What Does a Real Estate Agent Do? We Followed One of the Best to Find Out

At HomeLight, our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain, and satisfying. Therefore, we promote strict editorial integrity in each of our posts.

When preparing to buy or sell a property, it can be tempting to try the do it yourself route. It’s easy to convince yourself that handling this on your own will be no sweat. In reality, the average homeowner or prospective buyer who lacks professional expertise finds this to be an incredibly daunting and overwhelming process—one that often ends with disappointment.

A good real estate agent brings significant value to the scenario. The results—and the numbers—speak for themselves.

Using a real estate agent to sell your home can boost the sales price by around $39,000 for an average transaction, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®.

Breaking that down, the average For Sale By Owner home sold for $210,000 compared to $249,000 for sales by an agent—a difference of 13%. That’s the bottom line as calculated by the NAR, as compiled in their 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

Kristen Stuecher with Climb Real Estate in San Francisco represents the perfect example of the kind of driven, determined agent you want in your corner. She took over a listing that seemed dead in the water, and sold it in a few short weeks for the desired price.

I had a lead from HomeLight who had been working with a family friend who tried for 2 months in spring 2015 when market was strong for sellers. They had no professional photography, and didn’t know the open house times in the city.

The sellers eventually realized their misguided quest for savings was actually costing them time and money.

They thought they would go with a friend who would get a discount. I went in depth with the scope of service we would offer. Got the listing and went into contract within 3 weeks. They got the price they were seeking. That was due in large part to our exposure to the community.

Granted, Kristen isn’t your average small-town agent. She’s a superstar who manages to stand out from the pack even among the best agents in one of the toughest markets in the country, which is no easy feat. She sells significantly more homes than a typical agent, for considerably more money. But even in a less competitive market, a savvy and talented agent can prove to be a valuable advocate to have on your side.

It seems the general public is starting to realize how valuable an agent can be.

Only eight percent (down from nine percent) of recent home sales were FSBO sales, the NAR reports. That’s the lowest percentage since 1981.

When asked to name the tasks they found most difficult, unagented sellers polled in the NAR report cited these as some of their biggest challenges:

  • Selling within the desired time period
  • Understanding and completing paperwork
  • Getting the right price
  • Preparing or improving home prior to sale
  • Having sufficient time to manage all aspects of the sale

Those who do enlist the help of a real estate agent rarely regret that decision.

Consider these NAR stats:

  • Eighty-eight percent of buyers would use their agent again or recommend their agent to others.
  • The typical seller has recommended their agent once since selling their home. Thirty-two percent of sellers recommended their agent three or more times since selling their home.
what does a real estate agent do
Source: (Vali Sachadonig / Unsplash)

Don’t Underestimate the Value of a Good Real Estate Agent

If you don’t have much experience with real estate transactions—or happen to watch any of the real estate reality TV shows that are so popular right now—it may be easy to underestimate the many vital tasks a real estate agent does to ensure a deal goes smoothly. In real life, you will benefit from the wealth of experience and insider knowledge your agent offers—expertise that can save you money, help you avoid stress and perhaps even ensure you avoid making a costly mistake.

What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?

A real estate agent handles a nearly countless number of tasks large and small, many of which happen behind the scenes and often go unnoticed by the client. Yet each tiny detail can have an impact (sometimes a significant one) on the property’s odds of selling, and the sales price—or in the case of a buyer, their odds of getting the property they want at the very best price and with the most attractive financing terms. Let’s take a quick look at just a sampling of the many tasks a busy real estate agent does on a daily basis.

Before the Listing

This would include things like preparing for the listing meeting/presentation, researching the property, gathering data and demographic info about the area, and possibly doing an initial exterior review of the home.

Meeting with Seller

This is the time when the agent gives their sales pitch, explaining the value they and their agency bring to the table. They give their initial impressions of the property, and describe their plan for positioning the property in the best possible light to make it attractive to potential buyers. They conclude by explaining and signing the listing agreement.

Preparing and Listing the Property

This is where the real work happens. This part of the process can be exhausting and time-consuming, and the agent may invest a lot of hours into the tasks involved at this point. The agent will be juggling a lot of jobs and responsibilities, including researching and gathering paperwork/documentation related to the property, preparing a listing description of the home, and taking care of all of the little details to prepare it for showings. They also enter the listing in the MLS database, if applicable.

