Whether you are selling or buying a home, a good real estate agent will make all the difference in how successful you are. If you are selling, the real estate agent you are using will be receiving a commission. You want to be sure that the work he or she is putting in will be worth that commission.
If you are looking to buy a house on the other hand, that commission will interest you in another way. Buyer's agents are also paid by commission, but not out of the pocket of the buyer in most cases (well, not directly anyway). Instead, they are paid a part of the selling commission on the house, usually half. That means if you are not sure your agent is working directly for you, you might find yourself paying a higher price on the house than you could have in order to get the agent a good sale.
For buyers, the solution is simple. Before you start looking for a new piece of real estate in the listings or anywhere else, make sure you have a contract in place with your agent. This will state that you are paying the agent directly, and will mean that he or she does not have a vested interest in the price the seller is asking.
You can also ask the buying agent directly about commission; many waive the commission for first time buyers and that is good news for you!
Selling gets a bit more complicated, because in this transaction you are definitely paying the agent out of your own pocket. That means you need to know that the agent you hire is doing their best to sell that piece of property for you. The thought of handing over thousands of dollars to any real estate agent after the sale of some property should be motive enough to keep vigilant about that agent's efforts to sell your home.
The good thing is, the work of the agent in question will be fairly easy to measure. You should see your property in the listings within days, and even hours, of hiring an agent. That agent should have done a walk through of your home, and helped you establish a fair asking price for the property. And of course, the agent should be in constant contact with you over prospective buyers or about what he or she is doing to get the attention of those buyers.