It is important that you know the differences between a professional who represents a seller (the “traditional” role of a sales associate), a professional who represents a buyer, and one who represents both. In most areas, real estate professionals are now legally obliged to disclose, in writing, information on the various types of real estate agency relationships that exist. You should assume the real estate professional is working for the seller unless otherwise stated.
- Seller’s Agent – A real estate professional becomes a Seller’s Agent by entering into a listing agreement to represent the seller’s interests. Seller representation may also be created when a real estate professional shows a property on the Multiple Listing Service and “buyer agency” has not been created. The Seller’s Agent can provide information to assist the buyer, but they must place the interests of the seller first. A buyer should not disclose anything to the Seller’s Agent they do not want the seller to know.
- Buyer’s Agent – A real estate professional becomes the Buyer’s Agent by entering into an agreement to represent the buyer. A Buyer’s Agent can assist the seller, but does not represent the seller. The Buyer’s Agent must place the interests of the buyer first. A seller should not tell the Buyer’s Agent anything they would not want the buyer to know, because the Buyer’s Agent must disclose any pertinent information to the buyer.
- Dual Agent – Dual agency occurs when a real estate professional represents both the seller and the buyer. It can also occur when the Listing or Seller’s Agent works for the same real estate firm as the Buyer’s Agent. In most states, the buyer, the seller, and the Agent must agree in writing for the creation of dual agency. The Dual Agent is required to treat the buyer and seller honestly and impartially. In dual agency, the professional’s duties are more limited and there is potential for conflict of interest. You may hear the terms “transaction broker” and “intermediary” in association with dual agency.