Real estate agents make money on commission from sales, and their expertise can save you a lot of time and hassle. They can also help you get the best deal on a home or avoid costly mistakes. Whether you’re buying or selling, an agent can guide you through the entire process and help you understand local market conditions.

In addition to being licensed by their state, real estate agents must undergo training and pass a rigorous exam. Depending on your location, some agents may have additional certifications and accreditations that can help them better serve you. For example, some agents specialize in working with buyers and sellers of condos or other unique property types.

The first step in a successful real estate transaction is finding the right client. A good agent can generate leads from a variety of sources, including referrals from past clients, other agents and online marketing tools like Craigslist or Twitter. They can also use data from public records, listing services and other sources to find properties that meet a buyer’s or seller’s criteria.

Once they have a prospective buyer or seller, a real estate agent will help them navigate the mortgage approval process. This includes helping them get preapproved for a loan, verifying income and employment and obtaining a credit report to determine if they have the financial capacity to purchase or sell a home. In some cases, the agent will recommend a lender. Read also:

If you’re selling your home, a real estate agent can advise you on the optimal listing price for the area and neighborhood and help stage your house so it looks its best. They can take professional-quality photos of your home and create virtual tours to help potential buyers imagine themselves living in your home. They can even help you decide whether to tackle a few minor renovations before putting your house on the market.

Throughout the homebuying or selling process, a good real estate agent will be available to answer questions and keep all parties updated on progress. They’ll even negotiate on your behalf and help you resolve any issues that come up during a sale.

When choosing a real estate agent, look at their website to see what type of work they do and how well they communicate with their clients. You should also consider whether they’re a full-time agent or if real estate is more of a side hustle for them. Ask for references from previous clients and contact them to ask about their experience. Also, ask the agent about their availability and schedule so you can be sure they’re a good fit for your needs. And finally, don’t be afraid to interview several agents before making a decision. This way, you’ll be sure you choose an agent who can provide the level of service you need.