Home Buying in 07030>Question Details

Rick P, Home Buyer in Seattle, WA

How can I tell if my Buyers' Agent is really looking after my best interests?

Asked by Rick P, Seattle, WA Sun Mar 4, 2012

My wife and I are buying our first home and chose a buyers agent affiliated with a company that also lists properties. Though not recommended to us, we do have a mutual friend. After our first meeting, I thought we were clear about our priorities/wants/needs in a new home. Well our agent sent the first set of listings, and it was a total swing and a miss. The homes were out of our preferred neighborhood, and at the top of our price range. Puzzled by this, we did some of our own looking and found a lot of properties that we felt should have been referred to us but weren't. Then I notice that most of the properties that our agent recommended were listed through their affiliated company. Is this a red flag, and I should be worried about this agent's ability to represent our best interests; or is this just how it works and we have to be more cautious in our dealings? Also, I was wondering if switching to an Exclusive Buyers' Agent might be a better solution. Any help is appreciated. Thanks

Help the community by answering this question:


Have a frank talk with your agent. Explain, as you did here, that the suggested homes were out of your preferred neighborhood and at the top of your price range.

Note: That alone would raise questions, but in many cases buyers have unreasonable expectations regarding price or location, so it's not impossible for a good agent to send some "misses."

However, in your case you did find some that you felt better met your qualifications. Ask your agent, point blank, why they weren't included in the list sent to you.

As for recommendations primarily through their affiliated company--maybe yes, maybe no. In some areas, one or two companies dominate. Where I am, for instance, though there are at least a dozen good, active companies, in many areas (specific neighborhoods or zip codes) just one or two will be dominant. So it wouldn't be unusual--where I am--if a buyer specified a particular neighborhood, to get a majority of listings from a single company. Having said that, though--and acknowledging that the agent may get a bonus or additional commission for keeping the sale "in the family"--the agent should never favor his/her company over another when sending out listings based on your stated preferences. So: Talk to your agent about that, too.

You note that you're not under an exclusive buyer's agent agreement. That could be a problem. That can be a real disincentive for any agent. The agent's thinking: "Why should I break my back for these people when they can take my work and research, even after I've shown them places, and go off on their own and deal with another agent?" Just a thought.

Hope that helps.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 4, 2012
Don Tepper, Real Estate Pro in Burke, VA
First, you should trust your instincts. If you are concerned, ask her about it. Tell her that the Listings all appear to be Listed by her Agency. She what she says. Then show her what you found and ask her why they were not included. There may be a very good reason. She may know things about the properties that resulted in her leaving them off the list.

If you don't like the answer....move on. A good Agent will LISTEN CAREFULLY TO YOU WHEN YOU DISCRIBE YOUR NEEDS.

In NJ, a Duel Agent still is best. An Agent who acts exclusively as a Buyer's Agent may not serve you well because that Agent CANNOT represent both the Seller and Buyer. So you will miss Listings that way as well.

Good luuck
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 4, 2012
First did you sign a Buyer's Agency Agreement? If you did, then the agent is legally obligated to advocate on your behalf. If you signed such an agreement and you find out later that they did not proactively warn you about an issue with the property, you can sue them.

If you did not sign a Buyer's Agency Agreement, then they are acting as a Transaction Broker. A Transaction Broker is suppose to be nuetral and is only 'faciliating the transaction" - providing bonded access to properties for prospective buyers, facilitating with the completion of an offer, providing bonded access for inspections and appraisers. Transaction brokers unlike Buyers Agents are compensated by the Seller via the Listing Agreement. They are only compensated if the deal goes through and you the buyer have no obligation to continue working with them. Should you they take you out 10 days in a row and you find a property that is being sold by owner or via an open house, the Transaction broker gets nothing. You have no obligation to them and they have no obligation (key word is obligation) to facilitate any due diligence. With a transaction broker there is an underlying assumption that you are doing your own due diligence.

When you went to the agent's office or website, there should have been a Consumer Information Statement. This is a document written by the NJ Dept of Banking and Real Estate that describes the different type of agency. The link below is to my site where you can read it for yourself.

Although a Buyer's Agency Agreement does not guarantee a different result, it gives you recourse if you find out you bought a property with a major issue. You can pursue that agent for not proactively telling you about it. This SHOULD have an impact on the agent behavior as it's now, under this agreement, in their best interest to protect and advocate for you.

NJ is one of the few states that allows something called "Dual Agency". This is when the buyer is using the listing agent to facilitate a transaction for a listing that is listed with that same agent. I believe buyers should NEVER go to the listing agent to buy a property. The listing agent has a contract with the seller that is analogous to what a buyers agency agreement would be to a buyer. The listing agent must ADVOCATE for the seller. They cannot lie but they must put the seller interest first and they must present the property in the best light. .... So if you don't ask the right questions and you find out something negative about the property after the closing, it's your lose and you have no recourse.

