In theory, yes - if there's a conflict between the buyer and seller, the brokerage, which represents both parties, cannot advocate for one side or the other.
But let's look at what the goal is here, Robbie - the goal is to buy a great house, not to navigate the agency waters. Most good agents get good because they work with both buyers and sellers, and most good agents are with companies with a lot of listings because, most agents work with bigger companies. (Most bad agents work with bigger companies, too!)
So, I think you're worried about the wrong thing. Go forward, and worry not.
Good questions and good instincts. You are asking about dual agency and there certainly is potential for conflict. Many realtors in this situation start thinking of double commissions (or commission and referral) and think less about their clients.
Our buyer's agents represent only you! And even better, there is no cost to you as their commissions are seller paid. You need a professional Realtor on your side. Interview two or three, ask for references. As a buyer you need a team working for you or Realtor, inspector, mortgage professional, and title company.
And what a great time to buy. Home prices are low, mortgage interest rates are at historic lows, and selection is high. Find the right team and look forward to your new home.
A bit longer answer...an agent representing you has fiduciary duties in representing you which are:
Loyalty - broker/salesperson will act only in client(s)â€™ best interest.
Obedience - broker/salesperson will carry out all client(s)â€™ lawful instructions.
Disclosure - broker/salesperson will disclose to client(s) all material facts of which broker/salesperson has knowledge which might reasonably affect the client(s)â€™ use and enjoyment of the property.
Confidentiality - broker/salesperson will keep client(s)â€™ confidences unless required by law to disclose specific
information (such as disclosure of material facts to Buyers).
Reasonable Care - broker/salesperson will use reasonable care in performing duties as an agent.
Accounting - broker/salesperson will account to client(s) for all client(s)â€™ money and property received as agent.
Agents can't tell sellers your secrets and they can't tell you the sellers secrets....to feel safer in that situation simply don't tell your secrets....in negotiating for a property the agent representing you doesn't have to know how much you would spend to get a property (just what you're offering) or your motivation in moving etc....
Deborah Miller, Real Estate Broker, Coldwell Banker Howard Perry & Walston - Triangle Market, NC
Dual agency has been covered well with these other answers. As a first time buyer you want a buyer's agent who will lead you through the search, financing, inspection, closing, etc. As a first time buyerm 80% of your path to home ownership is gaining knowlege about the market and the process. You need an agent who works solely for you to help guide you through the process and find the right home for you.
In addition, it is legal for one agent to represent both parties to the transaction, meaning the buyer and the seller. The agent is "supposed" to represent each party fairly and ethically, but it does seem like a conflict of interest. That is why, as a buyer, you should not approach the listing agent on your own and should have your own agent representing you, in my opinion.
Lots of great answers here. Yes, the thing called "Agency" is what you're inquiring about here. That should be one of the first things an agent discusses with you when you meet. Sounds like the agent did the right thing in disclosing that he worked for the seller at that point. And, that is a difficulty that arises with what we call "Dual Agency". MN is one of the few states that still practices Dual Agency. That means when the same COMPANY, not necessarily the same AGENT, represents both buyer and seller in one transaction. So, if you'd written a purchase agreement with that agent for the house you saw, even if that agent was not the one that signed the contract with the seller, it would have been a DUAL AGENCY transaction because the same COMPANY would be representing both parties.
Unfortunately, in order to avoid this when working with a dual agency COMPANY, you would only be able to look at properties that were NOT listed by the company your agent works for. Unless you find an Exclusive Buyer company to work with (there are some out there), you will be agreeing to dual agency just so you can see all of the properties available. Make sense? Let me know if you want me to recommend some good Exclusive Buyer companies, I can do that.
No, in Minnesota one agent can't rep the buyer and another agent in the same firm rep the seller. They both rep both of you. In simple terms, you and the seller share the same agent/firm and get partial representation.
Confusing at first but it will quickly make sense if you think about it.
The only way around that is to have an agent/firm completely of your own. As a buyer that means having an exclusive buyer's agent (fairly rare) or work with a firm/agent that will promise to work under single agency (will represent only one side of any one transaction).
In your example the agent was totally wrong. Sadly there are agents who do not understand Minnesota agency law. It doesn't matter whether he list a property or it is simply listed by other agents in his firm, he can not rep you as a buyer agent. Since his firm already reps the seller the best he can do is be a dual agent and then only if you agree and fully understand the limitations of such dual agency.
Steele V. Propp
Single Agency Specialist
If you have questions on agency I would be happy to help. Pro Bono (no cost), of course.
There is nothing fishy about it as you are suggesting, but if you are interested in having aggressive and sole representation, then you should meet with an agent who would be a good fit for you and sign an Exclusive Right to Represent agreement. That agent will be responsible for setting up showings and representing you while looking at and negotiating the purchase of a home.
Check with your states Real Estate Commission to see the rules/laws in your area. Dual Agency can work very well if agents/brokers abide by the rules. Be sure when interviewing Buyer's Agents you discuss how their firm handles Dual Agency.