What Does a Real Estate Agent Do, and Do I Really Need One?


The real estate industry has changed drastically in recent years, and the role of the real estate agent has shifted as well.

Developments in technology have impacted everything in our world, particularly the real estate field. Websites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com have completely changed the game. In fact, many of the tasks which made real estate agents critical a couple decades ago have become completely obsolete. As recently as the 1990s, it was necessary to contact a real estate agent just to find out what was available on the market because they were the only ones who had access to the multiple listing service (MLS), the repository of the vast majority of homes available on the market.

The internet has put immense amounts of information at consumers’ fingertips. Today, in just a few seconds, anyone with a computer or smart phone can access every piece of real estate that’s currently listed as well as a treasure trove of information about those properties. In some localities, consumers can even gain access for property viewings without the help of an agent.

All this begs the question, what do real estate agents really do? And perhaps more importantly, does the average consumer really need the help of an agent?

Beyond the traditional property search and showing functions, the right real estate agent can provide value in a host of ways. Let’s talk about a few of them.

Access to off-market properties and deeper information

While the internet and real estate sites have made loads of property information easily accessible, there is some intel that can’t be gleaned from the web. Real estate agents are privy to data about their local market – much of which never makes it online.

Well-connected agents will often have knowledge of many properties that may be available for purchase but can’t be found on the MLS or major online sites and others that will soon be available. In these days of persistent ultra-low inventory, tapping into this kind of information can mean the difference between finding your dream home quickly or prolonging an endless home search.

Understanding of current trends and local nuances

The real estate market by its nature is ever-changing. It can also vary substantially from street to street. One block may contain million-dollar properties while the next block over is full of abandoned houses. The reasons for this are not always obvious. But experienced agents understand the current trends and the subtle differences in local neighborhoods and sections of town. Tapping into that knowledge can help prevent you from overpaying for a property you’re attempting to buy or underselling one you’re planning to liquidate.


Knowledge of the process and negotiation experience

There’s no way around it, buying or selling a house is a complicated process. Even the most seemingly simple of transactions can contain unexpected snares. These can be extremely costly. An experienced real estate agent can help you navigate this process with minimal disruption, avoiding as many pitfalls as possible and anticipating and proactively mitigating the unavoidable ones.

Seasoned real estate agents are also experienced negotiators. They are dispassionate third parties that can provide wise, cool counsel in scenarios when emotions often run hot. 

Access to a network of other professionals

Buying or selling a house involves the services of not just real estate professionals but usually dozens of other professionals as well. Attorneys, lenders, appraisers, home inspectors, surveyors, and a host of various contractors are all regularly involved in a single transaction. The best real estate agents will have a vast network of relationships and experience with these individual professionals. When you need to know who to call, they can tell you. This is one of the most significant values that a real estate agent can provide.

The right agent vs The wrong agent

Thus far we have carefully qualified our discussion of real estate agents with words like experienced, seasoned, and professional. This is important because not all agents bring the same level of value. An inexperienced agent can do as much harm as an experienced agent can do good.

So, in answer to our original questions, “What do real estate agent do, and do you really need one?” The answer is a resounding but qualified yes.

Next time you are in the market as a buyer or a seller, make sure that you are dealing with a seasoned, competent professional. Interview several before you hire one and get a feel for their level of experience and connectedness.

Real estate agents in the modern age still have plenty to do and considerable value to offer. But how much value an agent can bring depends on their level of experience, depth of local knowledge, and the extensiveness of their network.

The right one will help you avoid lots of headaches and put many more dollars in your pocket.

About the author: Jordan Hall is a (reformed) attorney, real estate broker, and entrepreneur. He wrote the book, Every Degree Debt Free, about his experiences paying for law school without loans. Today, he no longer practices law but helps folks build wealth so that they can live their purpose and leave a legacy. He is also a French fry connoisseur.