buying agent dilemma

Asked by Confused..., San Anselmo, CA Mon Feb 8, 2010

I have been living in the bay area for close to 10 years. i am looking out for a home. I have a question here, I do all the work of searching a home using internet and let an agent from one of these search engines to show me the home. i.e an agent with XXX company shows me the home upon my request and from my finding. Is it true that i should continue with him to close the deal on the home. AS this property that i saw seems to coming at a good price if i dont go with a realtor on my end. the sellers agent represents both.
Please let me know, can the agent from company XXX sue me for not using his service to buy the home as he showed the home upon my request and my findings.I searched the company XXX terms which says this,Client agrees that he or she will not contact the owner/seller of any property from information gained through the website. The Client will not attempt to enter the property or speak with an owner/seller without an appointment set . can i get sued by the agent ???

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John R. Wuer…, , New York, NY
Mon Feb 8, 2010

Some very good information in the answers below. But one thing that stuck out in your question was "seems to coming at a good price if i dont go with a realtor on my end. the sellers agent represents both." This raises a whole lot of red flags to me. I guess my first question for you is: Do you think the seller will only have to pay half of the commission if you buy the house without using a Realtor? Most likely, that won't be the case. If you don't have your own agent, the listing agent is entitled to the full commission. Therefore, you won't get the house at a lower price if you don't have an agent working for you. I certainly hope that you were not told by the listing agent that you'd get the house cheaper. That statement alone would indicate that the agent is only looking out for HIMSELF. There is the possibility that the seller may save a little money if the listing contract made an allowance for what's called a "dual variable commission;" however, that would not affect you.

Another point: by your own statement, if you "don't go with a realtor," "the sellers agent represents both." This WOULD be called dual agency. Did the listing agent disclose to you that he works for the seller up front? Did he offer to represent you? Did he disclose the specific risks of dual agency...especially risky for buyers? That agent already has a relationship with the seller. Wouldn't you rather have someone protect you who will be loyal only to you?

The laws of agency are basically the same in every state. The main differences between the states involves disclosure. As far as a lawsuit, the law prohibits agents from advising you on legal matters. This would be an issue for a lawyer to discuss with you.

On a side note and in addition to the fact that having someone working in your best interest is simply a smart decision, provided that the agent who made the appointment for you didn't do anything wrong or treat you with rudeness, I am having a hard time understanding why you feel it's ok for you to USE the agent for the appointment and then cut him out of the deal. That just doesn't seem right on a human level.

I'm sure you'll do the right thing.

John R. Wuertz
Vice President, Associate Broker
The Corcoran Group
2 votes
Keith Sorem, Agent, Glendale, CA
Mon Feb 8, 2010
My recommendations for you:
Normally the buyer does not pay for the services of a Realtor as your personal representative, therefore it makes sense to have professional representation because the seller has the professional representation.

If the purchase of a property was simple then anyone could do it. The fact is that there are distinct advantages to having competent representation.

Do you want to pay more the than property is worth?
Do you want to have terms imposed on you that are not fair?
Do you want to have access to all the protections offered to buyer by law?

Then the smartest thing to do would be to interview a couple of Realtors and select one to represent your interests and help you find the right home, for the right price, for the best terms.

Here are some examples of where a great Realtor can help you?
1. Do you know if the property is priced correctly? A Realtor will.
2. Do you know that interest rates are probably going up in March? A Realtor should know market conditions, and can help you work with a lender so you pay the lowest rate possible.
3. Do you know that you need to be in escrow by April 30th to take advantage of the first time home buyer Federal income tax credit of up to $8,000?
4. 75-80% of homes are priced higher than market value. How do you know?

Find a great Realtor. If you'd like a referral to a top Realtor who works with buyers like you in your area let me know.

Good luck.
1 vote
Anna M Brocco, Agent, Williston Park, NY
Mon Feb 8, 2010
Unless you have a signed agreement with the agent you are under no obligation to use his/her services--however--the seller has represenation so why would you not want your own agent to look out for your best interest--you mention the property seems to come at a good price--how did you determine that, did you review data on recently closed similar properties in the area, how many properties have you visited to make such a determination, are you going by hearsay, etc.--in order to make an educated/informed decision, you really should consider using your own agent.
1 vote
Mary Kay and…, Agent, San Rafael, CA
Mon Feb 8, 2010
Dear Confused,

There is more to being an agent representing a buyer than just showing property!! The agent that you select to represent should be experienced, knowledgable about the area and the real estate inventory as well as recent sales comps, and a good negotiator and advisor. You should feel comfortable with your agent and be able to trust your agent. Your agent should be looking out for your best interests. It is important to make sure that your agent has all of these qualities since you are making a very big investment decision when you purchase real estate.

Mary Kay and Kathy
0 votes
Liz McCarthy, Agent, Greenbrae, CA
Mon Feb 8, 2010
SO many great answers here,

One thing you said: "AS this property that i saw seems to coming at a good price if i don't go with a Realtor on my end. the sellers agent represents both. "

Was a bit confused by this part of your question, as you will pay the same price for the house if you use your own Buyers Agent (that you choose to represent you and enter into an "Agency" Agreement with, or if you use the Listing agent. As another mentioned, if the Listing agent represents you (and the seller) you and the seller must both agree to a Dual Agency. Although California allows for Dual Agency, most/many agents would prefer NOT to enter into Dual Agency as it can be VERY hard to have fiduciary responsibility for both parties who have different interests: Seller: to get the most money possible, Buyer: to pay the least amount of money possible.

