Whether you are looking to buy property or looking to sell your property, if you are working with a Realtor, one of the first things you will learn about is agency and the different types of agency. During your first meeting with a Realtor, you will have to sign a Mandatory Agency Disclosure Form stating in what capacity the Realtor is speaking about property. The agent will disclose if she is speaking to you as either a seller’s agent or buyer’s agent. Whether working as the buyer’s agent or seller’s agent, Realtors owe buyers and sellers undivided loyalty, reasonable care, disclosure, obedience to lawful instruction, confidentiality, and accountability provided the agent disclose known material defects in the real estate. The Realtor must put her client’s interests first and negotiate for the best terms and price for their client.
As all Realtors know, you cannot thrive in this business only being a seller’s agent or a buyer’s agent, so most Realtors work as either or at any time (depending on local laws and office policy). It gets interesting when a Realtor is both at the same time for the same deal. This is called acting in dual agency.
Dual agency is when the Realtor is both the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent. This can only happen with expressed and written consent from both the buyer and the seller. This written consent has to be given by both parties before executing an offer to purchase a specific property. Once both parties agree to allow the Realtor to represent them, the Realtor enters dual agency and becomes a neutral party. At this point, think of your Realtor as Switzerland! The Realtor can pass along factual information between buyer and seller but cannot interpret the information for either party. Nor can the Realtor offer analysis or advice to either the buyer or the seller. For example, the Realtor can give a comparative market analysis (CMA) or comps for the property to the buyer that were previously provided to the seller when determining a listing price, but she cannot analyze it with the buyer nor can she advise what price the buyer should offer. However, if new properties show up in the comps given to the buyer, the Realtor has to provide the same updated information to the seller.
By nature, a dual agent cannot fulfill the same duties of a seller’s agent or buyer’s agent. A Realtor in dual agency still owes both the buyer and seller confidentiality of material information and accounting for funds. However, while in dual agency the Realtor cannot negotiate the best terms or price for either party.
For seasoned and educated buyers and sellers, working in dual agency can be a good thing, since they only need to communicate with one Realtor, thus cutting down on delays caused by passing information back and forth between parties. However, for first time home buyers who are nervous and do not fully understand the buying process, this is not ideal. No one is ever taken advantage of, but with the experience of making such a major purchase, having a Realtor exclusively in your corner, helping you understand the market, and getting you the terms you want can be a relief to the emotional stress that comes with buying your first home. That being said, if you are working with a Realtor you trust and they have the property you have been looking for, you have no reason not to go for it.