What Loyalty Do I Owe My Agent?

Loyalty Is a Two-Way Street

Credit: Courtesy

Q:  Marsha, my wife and I have been working with our buyer’s agent for several months. She is great and hardworking. My question is: If we find a house on our own, do we need to use her?

A:  What you are asking sounds simple, but it is actually a complicated question. If you signed any one of the three different levels of the buyer-broker agreement contracts with your agent, then you have a contract with your agent and need to use only her. 

It sounds like you haven’t signed a contract and want to know if you need to stay loyal to her. You seem to realize that the seller is paying the listing agent who in turn splits his commission with the agent who brings in the buyer. You wonder whether you would have a better chance of acquiring the house at a better price if you also had the listing agent represent you. 

Is this the best course for you to take? Might this be penny-wise and pound-foolish?

Are you happy with your agent? You are currently represented by her, and as such, she owes you a fiduciary duty. That means when you enter into a contract, it’ll be you and not the seller she represents. Her fiduciary duty to you represents undivided loyalty, obedience, reasonable care and diligence, confidentiality, full disclosure, and accounting. Her non-fiduciary duty to the seller is honesty, agency, and material facts disclosure and accounting.

If you use the listing agent to represent you in the purchase, he will become a dual agent to both you and the seller. He will owe a fiduciary duty to both of you. Can he represent both parties fairly and in an unbiased manner? Would you benefit more by staying with the agent who has labored to build your loyalty and trust?

A key question is: What value does a buyer’s agent bring to you? In today’s internet world, finding the house is a small part of the buying equation. Once you have located the house you want, the buyer’s agent shows her true value by negotiating a competitive purchase price, meeting with appraisers, and helping with loans, inspections, and handling all unexpected circumstances. 

Good agents work hard to earn your loyalty. Unlike other professionals — attorneys, accountants, physicians — we do not earn a weekly income and are 100 percent commission-based. Loyalty, however, is a two-way street. Once agents realize you have no loyalty to them, they will stop working as hard for you. As with all relationships, communication is key. If another buyer comes along and wants to offer more, how loyal will that seller’s agent be to you? 

The buyers we represent will someday become sellers. Agents strive to stay in touch over the years and be their clients’ real estate resource. Agents do not want to be like my friend who drove by his client’s house and had the heart-wrenching experience of seeing a “for sale” sign out in front. He called his client and asked “Why?” The sweet little old lady said, “Oh, I hadn’t heard from you in a while. That other agent was so nice and polite I decided to sell with him.” All my friend could say was “…But, Mom!”

Marsha Gray, DRE #012102130, NMLS#1982164, has been a real estate broker in Santa Barbara for more than 20 years. She works at Allyn & Associates, real estate services and lending. To read more Q&A articles, visit MarshaGraySBhomes.com. She will research and answer all questions submitted. Contact Marsha at (805) 252-7093 or marshagraysb@gmail.com.


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