Before you hire a real estate professional, it’s important to know the difference between a real estate broker and a real estate agent. Real estate brokers are licensed professionals who assist sellers and prospective buyers of homes. Real estate agents are licensed professionals who work under the supervision of a licensed real estate broker. In return, the broker pays the agent a portion of the commission earned from the sale or purchase of the property.

Real estate brokers and agents earn commissions from the services they provide. The services and the commission due to a broker working with a home seller are set out in the listing agreement that the broker and seller sign. Brokers generally list your home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a clearinghouse that member real estate brokers and agents use to exchange and update information on property listings, and to connect with other brokers or agents working with prospective buyers. To have a home listed on the MLS, a home seller usually agrees to offer a share of the total commission to a second broker who finds a buyer for the property.

Traditional, full-service real estate brokers working with sellers provide a broad range of services, including helping prepare the property for sale, recommending an asking price, publicizing the home to prospective buyers, arranging meetings and negotiating with prospective buyers, following up on home inspections and other matters once a sales contract is signed, and arranging for the closing of the transaction. A broker also may help by referring the home seller to other service providers, like mortgage lenders, title companies, home inspectors, and real estate attorneys, which could make the difference between success and failure in closing a sale. That said, remember that you are not locked into the service providers they recommend.

Non-traditional real estate brokers often offer many of the same services as full-service brokers, but on an a la carte basis, at a reduced commission rate, or for a flat fee. You may be able to pick and pay for only the services you want. If you choose more limited services, it means that you may have to do more of the work yourself to help sell your home. For example, some non-traditional brokers offer an MLS-only package, which includes listing the property on the local MLS for a flat fee: you would be responsible for every other aspect of the transaction, like advertising, running open houses, negotiating with buyers, and coordinating the closing.