agents can use their market know-how and experience combined with recent data and information on like-for-like properties to be able to pinpoint how much a property is likely to sell for.

They can also collect market feedback to confirm or even revise the estimated sale price throughout its marketing campaign.

5. Communication

A selling agent acts as the middle link between a buyer and the seller, meaning they can pass on feedback or offers to the vendor from potential buyers.

This also means these agents can facilitate communication throughout the sale process.

6. Negotiation

A seller’s agent can deal and negotiate prices with multiple buyers to get the best result for the seller. They should be professional negotiators.

4 benefits of using a seller’s agent

Property sellers usually want to maximise profit when selling their homes, so it can be tempting to save on the cost of an agent.

But here are 4 reasons why you need to get a seller’s agent on your side.

1. They’ve got the marketing know-how

Real estate agents know what gets properties sold.

Want to have a crack at photographing your home and writing the listing yourself?

I can almost guarantee that it won’t be as good as what an agent (and their copywriters, photographers, and graphic designers) can come up with.

For a start, you’re too emotionally invested to think objectively about the property.

Plus, chances are you’re not a professional at doing any of these things, even if your selfie game is pretty strong.

So, leave it to the experts, who know exactly what lighting and angle work best, or which on-trend buzzwords are going the get the most clicks.

2. They understand the importance of staging

Renovating costs a lot, but you can improve the appearance (and saleability and price) of your property in a much cheaper way through clever staging.

It’s hard to do this yourself.

You don’t have access to all the awesome furniture hire places, nor do you have an interior designer on speed dial to ask for advice.

And, as I mentioned earlier, those heartstrings will be tugging away, steering you in all kinds of foolish directions.

An agent can survey a room, minus emotion, and know instantly that the muted shade on the walls needs brightening with some art, or that the amazing couch you inherited from Nanna is making the living room seem hopelessly small.

3. They’ll cast a critical eye over the outside, too

Your garden works for your family, but you’re selling the place, not buying it, remember!

Just like the inside areas, jazzing up the garden means taking your memories out of the equation.

Sure, the kids loved that creaky old swing set or the death-trap trampoline.

But potential buyers don’t see that!

An agent will advise you on how you can make the area desirable to future owners.

It could be as simple as taking some junk to the tip or clearing a spot for a fire pit and outdoor seating.

4. Sure they’ll charge you a commission – but could also earn you (and save you) a fortune

When advising you on any improvements you should make, or what marketing avenues might work best, agents can often actually save you money!

Without their input, you might have spent $10,000 on a kitchen update, only to realise that a $200 paint job and an affordable new kitchen bench would have sufficed.

Agents know which changes will add value, and which ones won’t.

When it comes time to exchange contracts, you’ll be thanking them for helping you achieve the maximum sale price for the minimum outlay.

How do I find a good seller’s agent?

With so many real estate agents out there, where do you start when trying to find the best or the right one for you?

Asking these 6 questions will help narrow your search:

1. What’s the best method to sell this property?

Essentially, there are three different strategies for selling a property: private treaty sale, tender, or an auction and each has various benefits and negatives and will suit different markets at different times.

With a great real estate agent on board, they’ll take a look at everything your property offers before guiding you towards choosing the strategy that best suits your situation and current market conditions.

2. How should we advertise and market the property?

Marketing and advertising can make so much difference to the selling price of a property.

So before you pick an agent, ask them how they’d approach this aspect of selling and the estimated costs.

3. Is now a good time to sell?

Obviously, the real estate agent wants your listing, so they’re likely to highlight the benefits of selling immediately.

But a great real estate agent will be honest about current conditions: they’ll tell you how your particular market has changed over the last 12 months, which types of buyers are most active, and what kind of activity they expect on your property.

They should also be able to estimate how long they think it’ll take to sell.

4. What is your track record like?

Any agent worth their salt will be all too happy to prove they’ve got a successful track record in selling.

Whether they show you this by sharing their most recent sales statistics, testimonials from other happy clients or even providing contact details to references, it will always be a prudent question to ask.

Be sure to look for their results in the particular suburb that you’re selling in, too, as agents with local expertise will have the edge on ‘out of area’ agents.

5. How much is all of this going to cost?

A good real estate agent will be able to give you a good estimate of how much it’s going to cost you to sell, including selling commission, fees, advertising, and marketing costs.

6. Why should I hire you?

This one is plain and simple, but so important.

Any real estate agent who really wants your business will be able to easily tell you why you should choose them – and with confidence.

Metropole’s Vendor’s Advocacy

When selling your property you want to achieve the best price with the least hassle.

Rather than going directly to an estate agent why not use Metropole Vendor’s Advocacy Service which is a special no-extra-cost service to property sellers.

We’re here to shield you from the hassles of the selling process.

We are independent and work for you.

We tell you the truth.

Our experience as Australia’s leading property buyers’ agency shows many vendors don’t achieve an optimum sale price due to poor advice or pressure from their selling agent.

Now you can have an independent agent from Metropole on your side when you sell your property.

To achieve the highest selling price for your property, you need help finding the right agent to sell your property, as well impartial and strategic advice on the correct timing, the most appropriate method of sale, the most cost-effective advertising campaign, and the negotiation process.

We will:

  1. Sit down with you and determine your needs.
  2. Recommend the best agent (not an agency) for you.
    We know the best agents and the worst agents as we have been buying from them on behalf of our clients for many years.
  3. Check the agent’s fees and advertising recommendations to save you unnecessary expenses.
    Should you sell by auction or private sale?
    How much should you spend on advertising without wasting your money?
    We’ll tell you!
  4. Monitor the selling agent’s performance.
  5. Consider any offers made and give our recommendations to you.
    Then we’ll help negotiate on your behalf, giving you our input all the way.
  6. Follow the sale through until settlement.

We charge the Selling Agent a percentage fee based on the sale price of your property which comes out of their commission when the sale is made.

This means that you get our service at no extra charge, but that it is in all our interests that you get the best possible price.

Find out more about Metropole’s Vendor’s Advocacy services here.

The bottom line

Whether you’re looking to sell your property or buy a new home or investment, an agent can bring a lot of value to the table and help facilitate the best possible outcome to suit your needs.

Sure, you can try going it alone, but I’d guarantee you wouldn’t get the same results as an expert with years of experience and market knowledge under their belt like the teams here at Metropole.

Brett Warren
About Brett Warren
Brett Warren is Director of Metropole Properties Brisbane and uses his 13 plus years property investment experience to advise clients how to grow, protect and pass on their build their wealth through property.
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