What Are Real Estate Agent Networks?

Real estate agent networks connect home buyers and sellers to affiliated local real estate agents.

Profile photo of Kate Wood
Written by Kate Wood
Lead Writer
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Edited by Johanna Arnone
Assistant Assigning Editor
Fact Checked

Some or all of the mortgage lenders featured on our site are advertising partners of NerdWallet, but this does not influence our evaluations, lender star ratings or the order in which lenders are listed on the page. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners.

Editor's Note: In April 2024, a judge granted preliminary approval to a settlement in a class-action lawsuit over real estate agents' commissions. See how that will affect home buyers and home sellers.

A real estate agent network is a referral service that connects potential home buyers and sellers with real estate agents. Some agent networks, like Clever, are more or less standalone services. Others, like Rocket Homes, have relationships with mortgage lenders; Rocket Homes is a sibling company to Rocket Mortgage.

Some agent networks — like Clever and Rocket — partner with agents who work for a variety of brokerages. Others, like Redfin, employ some of their own agents and partner with others. With these partnerships, the agent pays part of their commission to the network in exchange for being handed a client.

In some cases, you'll answer a brief survey or questionnaire before being presented with potential real estate agents. In others, you'll provide your contact information or speak with a representative on the phone, then be connected directly to an agent. It's certainly faster than researching and interviewing agents on your own, but there are trade-offs.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Before you agree to use an agent referral service, find out what happens if you want to switch to a different network agent or if you decide you'd rather find an agent on your own. You don't want to be stuck in a bad relationship with your real estate agent.

Pros of using a real estate agent network

If you're trying to sell a home fast or looking for a way to save a few bucks, a real estate agent network could help. Here are some of the potential pluses.

  • Seamless transaction. Working with an agent who’s affiliated with a mortgage lender could make buying or selling a smoother experience. Agents who regularly work with a specific lender may have more open lines of communication with loan officers and underwriters, which can help during the closing process. Companies that offer agent referrals may also connect you to other real estate services, which could save you time — and you may be offered discounts.

  • Help in a hot market. Agent networks can offer programs that can give buyers a leg up in a competitive market — for example, providing an appraisal guarantee that allows you to lock in your loan offer even if the appraisal comes back low. 

  • Hands-off assistance. Say you inherited a home or got a job offer in another state. A referral network could match you with a local agent or provide helpful tools to take care of the transaction if you can't always be there in person.

The details — and whether they're in your favor — depend on the company and your needs as a buyer or seller. If you're already committed to a specific lender and if using a buyer's agent in their network could lower your closing costs, that might be a win-win.

Cons of using a real estate agent network

Leaving your choice of agent up to a referral network isn't for everyone. If you're a first-time home buyer and need someone who's willing to put in the time to provide guidance and expertise, consider searching for and interviewing a buyer's agent on your own. Here are some potential downsides to using a referral network.

  • Less autonomy. Some agent networks are parts of parent companies that are trying to own every piece of the homebuying journey and to take full advantage of their benefits, you have to use their service providers. Some buyers and sellers find this convenience worthwhile. But if by default you're opting in to using the agent network's preferred lender, title company and so on, you might not get the best service or the best deal.

  • Lack of transparency. It can be difficult to find out whether and how real estate agent networks vet their partner agents. A valid real estate license is a common requirement, but that's setting the bar fairly low.

  • Limited availability. If you live in a state where numerous agent networks operate — California is a prime example — you can compare your options. But in other states, your choices may be limited. Additionally, buyer commission rebates (an incentive that's usually presented as closing credits for home buyers) are illegal in eight states.

  • Fine print. A lender or real estate company might toss out various sums and percentages that sound like they'll add up to considerable savings. But before you get too excited, make sure you understand which of their programs or discounts you can actually use. 

If you're interested in discounts or special programs, consider whether other methods might save you more money while giving you greater autonomy. For example, if you're a first-time buyer looking to save on closing costs, an agent network's rebate program may be enticing. But you could also dig into local and state first-time home buyer programs that offer down payment assistance or grants.

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