Most importantly than any of this, is you should interview an agent they way you would interview anyone you were hiring. Get references, Google them, make sure they are full time agents. Part time agents just don't know enough about the market to advise you. Take the time to meet with them. It sounds like you don't trust this guy so it may not make sense to sign a buyer's agency agreement with him. Find someone else with more integrity and if you want that added insurance that you can pursue them if something arises later, sign an agreement.

Transaction brokers (good ones) will be very helpful and will provide lots of info. The question is will they go that extra step to tell you something that may turn you off about a property? It's subtle and again it's like insurance. You won't know you needed it until something bad happens.

There are many places where you can go to set up your own search so that any agent is not steering you to listings that don't meet your needs.

Trulia and Zillow are good but keep in mind that these sites have no 'policing'. Listings listed with the MLS are policed by the MLS administration for accuracy on at least key fields such as square footage, location, features. The easiest way to deceive consumer about the price is to lie about how big it is. Add 50, 100 square feet and then the price per square foot looks cheap.

My search engine is for listings via the MLS only. I will be adding Non-MLS listings but these will be clearly marked. I include days on market, tax and HOA from the MLS. Trulia and Zillow, I believe, get these from public sources that are not always accurate and many of there listing have expired even though they are listed as active.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 4, 2012
I think the most important thing is communication. If for some reason there is a breakdown in the communication between buyer and buyers agent that is a problem. I think you should address those issues with the agent your currently working with. I would certainly confront him and ask him why he did not send the additional listing. If that agent gives you a reasonable answer then you might want to consider staying with him. If not you might want to seek out another agent. This can be very tough on a buyer it is up to your agent to make this transition from tenant to buyer as smooth as possible.
Good luck on your search and hope all goes well. Ecamacho@hobokenhomes.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 4, 2012
It is really okay to work with an agent that lists and sells property. Most agents in our business do both! It is certainly a red flag if the only homes that this agent was showing you were that company's listings.

Your buyer's agent should always listen to what you want no matter what the price range. The agent should also compare prices in the area for you so that you get the best deal. Even though the agent usually gets their commission form the seller, they should be representing you and should have a written contract to do so. This contract should have a release if and when you are unsatisfied with your agent's service.

Good luck in your search!

Phil Burnstine
Managing Broker
Krugger Brent Properties
Chicago, IL
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 8, 2012
Hi Rick, suggest you have this very discussion with your agent - be direct and clear just as you have been in presenting your question here. It likely is a matter of communication as others have suggested. But whatever the case, you want to get the search on track or if your concerns are not addressed redirect to another resource.

I know that habits very market to market, but I would not discourage you from working with agent that also lists properties -- it really comes down to finding the right individual. And as I say in my "tag line".... The agent you choose really does make a difference! Now if you do find yourself considering a home that is listed by your agent, our habit is to pull in another resource within the firm to assist with negotiations so that both parties are well represented. It is tough to represent competing sides of a transaction....

Good luck to you and best,
Jeanne Feenick
Unwavering Commitment to Service, Unsurpassed Results
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 7, 2012
As others stated communication is key. It is a bit of a surprize that you are finding more appropriate homes on your own. If you havent done so already I suggest you have agent give you an area tour. This may show you why they didnt send certain homes. Spend a day with the agent. If you have a level of distrust after this time together move on to another agent you feel more comfortable with. Personally I find the agent's integrity knowledge and experience to be most important. You can have an exclusive buyers agent who is still lousey. If you dont allow dual disclosed agency you will miss all the listings that company has.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 5, 2012
It's not just about price. It could be proximity to something dangerous like a power plant, remediation issues, local ordinances that prohibit or curtail what they buyers want to do with the property, issues regarding the association. I wouldn't sign an agreement either where the other party was saying 'I'll let you out of it'. What you sign is what you get.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 4, 2012
It sounds like you are reading too much into it.

Communication is key. Ask the agent what he or she is sending you.. it could be that, you were sent properties that "were out there" for you to see. Sometimes you listen to clients, and they say.. well you did not send me “this one”.. and I say, well, that is on a busy road next to a gas station.. And although it fits your criteria.. You want to see this? Really? It happens. We are in a situation where we are asked for something and are asked for guidance and then you want to see the one with the pretty pictures... and the pretty pictures are taken that way to avoid showing the power lines.

Either way, NEVER, EVER sign documents with a person that calls themselves an exclusive buyer’s agent.
You will be locked into them.. and they can stink worse than what you have now.. And you can’t shake them. Any agent that says.. sign it.. I’ll let you out of it if you want.. is FULL OF BALONEY. Why sign if they are going to let you out of the contract? Sounds dopey, yes?

