Home Buying in Greensboro>Question Details

Stacy,  in Greensboro, NC

When are you obligated to a real estate agent as a buyer? I have been shown a house I am interested in placing a bid on by an agent who is NOT the

Asked by Stacy, Greensboro, NC Thu Dec 31, 2009

sellers agent. I have NOT signed anything at all...do I owe this person anything if I was to buy this house.

Additionally, what happens after the contract with a sellers agent runs out? Is there a statute of limitations after that contract during which a deal cannot be made between the seller and buyer (without an agent at all)...almost like a for sale by owner?

Is the buyer (me) or seller (them) legally obligated if the buyer has never signed anything?

Help the community by answering this question:


Hi, Stacy,

Let me see if I understand your question…

You have been shown a house by an agent who is not the listing agent for the seller. You have used this professional’s time and experience to gain knowledge and insight about the house you want to buy. You want to know if you have any obligation to use that agent if you want to make an offer on the house.

In addition, you want to know if you can wait until the listing agreement expires and then go directly to the owner/seller of the house and make an offer without the benefit of that seller’s agent being involved and without using an agent to represent you.

In summary, you are seeking advice on how to go around two professionals, one of whom has a contractual agreement with the seller and the other of whom has an expectation that some good will come of the time spent with you.

Words fail me!
3 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 31, 2009
This happens A LOT in this industry unfortunately. Let me pose this question to you, IF the seller chooses to sell you a home directly without an agent, do you really think that the seller is going to pass savings along to YOU??? NO, they are not AND you lose the benefit of a professional giving you guidance on a very complex process that I can guarantee that you do not know everything about. A buyers agent is for YOUR benefit. Many people feel like the only job we perform is to "find you a house and let you in". You don't need an agent for that. You need an agent AFTER you have found the home. You, as the buyer, get the benefit of expertise, and knowledge WITHOUT paying for it!!!!! Finding a buyers agent should be the FIRST thing that you do but instead, you are trying to find a way to get rid of your most valuable asset in the transaction!!! Real estate brokers work hard every day, taking several hours of training a year to make sure that they are up to date on the ever changing real estate market. They know what they are doing and you will be better off with a REALTOR by you side when looking for a home. If you want to be successful in purchasing a home, you should reevaluate your priorities and go find a good buyers agent!!!! Stop looking for "savings" where there are none!!
2 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 1, 2010
While the seller may ultimately be the one writing the check to the agents it's quite silly to think that the buyers aren't paying. As a FSBO seller if someone gives me a bid for $98,000 without an agent and someone else offers me $100,000 plus 3% to pay their realtor (in other words $97,000 in my pocket) which offer do you think I'm going to take? That extra 3% just increases the size of the offer I need to see from them before I'll accept. I see a lot of realtors pushing this kind of thinking, but it's doesn't take much thought to understand that unless a seller is an idiot they're considering that chunk when reviewing the offer. And the reality is that both agents are working for the seller. They both make their money by getting the buyer to sign the contract. And the more they get them to pay the more both realtors make.
Flag Sat Oct 15, 2016
I really can't believe all the bs these brokers throw around about duty and obligation like they are frickin marines or something. It's a business transaction. That's all. Insofar as what the law is, you should work within that. But if you never signed or explictly agreed to anything, you have no obligation. These people are acting under some principal that if you go into a fancy store, Get a bunch of help and expertise for free, and then go home and buy it on line for less the next week, you should rot in hell. How many times have realtors sat over drinks laughing and negotiating up the price for themselves. Countless times I guarantee you. Most brokers, whether for real estate or for stocks like Goldman Sachs have some sort of fiduciary duty. Why, because people know you need to legislate these crooks and money hungry sales people. Do teachers or fireman or have to hand you a disclosure before they help you?no. Brokers do precisely because for hundreds of years and in millions of cases they have tried to screw over precisely the parties they're supposed to be helping. Brokers, get off your bs soap boxes.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri May 25, 2012
The seller pays the buyer's broker fees. Buyers dont pay anything except their own closing costs, and sometimes they don't even have to pay that if THEIR agent negotiates them out of the deal. Ignorance is not bliss. People like these are why the courts are backlogged.
Flag Fri Jan 29, 2016
it appears that only agents have answered your question. Let me try, as a buyer myself. No, you have absolutley NO responsibilty to hire that buyer. In fact, they are usually in cahoots with the listing agency and may even work for them. j So they sure as the dickens will not try to counself you in your best interests regarding what you should pay for the home...given that they will get a percentage of whatever you end up paying for the home. j If there were a way, I would avoid the damned agent all together. Once in a blue moon you will run across an honest one, but most of them are complete knobs.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 24, 2011

It appears you have had a bad experience with an agent (or agents) in the past. I am sorry that you have such a distrust where agents are concerned. As a Realtor, I know we spend time, money and energy to educate both agents and the public in these matters in my market.

Being that you are from MN, I am surprised at your experience though. The MidWest is where buyer agency became popular about 20 years ago, and where disclosure of agency status first originated. Granted, at that time it was prompted by a law suit filed against a builder and real estate company that were in collusion.

In North Carolina, the NC Real Estate Commission is available to investigate and prosecute the types of offenses you expressed. I will not say it doesn't ever happen, but I believe the laws adopted by our state, in conjunction with the Code of Ethics that Realtors voluntarily subject themselves to when becoming a member of the local, state and national associations (of which many exceed state requirements), we do not see these types of practices frequently. And in most cases, agents get themselves into trouble inadvertently, not intentionally.

I hope your next experience with a real estate professional serves to change your position. Good luck with your endeavors!!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 24, 2011

I'm just seeing this question and I do hope that it finds you settled into your new home. Here's my take on this--you were show this home by an agent acting on the seller's behalf (your 'agent' and I am aware that you didn't sign anything), making him/her the procuring cause of the sale, should it take place. This makes the sellers obligated to pay this agent.

