Description of Buyers Agency

There are Listing Agents, and then there are Buyers Agents. It can be confusing, can't it. The term “agent” is used in a casual manner, referring to any real estate "agent" that many times we forget or don't know that inherently there are distinctly different functions that one "agent" may play in a transaction based upon who they are representing.

Agent also refers to someone with whom you’ve established a formal relationship or someone who represents your best interests in a real estate transaction. Agent also specifies who owes you a "fiduciary" responsibilities. Agency relationships are usually established with buyer agency agreements, and require from the agent:

  • loyalty
  • obedience
  • disclosure
  • confidentiality
  • reasonable care and diligence
  • accounting

The birth of "buyer agency"


In the past real estate was practiced in such a manner that "agency" relationships were only extended to home sellers, not to buyers. A real estate agent who brought a buyer to the negotiating table was actually working as a "sub-agent" to the "seller."

This all began changing in the late 1980's when "buyer agency" started gaining ground as a matter of course in residential home buying. Agency laws still vary state to state, but even if you live in a state that recognizes buyer agency like the state of Georgia, you can’t assume that you will automatically receive fiduciary responsibilities from the agent you’re working with as a potential home buyer.

That’s why it’s important to talk to the agent early in the relationship about his/her agency status, i.e. are they working with the seller or would they be representing you, the buyer. You may also want to consult the Georgia State Association of REALTORS® to gain an understanding about buyers agency, or contact the state real estate commission.

Details vary from one state to another, but this table outlines how your status as a customer or a client may affect the level of service to which you are entitled:

Are you a buyer-customer or a buyer-client?
Services will vary, depending on your agency status*
If you are a CUSTOMER (no agency relationship), an agent will: If you are a CLIENT (agency relationship), your agent will:
Maintain loyalty to the seller’s need Pay full attention to your needs
Tell the seller all that they know about you Tell you all that they know about the seller
Keep information about the seller confidential Keep information about you confidential
Focus on the seller-client’s property Focus on choices that satisfy your needs
Provide just the material facts Provide material facts as well as professional advice
Only provide price information that supports the seller’s listing price Provide price counseling based on comparable properties and their professional insights
Protect the seller Protect and guide you
Negotiate on behalf of the seller Negotiate on your behalf
Attempt to solve problems to the seller’s advantage and satisfaction Attempt to solve problems to your advantage and satisfaction

You may not know if you’re a customer or a client.

You may find yourself working with an agent who is negotiating for the seller, not you as a buyer. The best way to know your interests are being considered and protected is to look at the yard sign.  That's right, if the agent you are talking to is also the Listing Agent then they cannot by agency law be able to work for you.  They representing the seller only in the negotiation.  This includes price, terms of the contract, and even the level of commitment they have "to the seller" in helping "you" in getting items you are concerned about in a home inspection fixed or repaired. In sum, a Listing Agent has no duty to help you beyond writing up and offer.  They cannot be definition of agency law provide advice.

Issues to discuss with a buyer’s representative

Real estate agency relationships, like all business relationships, can be formed in a number of ways. In order to help talk through your options, here are several questions to ask your buyer’s rep:

  • Do you represent buyers, sellers or both?
  • What services are provided to (or excluded from) me, based on my status as a buyer-customer or buyer-client?
  • When does representation begin? When does it conclude?
  • If I’m not ready to commit to your normal term, can you offer me a one-day buyer agency agreement or a 24-hour opt-out clause?
  • How is dual agency addressed in your firm?

For me personally, this is how I would answer these questions as an REO Buyers Agent;

  • Do you represent buyers, sellers or both?  In my real estate practice I represent Buyers in Bank Owned Foreclosure Transactions.  In this way I represent you the Buyer and not the Bank.  My total duty belongs to you!
  • What services are provided to (or excluded from) me, based on my status as a buyer-customer or buyer-client? No services are excluded from you as being a buyer-customer vs a buyer-client. I treat everyone I work with as a buyer-client whether or not they have signed a buyer's representation agreement.  My philosophy is that of treating people in a way that I would want to be treated, be a "rapid resource" to help them achieve their goals of finding the best bank owned deals, and this creates a win-win situation for everyone!
  • When does representation begin? When does it conclude? As a matter of company policy after we have successfully negotiated a contract on your REO dream purchase I have to provide my company with a buyer's representation agreement.  This would begin with the date of the contract, expire with the closing or expiration of the contract, and involve the one property only as part of this buyer's representation agreement.  No fees paid by you the buyer for my time and I stated very clearly that in no way do you ever pay a fee for my services as the seller is paying me through commission shared by the Listing Agent.
  • If I’m not ready to commit to your normal term, can you offer me a one-day buyer agency agreement or a 24-hour opt-out clause? As I indicated in the previous answer, I treat everyone as a buyer-client from the first meeting, I don't work for banks as a Listing Agent so I am able to do this, and I don't even bother with a buyer's representation agreement until we have a contract in hand! The agreement only lasts until that one property is closed on or until my buyer opts out during due diligence and at that point it is expired. 
  • How is dual agency addressed in your firm? Our company does not participate in Dual Agency.  We have a belief that you cannot fairly represent the interests of two parties equally.  This is why I chose not to work as a Listing Agent for the banks and have determined to be simply an REO Buyers Agent!