I mean mainly for commercial deals.
I am a principal commercial broker and also an investor myself focused on retail properties and large multifamily nationally. I have many clients from California. They have run up in equity on properties but getting like 3% return on their money there. They do not want to wait another 7 years after a downturn for another run up.
If you do not have experience buying commercial properties then definitely use an experienced broker. When putting down close to 1 million or millions of dollars you need help to mitigate risk and look for the right property to buy. Commercial listing brokers tend to push their inventory only whereas the commercial buyer broker looks through many resources to try and locate the best properties to buy.
First priority for the listing broker is the seller whereas first priority for buyers broker is the buyer.
I'm not sure what distinction you are looking for. Generally speaking, agents are on the street, meeting people, visiting properties, generating listings, etc. Agents work for brokers who run the office. As part of the agent / broker relationship, the broker has to sign-off on all listings, deals, etc. I'm not representing the brokers 'role' very well. Others should feel free to explain their 'value' in the overall process.
The agents / broker 'share' the commission that comes in. Sometimes agents are on 100% commission, other times, they get a salary + commission or a draw against future commission. Some agents are just looking for a place to hang their license, others (especially young ones) are looking to learn from a more experienced person and everything in between.
With few exceptions (@Joel Owens being one of them) the priorities (mostly in order) for all agents seems to be;
1) Generate listings - Gives agent a degree of control and guarantees part of commission
2) Sell Existing Listings - Double ending commission and more control of sale process.
3) Get Deal in Contract - Again, at least part of commission and some control of process
4) Close the Deal - Many deals fall through after the initial acceptance of the price and basic terms. The quicker the agent can get the deal to the closing table the better.
5) Grow Contact List - The wider you can distribute a listing to potential (hopefully qualified) buyers the better.
6) Do bigger Deals - It does not take much more effort to sell a $1,000,000 vs a $100,000 property but the commission is literally 10 times a much (this applies to many areas).
Prospecting for a buyers is somewhere much further down the list for a variety of reasons including; buyer may not be in acquisition stage, buyer may no longer have available capital, buyer may not have fully disclosed criteria, etc. etc.
From my limited experience, initially an agent searching for you will do some work but you fall off the radar in a short period of time if you are not 'active'.
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