Real estate agents are licensed professionals. The Virginia Real Estate Board, an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia, closely governs their activities.  A REALTOR® is a federally registered collective membership mark which identifies a real estate professional who is member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.

What is the difference between a Realtor vs real estate agent?

If you are relatively new to real estate, chances are you have asked yourself about the differences between today’s most popular real estate professions. You may have noticed various industry titles being thrown around, such as real estate agent, Realtor, broker, or salesperson. This can get very confusing, especially as some of these titles are often used interchangeably, even though there are distinct differences between each. The bottom line is, a REALTOR® must go through more certifications and training and they are held to a higher standard.

What’s the difference between the Buyer’s Agent and the Seller’s Agent?

Real estate agents can provide services to both the buyer and seller.  Agents must disclose, in writing, which party they represent.  You will be asked to sign this disclosure acknowledging you have received it.  It is important that the buyer and seller in a Real Estate Transaction each have a professional advocating for them. They both have very specific interests in the transaction and they need to be represented professionally.

Buyer agents will expect you to sign an exclusive retainer agreement and you might be asked to pay a retainer fee (usually refunded when you settle). The agreement may be “exclusive.” That means you agree to work only with that agent. In most cases, the seller pays the buyer agent’s fee at settlement. However, if you have signed an exclusive buyer agency agreement and break it to buy a house from someone else, you would owe the buyer agent a fee.

Is the real estate commission negotiable?

The answer to this question is YES. There is no “set” fee and you may find agents who are willing to discount their fees. There are also limited-service companies that will work with you for a flat fee rather than a percentage commission.

What exactly does a Real Estate Agent do for me?

Agents can pre-qualify you to determine your appropriate price range and financing. Agents locate suitable properties, provide information on comparable sales, help select financing, and write the sales agreement. The agent will also act as a “go between” in the negotiations between buyer and the seller. After writing the contract, the agent arranges for other services to help you get through closing, (such as home inspection, termite inspection, etc) and ultimately process the case to settlement.

Why do you need a closing professional?

A real estate agent does not owe you a duty of fiduciary care — the high standard imposed on attorneys and trustees. The agent answers to a standard of ordinary care — what a reasonable person would do. Agents must disclose to you all known material matters concerning the condition of the property, but they are not required to take any special precautions or do any special inspections on your behalf. The agent may rely on statements from the other party unless it is obvious they are false or known to be false. Technically, unless you hire an attorney to represent you at closing, no one else participating in  the closing exclusively represents your interests.

Buying a home will probably be the largest and most significant purchase you will make in your life. It also involves the law of real property, which is unique and raises special legal issues and problems not present in other transactions. A real estate lawyer is trained to handle these problems and has the most experience to deal with them.