Andrew Wetzel's Musings

July 10, 2017

Does a buyer want to work with the listing agent?

Filed under: Uncategorized — awetzel @ 3:46 PM

The topic is essentially “dual agency“.  It can be the best or the worst of times depending on your expectations and the ability/ integrity of the agent. The key measure is who benefits from the relationship? I will skip the specific topic at this point but will elaborate on the title of this post.

There are three types of buyers:  some want to work with the listing agent, some do not, some do not think about it at all.  I respectfully suggest that those seeking to avoid “dual agency”, assuming it is even available in your state (it is in PA), or not thinking about it all, need to fully understand it FIRST.  Making an informed decision is always preferable to making an uninformed, typically emotional, one especially given the potential problems with poorly handled “dual agency”.

Those buyers inclined or persuaded to work with the listing agent need to fully understand the possible advantages and disadvantages.  From a “fiduciary” standpoint, both clients lose the opportunity to have the “shared” agent disclose that which is now considered confidential since they are representing both parties in the same transaction.  The offset is that YOUR own confidentiality is maintained.  The specific difference is that an agent cannot offer advice regarding how much to offer, how to “counter” an offer and how much to accept.  All of this must be “weighed” to see the overall impact of “dual agency”:  is it more of a benefit or more of a liability?

If you are inclined to work with the listing agent, you need to make that known at the outset of any inquiry.  If you call a phone number on a “For Sale” sign, ask for the listing agent.  Same goes for Internet or print ads.  Do NOT assume that the listing agent will be the one answering the phone but do understand that if you spend time talking to whomever answers the phone and then ask for the listing agent, you may have created an unpleasant situation.  If you find a property that interests you online, you have to understand that so-called third-party sites use property listings to sell ad space to agents and that requires them to direct inquiries to agents who paid for exposure, regardless of whether they have a property listing that interests you or are even local.  The listing agent’s contact information should be obvious even if it is not the best presented.  Read before you click!

Let me add that some agents will NOT accept or practice “dual agency” at all while some, including me, will avoid it in specific situations where we cannot treat two clients equally.  Our Code of Ethics used to use the word “fairly” and we replaced that with “honestly“.  When it comes to “dual agency”, I like the word “equally” since the concept presumes that neither client is shown favoritism.

I left two major points about “dual agency” for last.

In my opinion, the BEST rationale for properly handled “dual agency” is that there is only ONE set of ears and one mouth going back and forth.  While perhaps unintentional, I feel that most of the issues plaguing Real Estate sales relate to communication.  Have you ever told someone something and heard that they told someone else what you told them only to find that what they said was not what you said?  Now imagine that scenario involving a Real Estate sale!  Of course, if all vital communication were put in writing things might be different.

On the other hand, the WORST rationale occurs when the buyer or seller thinks they can manipulate the agent to get “their way”.  Either party may try to gain the favor of the agent when negotiating.  Perhaps they think the agent will even reduce their fee to salvage a drowning sale.  When this type of drama starts to reveal itself, it usually spirals out of control quickly because there is a potential loss of trust and what I will call “fair dealing”.  A related example is when an agent is more focused on getting paid than protecting two people with opposite interests.  While a buyer and seller may both want to complete a deed transfer, they most likely differ on how to get that done.

The best advice I can give agents is to look past the potential of an increased fee and assess whether you can really treat both parties equally/honestly and facilitate a mutually-beneficial outcome?  If you cannot, such as what happens when there is a long-term relationship with the first client or there are family or friends involved, it is best to avoid the scenario.  There is no such thing as “trying it ” to see if it can work.  As that famous philosopher Mr. Yoda once said:  “do or do not; there is no try”.


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