You see a home you like and call the listing agent for a showing. The agent asks if you’re currently working with another agent – if you are, they really are the ones who should show you the home. “No, no,” you say. “We read online we can get a better deal by calling the listing agent direct,” you don’t say.
You meet the agent at the house, ask a couple of questions and decide to write an offer to purchase. Question: who is representing you?
Answer: No one. And maybe this works for you, if you’ve been through the process enough times that you have inspection companies to use and you already know which title company you’re going to use and you already know the details and timeframes in the real estate contract.
But maybe you didn’t realize you’re unrepresented. It’s a common fallacy that the simple act of writing the contract means that agent “is working for you.” If the agent’s already working for the seller, they’re probably not working for you, too.
There is an exception – the concept known as dual agency, where both buyer and seller are being represented by the same brokerage (if not the same agent.) As a matter of course, I actually prefer a dual agency situation to one where a buyer believes they are being represented only to discover they aren’t.
And in practice, even when working with an unrepresented seller, most listing agents find they’re providing some level of information, a level which could blur the lines of representation. For example, let’s say a certain agent never recommends a client use a particular inspection company but instead gives a choice of three and leaves the choice to the client. This is what they do day in, day out for the clients they represent.
Mr. Unrepresented Buyer asks this agent if they know of any inspection companies. In an effort to facilitate the transaction, the agent gives Mr. UB a list of three and leaves the choice to them. Since this is the same level of service the agent provides to a client that he represents, is it still clear that Mr. UB is unrepresented?
I prefer Dual Agency to having an unrepresented buyer because the lines are clear. My level of service is curtailed in that I can’t make a recommendation that’s detrimental to the other party, but both sides have to acknowledge that fact at the state in writing on a separate form.
Earlier I mentioned if you’re working with an agent, she should be the one to show you a home that you want to see. Why? So any questions you as a buyer may have can get answered. So any potential pitfalls in a property – not disclosure issues, but more basic concepts – are addressed.
As an example, homes that back to busy streets typically sell for less than those deeper in a subdivision. If I’m the listing agent, do you really expect me to mention this? Remember, I represent the seller if I’m the listing agent. And that’s probably one reason the home’s still for sale. I’m probably not going to bring it up. Your agent, however, should. And that’s why you should have them there.
There’s one other twist on the agency topic – where both sides are represented by two different agents working for the same brokerage.
I’m still recovering from a 25-minute battle royale on this topic in my office sales meeting yesterday, so I’m going to save that for another day when my energy returns.