The seller signed a legal document vowing to pay both the listing agent and the selling agent. They are bound by this agreement. When a buyer's agent works for you, basically for free, why would you not use someone to protect your interests?

As well, you're trying to 'cut' the listing agent out of the transaction and you have no idea how much work that agent has done for that seller. This is a full-time job for most agents this day and time and trying to save by cutting out those who work incredibly hard for their clients is just not morally right.

Not to mention your protection--I've seen buyers circumvent the agents only to find out that they've purchase a house of horrors, costing them tens of thousands of dollars--certainly not worth cutting out the expert, thinking they were saving a small percentage off the list price.

I'm a big believer in Karma.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Mar 12, 2010
I'm not sure I buy into your argument - the fundamental principle behind the buyer's agent is fatally flawed, in the sense that he gets a percentage of the selling price and hence ZERO incentive to reduce the price down - so please dont tell me that agent would have the buyer's interest in mind.
As to the "house of horrors" comment, why cant you get a home inspection done to reveal problems with the house? As if the buyer's agent is going to tell you everything thats wrong with the house by looking at it, and that too for 3% of the selling price. Utter nonsense.
Flag Wed Feb 25, 2015
I would add that you probably were only aware the home was for sale due to the listing agent's marketing efforts, but to answer you question - if you didn't sign anything you aren't legally obligated. The listing agent has to provide your name to the seller after the listing expires in order to capitalize on the protection clause giving the agent time afterwards to still be compensated due to their marketing efforts.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jan 15, 2010

I have to agree with John," Words Fail Me". Here are a few words for thought, in 99% of residental real estate dealings the buyer never pays a penny of commision to an agent, the seller pays. Now imagine if you went to work for a company and invested in new technology equipment that was required of you to do your job, you worked diligently 5 days a week with 2 additional days on call and at the end of 6 months they told you that they found a way to do the job themselfs, your services are no longer needed and by the way; were not going to pay you either. That about sums up what you are asking.


Eva Foster
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 31, 2009
Please spare us that nonsense about "buyer doesnt pay anything" ok?
1. If the buyer didnt have an agent, it is possible to save 3% or more on the price
2. What motivation does the buyer's agent have in reducing the price of the house, when his renumeration is purely based on its selling price ? Please give me an example where one works hard to reduce his own commission.
Flag Wed Feb 25, 2015

You are obligated to a real estate agent as a buyer when and if you sign a buyers agreement. From what I understand after reading this I am assuming the listing agent or seller showed you the home. You are not obligated to use the listing agent. Go for it, place the offer with your choice of a buyers agent to represent you.

Generally speaking the listing agent will do all they can to re-list the property as the contract comes to the expiration date. If it is not re-listed there is usually a clause that allows the listing broker to collect commissions should a sale happen within X amount of days if the source of the buyer came from their marketing efforts.

My question should the above happen, and they are not in contract, buyer comes from the previous listing brokers marketing efforts and they are entitled the commissions, do they represent the seller in contract when offers come? How does that part work?

Just a thought......P.S. You are not obligated to anything if you haven't signed anything
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 31, 2009
1. You are obligated to a real estate agent when you sign a contract with them, or when they prepare an offer on your behalf.

2. It doesn't matter whether they are the Seller's agent or another agent.

3. You will not owe any agent anything if you want to buy this house, since you have not signed anything at all.

4. After the contract with the seller's agent runs out, there is a specific period of time in which they cannot sell the house without paying their agent a commission.

5. The Seller is legally obligated, regardless of anything you do or do not sign.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 31, 2009
While I agree with what Jason has said, there is a little more to your question. You as the buyer may not be obligated to the agent who showed you the home, but the seller may. If the agent who showed you the home can prove they were the "procuring cause", they could seek compensation from the seller.

But let me submit this for thought. If the seller is listed with an agency, the fees have already been determined for both the listing side and the buyer side. If you go it yourself, and do all the work that a buyer's agent would do anyway, you are not going to save any money on the purchase price. The buyer's side commissions just goes to the listing firm. So now you are doing all the work, have no one on your side in the transaction to advise you of what is best for you, and for what?

This situation of who represents who and who gets paid arises too often because agents do not take the time to do things properly. The NC Real Estate Commission requires ALL agents to review the pamphlet "Working with Real Estate Agents" at the first substantial meeting. Showing a home would qualify and this must be done prior to entering the home. This is the perfect opportunity to discuss whether the agent will represent you or the seller in the transaction. And if I am going to represent the buyer, we put it in writing then and there. This protects the buyer because, as they say in movies and real life, "anything you say can and will be used against you." So many agents are fearful of scaring off a potential client by covering these steps, but the fact that these steps are overlooked by an agent should be enough reason to run the other way!

If you do decide you need, or desire, to have an agent represent you, and do not wish to work with the agent who showed you the home in question, I will be happy to discuss this further with you. If not, best of luck to you!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 31, 2009
If you have not signed any form of agency agreement, you do not have any legal obligation to use the agent who showed the home to you. As a the home buyer, you want to make sure that you have an agent that you believe will represent you well throughout the transaction. The listing agreement would specify a 'Protection Period' stating how long after the listing expires that a seller could sell the home, while unrepresented, to a buyer that was procured by the former listing firm. Lastly, if neither parties have signed anything, neither parties should be obligated to enter into a purchase agreement. Hopefully this helps, if you would like to discuss in more detail, please feel free to contact me through my profile here on Trulia. Good luck and have a Happy New Year!

Jason Ewing, GRI/CNS
Coldwell Banker Triad, Realtors
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 31, 2009
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