Is our buyer's agent unethical for asking us what we'd pay for a property he's selling without dislosing that?

Asked by Oleana, Washington, DC Sat Oct 25, 2008

Our realtor during a conversation about our price range asked several questions about what we would be willing to pay for a certain property (that we had not seen and was still under construction). we answered his questions and then later found out he signed a contract to represent the seller of that property. We feel that this is a real conflict of interest and that our realtor was not acting in our best interests. Although we have no signed contract with him, we want to terminate our relathionship. Is this justified?

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Top Producer, Both Buyer And Seller, Raleigh, NC
Fri Mar 13, 2009
Yes. Save 6% and drop him.
0 votes
Oleana, Home Buyer, Washington, DC
Mon Mar 16, 2009
Dropped the agent. He was clearly not working in our best interests and trying to deceive us. He knew it was a property that we'd be interested in, and we asked him several times if he was asking us those questions as our agent or the prospective listing agent. He refused to answer us.

In the months since, we haven't found a good reason to use a buyer's agent, with the information available to us online, and are forgoing using one in the future.
0 votes
Carol B.C. H…, , Snohomish, WA
Fri Mar 13, 2009
You are "justified" any time you are not happy with your Agent.

It's a little confusing about him asking for your input on a property you never saw and was still under construction. Maybe he was asking, to find out if you were interested? Or, maybe he was asking, so that he had an idea of what to List it for? He could have already been in process of Listing it.

You never said he offered to show you the property. And, you never said whether or not that property
had the criteria you were searching for.

Hopefully, he would ask you if you wanted to see it, if you would allow him to be a Dual Agent. He should
get that approval from you in writing.

To know for sure, whether or not he is working in YOUR best interest, you should have him put in an Offer for the property at a price LESS than what you had originally said you would pay for it. Maybe you can get a better deal than what you first disclosed?

We can't know for sure, what anyone is thinking. But, it could possibly be that he approached the Seller and told him/her that he know of Buyers interested in the property for $xxxx.xxxx and that is what got him the Listing. This doesn't necessarily mean that he told the Seller that YOU would pay that amount.

If you like the home, put in an Offer for less. You didn't say that it sold yet. If you really want to see if he is working in your best interest, you may be able to find out, from his response and whether or not he is willing to put in an Offer for less. If you get it for less, would you THEN think he was working against your Best Interest?

I'm curious . . .

Let us know what you did. (It was in October that you posted that question)
0 votes
Kary Krismer, Agent, Renton, WA
Wed Oct 29, 2008
This would not be a dual agency situation in Washington state. For property listed by the agent, the agent only represents the seller unless the agent also has a signed agency agreement with the buyer. That was not the case here.

So, in a hypothetical, where an agent is showing property to a buyer, without a signed agency agreement, if the agent shows 5 properties, but is the listing agent on one, then the agent would be the agent of the buyer if an offer was made on one of the four properties, but the agent of the seller if an offer was made on the agent's listing property.

Dual agency in Washington is relatively rare.

IMHO, this should have been explained prior to showing the properties.
0 votes
Patty Miller, , Olympia, WA
Wed Oct 29, 2008
Did you receive a Law of Agency from your realtor when you met with them? That pamphlet would have explained the different types of agency. I understand your frustration in this situation. Washington State does allow for dual agency but this should have been disclosed to you from the beginning. I am an advocate for only representing one side of a transaction. That is the only way to completely avoid what has happened to you. My advise to you is to request your agent to not show you properties they have an interest in. Instead ask them to refer you to someone else who can represent your interests only. Good luck on your home search!
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Oleana, Home Buyer, Washington, DC
Sun Oct 26, 2008
Thanks, Keith. It's good to get a viewpoint from the industry. I do have to take issue with your analogy of me asking my husband what a new kitchen costs. The analogy only applies if my job is as a new kitchen salesperson so that I stand to make more money on the sale of a new kitchen to my husband, especially once I have insider information on the limits of his price negotiation. Then the analogy works perfectly.
0 votes
Keith Sorem, Agent, Glendale, CA
Sat Oct 25, 2008
I understand your feelings. I don't know all the facts but if in fact he had a dual agency situation existed, it would have been best for him to disclose that to you, right?

Aside from the fact that he did not disclose, it could be that he wanted to know what you thought the property was worth so he can give the seller feedback about how to price it. If he did not have a signed listing agreement when he spoke to you, but perhaps was working on listing the property, he really would be unable to disclose that to you because he had nothing to disclose.

From the listing agent side, if you are in competition with other agents to list a property for sale, you know that you do not have the listing until the seller signs in, period. It may also be that during his conversation with the seller he said that he had spoken with you (not by name) and that based on his discussions with you (and probably other buyers) he could prove that he could bring buyers to the seller.

It would be as if someone told you that you were going to get a raise at work, you tell your husband "Hey, honey, what do you think a new kitchen would cost?", he says "more than we can afford" and you say "Well, if we could afford it what would it cost" and he says "$2,000", then you come home Friday with a nice raise that will pay it. Won't your husband wonder what you were up to?

I know it's not quite the same, but you might tell, "yes, I thought that I'd get the raise, but I wasn't sure until I saw it in writing".
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