Once the Home is on the Market

This is likely the most visible role the agent plays—actually showing the property and giving their best sales pitch to buyers or agents. With any luck, there will be some interested buyers and then the agent will also field and negotiate offers.

Red Tape and Legal Details

This phase involves the inspection, appraisals, loan approvals, and preparing for the closing. These are the critical details that often go overlooked by the client but which can have costly or deal-killing consequences if not done exactly right.

The Closing — Time to Celebrate!

Barring any last-minute issues, the closing happens, papers are signed, and the deal is completed.

A Day in the Life of one of San Francisco’s Top Real Estate Agents

For some revealing insight on what a busy real estate agent does every day, we asked Kristen to give us an inside look at the whirlwind of nonstop activity that makes up an average day on the job for a top agent like her. It should give you an idea of how difficult it is to do the job right and why you should use a real estate agent to sell your house instead of doing it yourself.

While there is no truly “typical” day—the fact that every day is different is part of what makes things both exciting and challenging—Kristen gave us a glimpse inside her agenda on a recent workday.


“This is my busiest day because it’s when we do our broker tours. As soon as I wake up, I review all the listings for the brokers’ tour so I can see each one. We used to have an email that would go out to give us this information, but now we have an app that lets us identified all of the properties we want to see in an interactive map.”

From around 9 a.m. until around 4 p.m.,  Kristen will tour up to 25 different properties. One of her goals is to find good comps for a listing she is hoping to win.

There is no downtime, even when she is on the road traveling from one property to another.

“When I’m out on broker tour, my car becomes my office. Checking email, replying to call, using text messages. You have to be always on. I’m constantly responding to things that are happening.”

From 4 to 6 p.m., Kristen is in the office, reviewing property information and taking care of client tasks.

After 6 p.m. there are often meetings with clients who work during the day and are only available in the evening. “We don’t have business hours, it’s pretty much every waking hour. We’re always on call. Lots of business happens after 5. Often, it can be 11 at night. You have to respond as quickly as possible because there are so many agents, they can move onto someone else.”

Innovation is a required part of being a top agent in today’s environment, Kristen says, particularly in an area like San Francisco. “Our clients are in technology, very innovative, and expecting the same technology from us.” Kristen said her team was among some of the first agents to use g-chat so prospective clients could instantly connect with an agent at any time.

Today, Kristen and her colleagues take advantage of other high-tech tools, such as a computerized virtual staging program. Another big improvement: using tools like DocuSign to sign and execute contracts. “People really love it because it’s easy. Disclosure paperwork can be up to 500 pages to navigate.

Now, our transaction coordinator will have buyers electronically sign everything. It saves lots of hours out of the day—and is also much more friendly to the environment because it saves a lot of paper.”

Note: like Kristen, most agents today rely upon a multitude of tools to be as effective as possible. 54% of REALTORS® have had a website for at least five years, 11% have a real estate blog and 70% are using social media. (Source: NAR)

What does a real estate agent do?
Source: (John Towner / Unsplash)

Why You Should Use a Top Real Estate Agent

Connections are important.

One of the most valuable advantages an agent provides is their network of contacts.

A significant number of properties are sold before they get on MLS, especially in San Francisco or other larger metropolitan areas where lots of sellers are private and don’t want to open home to public. A well-connected agent has inside track on those pocket listings. Access to those listings is a big value-add.

With new construction, it’s important to work with an agent who is well connected to builders and can get early access. Access to the best contractors (stagers, painters, landscape architects) in very high demand, Kristen says. “The right listing agent can have access to them, to get the home ready for market and photography.”

You’ll avoid costly pitfalls.

Another huge asset an agent brings to the table is their in-depth familiarity with real estate contracts. These imposing documents and the related red tape aren’t easy for amateurs to navigate. “Most people wouldn’t want to highlight their own hair, let alone sell their own property,” Kristen notes. “Contracts are legal and binding documents. There is lots of liability for seller if not handled correctly.”

Here’s the bottom line on what real estate agents do:

Now, hopefully, you understand why it’s smart to avoid navigating the challenging and often turbulent waters of the real estate world on your own. There are countless large and small tasks involved, any one of which can end up costing you a lot of money if overlooked or half-baked.

As the research shows, using a real estate agent to sell your home can boost the sales prices by an average of $39k. That’s the direct result of all the hard work real estate agents do to ensure the entire sales process goes through without a hitch.