This will be long & I'm sorry. Great question. Little background from where I will be coming from ... I'm a broker & owner & a licensed RE instructor in PA. I often instruct agents & educate buyers on this topic.Â
What you are referring to is called dual agency in PA. Which is perfectly legal and acceptable in PA.Â
The first thing to know is if the office is practicing dual agency with what is called a designated agent. If the office policy allows for dual agency (Some do not) & the practices allow for a designated agent then the listing agent or in some cases multiple agents in the office are working for the seller. The agent(s) have a fiduciary duty to keep the sellers best interests in mind. Let's assume that in your example only the listing agent is designated to represent the seller. Then that agent has to be careful to not disclose or make available to the other agents in the office the position of the seller, their motivations & any confidential knowledge that could harm the seller's negotiations. The office should have a public file with the MLS sheet, property disclosure and any "public" info. And kept in a private file things such as the listing contract, the CMA that was prepared at listing and any other notes or papers that if a buyer had access to would serve to harm the seller.
If this practice is followed then an agent in the same firm could represent a buyer work for them & not harm the seller.
The Buyer's agent would have their client's private info in a private file.Â
The Broker in this situation would be a dual agent and the Broker must ensure that neither party has access to the private info but technically the Broker represents. Both parties.
Typically, but not always, agents are independent contractors & computations with each other in & out of the office. Think of it like the US Olympic sprinting team in Track & field. Two runners may both run on the Olympic team, they may train together & they want each other to do well but when race time comes they are both running to win and all bets are off.
Now if the office policy does not allow designated agents then all agents in the office work for the seller and if you utilize their services then the agents is a dual agent. An agent can not unlearn what they know or switch sides mid way. If they were ever representing that client in that transaction then they are a dual agent & that would need to be disclosed.
If the office policy does not allow dual agency... Then if you choose to work with that firm then you are unrepresented and anything you tell the agent could & should be told to the seller.
If you want to be represented there is nothing wrong with going to the listing office & selecting an agent different from the listing agent.
But you must ask if the office practices dual agency & if the agent does now or has ever represented the seller as their agent.
Alternately, you can select a separate buyer's agent from a separate office. Be sure you engage them formally under an agreement as if you are not under a written or oral buyer's agency contract then technically the agent form the other firm may be a sub agent for the seller. I won't get into sub agency for the sake of keeping simple as possible. Needless to say if you want representation sub agency is not what you are looking for.
The short answer to your question is YES Agents do compete against each other in the same office all the time.
I will say that the above example is a best practice situation. I hate to say but I have met many Brokers & Agents that DO NOT clearly understand dual/designated agency & think they are practicing it correctly and are actually violating their fiduciary duties.
Hopefully if you had these sort of questions over the phone the agent read you the following...
The Real Estate Law requires that I provide you with a written consumer notice that describes the various business relationship choices that you may have with a real estate licensee. Since we are discussing real estate without you having the benefit of the Consumer Notice, I have the duty to advise you that any information you give me at this time is not considered to be confidential, and any information you give me will not be considered confidential unless and until you and I enter into a business relationship. At our first meeting I will provide you with a written consumer notice which explains those business relationships and my corresponding duties to you.
Or if you met in person first they provided you with a copy of the consumer notice which describes the various business relationships allowed in PA.
If they did neither that is a big red flag...
I practice in Scranton & I am a accredited buyers agent (ABR) I would be happy to help you further if I can.Â
Peter N. Lamandre
Better by Design Real Estate, LLC