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Published February 7, 2024
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What Is a Real Estate Agent?

In the home buying process, the agent is the link between the buyer and seller.

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A real estate agent is an individual licensed to sell and lease commercial or residential property. 

Many perceive real estate agents as lowlifes just there to squeeze every last dollar out of them. As a result, they usually fare appallingly in surveys of trusted professions — ranking only above advertising people and car salesmen for ethics and honesty[1]

However, despite the antics of some questionable characters continuing to bring the sector into disrepute, real estate agents have played an integral role in the great Aussie homeownership dream. And they are likely to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. 

What do real estate agents do?

In the home buying process, the agent is the link between the buyer and seller. An agent finds properties to list, markets them, and then finds a buyer to negotiate a price with. They also conduct auctions where the objective is to encourage competition to obtain the best possible sale price. 

Real estate agents also act as property managers. They work with owners to lease properties out to tenants and are responsible for collecting rent and carrying out maintenance whenever required. Real estate agents work on a larger scale in the commercial property sector. They can manage entire buildings or floors of buildings, which involves setting budgets for industrial-scale cleaning and building repairs.

In Australia, a real estate agent differs from a property agent and a buyer’s agent.

  • A property agent manages properties for leasing and is only involved in the rental market.
  • A buyer’s agent is there exclusively to help buyers through the purchase process. 

» MORE: 10 questions to ask a real estate agent

Qualifications and obligations

Despite community perceptions to the contrary, real estate agents in Australia need to be qualified. A range of ethics, codes and regulations also bind their behaviour. There is no national accreditation, but the minimum qualification in most States is a Certificate IV in Real Estate Practice. This certificate covers an agent’s legal and ethical duties of an agent, property sales and management, and client interaction.  

The course length may vary slightly among States. Typically, it takes only one to four months to complete. Afterwards, graduates must have work experience with a licensed agent for 12 months. The course is standardised so graduates can usually complete the course in one State and take up a work opportunity in another without upskilling. 

The process is designed to ensure a new agent obtains the appropriate knowledge and experience to operate independently. Anyone completing the certificate course and the training becomes fully accredited and can open their own agency or work for an existing one.  

Real estate agents in some States must also undertake continuous professional development training to remain licensed. Most agents belong to professional associations such as the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), which maintains ethics guidelines they expect their members to adhere to. 

The Australian property market is heavily regulated, too. The Fair Trading departments, or their equivalents in each State, monitor real estate agents closely.

What is the average commission for a real estate agent? 

Most real estate agents are usually paid by commission. However, a small number also operate on a retainer or a regular salary.

In Australia, the average agent’s commission on a property sale is around the 2-2.5% mark. So, if you sell a house valued at $1.5 million, your commission would be in the $30,000-$37,500 range. 

This may vary depending on the region or the property’s unique characteristics. Commissions are usually negotiable and tend to be less a percentage the greater the property’s value.  

The role of a real estate agent: from start to finish

Real estate agents perform a range of roles when selling a property. They should be able to assist you from the start of the process to its conclusion. Once you’ve decided to sell and contacted an agent, they will appraise the property’s value based on factors such as the neighbourhood and the type of property. 

They will then inform you of the best time to sell, advise you whether to go for a private treaty or auction sale, market the property online and physically, find a buyer and hopefully get you a sale for the price you want. Additionally, a good agent should be able to identify the property’s top selling points and make the best recommendations regarding renovations if required.

Primarily, a real estate agent is there to negotiate the best possible price for your house. They will market it through a combination of promotional material, which is handed out at open inspections, social media and website content, and advertising on sites such as realestate.com.au

Alternatives to using a real estate agent

Despite the obvious benefits, you may still not want to use a real estate agent when selling your property, perhaps due to the fees involved. There are alternatives. You could, for example, sell the property privately in a process known as For Sale by Owner (FSBO). This means the home is being sold directly by the owner, who takes on a real estate agent’s duties. 

Doing so could be a complicated process, however. It may involve everything from producing marketing and advertising content. This includes everything from creating brochures and flyers to scheduling and hosting open inspections and doing all the negotiations on price yourself. So, be prepared to do a lot of extra work if you opt to sell your property without the help of a real estate agent.

Article Sources

Works Cited
  1. Roy Morgan, “Roy Morgan Image of Professions Survey 2021,” accessed February 7, 2024.

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