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