It’s a rare scenario, but sometimes a single real estate agent might be asked to represent both the home seller and the home buyer in a purchase transaction. Is this ethical? Is it legal? Is it ever a good idea?
The Ethics of Dual Agency
When a single agent represents both sides of a real estate transaction, it’s called dual agency. The real estate agents’ duty is to represent the best interest of their client. But what happens when they have two clients?
The seller typically wants the highest price they can get for their home. The buyer wants the lowest purchase price possible. How can a single agent meet their responsibilities to both parties?
The answer is that most likely, they can’t. And since the seller is the one paying the agent commissions, as a buyer you should be wary of a situation in which the real estate agent you contact ends up being the one representing the seller of the home you fall for.
The Legality of Dual Agency
In some states, it’s outright against the law for one agent to represent both parties. The states in which dual agency is prohibited include:
In all other states, disclosure and written consent for both parties is typically required before the transaction can move forward.
Feasibility of Dual Agency
You now know the pitfalls of dual agency. What if you decide to move forward anyway? As long as it’s done legally in accordance with your state law, no-one can really stop you. Just be aware that your best interests are potentially going to come second, no matter how much the agent promises they will be completely unbiased.
Best advice? Never use the seller’s agent. It doesn’t cost you anything to have a separate buyer’s agent, and you’re more likely to be protected that way.
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