There is nothing that an exclusive buyer’s agent can do to help you get a house for you any cheaper than anyone else. Unless that agent was showing you homes that were $100,000 - $200,000 more.. the commission is not going to make a difference.. even if it is $20k more.. the commission difference is like $500.. so there is not much on an incentive for anyone to be deceitful.

There is nothing wrong with Dual Agency… most people want to sell their homes and the whole adversarial thing is nonsense. This mainly exists here on the internet.

In the real world, it does not happen that way. I have been involved with TWO real bad transactions in real estate.. Both times were with agents that declared they were with exclusive buyer’s agents. BOTH times the buyers paid more than $10,000 for the property than the homeowner would have sold it for… and it was because the so called exclusive buyers agents where such horrible people we enjoyed taking them to the cleaners.

But, I tell you, it was solely because of the agents involved.

Talk to that agent and communicate what you are saying.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 4, 2012
Wayne and Patty,

If a client is interested in an agent's listing, agent A's Agent let's say, who is the same agent who has been showing them all available listings that meet the client's criteria, the client should get another Agent, let's call that agent Agent B, to help them with the offer on Agent's A listing.

This is what happens in other states where dual agency is not legal. Again, in most states dual agency is not permisslble. NJ is one of about 5 states that allows dual agency. I agree with the other 45 states that dual agency is not in the best interest of the buyer.

Agent A would not 'lose out' in this scenario as they are the listing agent and will be compensated for selling the property. By going out and engaging Agent B, the buyers best interests are more protected.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 4, 2012
I have read the rest of the answers here and they all provide good advice. They only thing I want to add is that you should feel comfortable with your agent. A good agent is interested in finding you what you want (within reason).

If you don't feel comfortable with this person after you discuss the reasons that the properties weren't suitable and your concern that they were listed through the affiliate company, move on and find another agent.

Most agents are interested in finding you a home you want to be in. After all, if you don't buy a property, they don't get paid. So, see if you can get your questions answered;
if not, move on.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 4, 2012
I was all set to find at least half of the fault with you: I can't.
The things you site are a good measuring stick for "your best interests".

Signing the Exclusive Buyer's Agreement does not guarantee you a different result.
I should think that now that you are a seasoned veteran; you will know the appropriate questions to ask.

Good luck and may God bless
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 4, 2012
Hey Rick,

The swing and miss is common..on the first time out.

You can just let them know..that it was not what you are looking for.

The fact most of the listings sent was from they company and outside of your criteria was a lil sketchy.

And you should have a talk with them.. About not sending stuff outside your criteria.

See if the next list after discussing these things get better.

And yes they should be sending you homes by ALL real estate companies.

No need to find an exclusive agency because most companies do both.

But YOUR agent should be your buyers agent and protect YOUR interest.

Im seeing over 200 condos available in Hoboken By All companies..

you can take a glance here

Give your agent a chance..and see if it improves..
If you keep getting listings of just or mostly from they company outside your criteria..that is a red flag.

Hope that helps..
Linden Moe
Americas Elite Real Estate
Hudson Real estate Experts
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 4, 2012
Communication relieves frustration. Pick up the phone and ask for a meeting with your agent. Discuss your concerns. While you are in their office sit in front of the computer and list your wants have them do a search with you watching and see what turns up. Share with them the homes you found. Perhaps those homes are not really for sale, maybe they are short sales or properties which you may not qualify for financially, such as high HOA fees, not FHA or another reason.

You can get exclusive Buyer representation from your current agent or another. But if you are not able to communicate your concerns with your current agent you will probably face the same situation with the next. Unless you hear otherwise from your current agent.

All the best to you.
Web Reference: http://www.terrivellios.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 4, 2012
Interesting development and I am curious to hear the others answer this one. Here is mine.

I often tell buyers that the more homes we see the better I will understand your wants and needs as some might be totally wrong while others totally right. We realtors learn as we show homes to you what you like or don't like. So that said, don't hold it against them for the first round.

Showing all the company listings is a red flag to me unless, by chance, they are all just exactly what you want. If they are showing you all their company listings you will be in a dual agent situation which is not going to be the best representation you can have. It does not matter what agent has their name on the listing, it matters what company and if they are all your agents company, no matter which agents name is on it, you are in a dual agent situation and it must be disclosed. My read is the agent may not have much experience so they show what they have seen or know from seeing them on the office tour. This would be a red flag to me unless you just walked in the office one day and asked to go see homes (people actually do this) and the agent had no time to prepare and pull up homes that meet your needs perfectly.

How much experience does the agent have? Will they go show you the listings you found? Many of my clients find homes online they want to see and I add to the list with ones I find for them, it works well that way.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 4, 2012
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