Also, there is one brokerage in Marin who I have heard rumors of trying purposely to dual end a lot of it's listings by not listing the property on MLS for a number of weeks. This is legal to do (as long as the Seller agrees to Exclude the Listing from the MLS) but to me it just doesn't really doesn't give the Seller the most exposure possible to the listing.

Here is a link that explains a lot about using a Buyers agent:

Feel free to call if you have other questions:
Liz McCarthy
0 votes
April Tavares, Agent, Campbell, CA
Mon Feb 8, 2010
You would likely be less confused if you had someone helping you through the process. The seller has someone looking out for their best interest, why would you not want that for yourself. What is the motivation for not getting your own representation? Is it that you think you will save money on a service that you are most likely not even paying for? How will you know that you are not overpaying for the property? How will you know if you might have been able to get the seller to cover some of the repairs, a home warranty, etc. How will you know that you have protected yourself in the contract. The agent representing both sides of a transaction cannot advise you.

I would really be interested in knowing what your thoughts are.

Best of luck,
April Tavares, GRI, ASP
Realtor, DRE License #01742179
Web Reference:
0 votes
Mack McCoy, Agent, Seattle, WA
Mon Feb 8, 2010
Well, the Seller's agent has claim to the total commission, because they don't have to share it with anybody, including you.

I cannot stress enough that searching for properties is not work, you do it from your desk. In the old days, we did it by turning pages in a book. Before that, they brought us index cards with photographs on 'em.

Finding a property to buy isn't a real accomplishment. The Seller's agent is hired specifically to bring the availability of the property to your attention. Do you think you get to go to the car dealer and say, "I want you to give me a bit off because I saw your ad on TV?"

In Washington State, procuring cause, to my understanding, means the agent whose name is on the Purchase & Sale Agreement. Meaning, in your case, the Listing Agent. They are entitled to the full commission, as agreed upon with the Seller, and are under absolutely no obligation to shave any part of that to "make the deal work." Basically, if the Seller wants to sell, and you want to buy, you should be prepared for the Agent to tell you both to make like a honeybee and buzz off when it comes to reducing the commission.
0 votes
Tristan Cela…, , Marin County, CA
Mon Feb 8, 2010
Don't be... confused, you're just fine

It is rude to call any agent and use them to open a house for your viewing. It is treating them as though their time in unimportant. Nonetheless you're not obligated to write an offer using that agent if you elect to use another. Anyone can sue anyone else for almost anything anytime but no rational broker will sue based solely upon showing a property. The trailing reference is to an explanation of "procuring cause", the legal term for the suit you were cautioned about.

The appropriate way for you to proceed is to obtain your own agent for guidance and assistance and to avoid confusion and conflict henceforward. Agents are NOT interchangeable so take the time to talk with enough so that you can select one who will add that value you're afraid agents don't provide.

Apparently you're getting advice from others, that caused you to ask your question. is a website dedicated to explaining all about buying and selling real estate - bookmark it. You'll return over and again for reference. There are articles about working with real estate agents, obtaining loans and much, much more.

If I can help further RSVP
0 votes
Joan Braunsc…, , Morris County, NJ
Mon Feb 8, 2010
If you have used an agent to show you a home and you make an offer on that house, yes that agent is owed a commission.
If you haven't used the agent from XXX company yet and use the listing agent, just realize that you are entering into a dual agency situation and basically the agent, who's primary fiduciary responsibility has been to the seller, is suppose to be totally neutral to both parties. Please understand that I am from NJ where dual agency is still used and I am not real familiar with California agency rules.
Having a buyer's agent is to your advantage because their fiduciary responsibility is to you and only you. In a dual agency situation, the agent's hands are tied because they cannot help with negotiations and must keep all advice neutral. Dual agency can be a fine line and although I know there are plenty of agents who are comfortable with it, its not always easy to tow the line and both the seller and the buyer can be at a disadvantage because of it.
If an agent has a commission issue, it is usually something between agents. I don't think it is you that the agent would have an issue with but the listing agent.
If you haven't used anyone yet, my suggestion would be to interview and find an agent who you feel absolutely comfortable with so that you are going into the (presumeably) biggest purchase of your life with your own representation.

I hope this helps.
0 votes
Steve Roake, Agent, Naperville, IL
Mon Feb 8, 2010
The agent who shows you the home is entitled to any commission offered to the buyers agent. This agent from XXX would have a right to collect the money from the listing broker, not you. His ability to do so would depend on how well he documented that he was working for you and was the procuring cause for the transaction. I'm not sure what you mean about a good price if you don't go with a realtor on your end. Dual agency is common in many places but will restrict the agent's ability to act in your best interest. I would be wary of being talked into this arrangement by the seller's agent. It is unethical to say the least, and makes me wonder where else you might not get the service due to you.
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0 votes
Amy E Glaser, Agent, San Rafael, CA
Mon Feb 8, 2010
The truth is, as a buyer are you are entitled to work with an agent of your choosing. Without a "Buyer/Broker Agreement" you have no contractual obligation to work with a specific buyer's agent. I would carefully read the fine print in the "Terms & Conditions" to see if by agreeing to the online terms & conditions you entered into a "Buyer/Broker" Agreement. I should also mention that there has been some debate regarding the enforceability of such an agreement. However, it would be a shame to end up in a court of law only to learn the "agreement," if any, is unenforceable.

With regard to whether or not it is wise for you to have an agent represent you when buying a house, I would say it is a must! The listing agent has a "Fiduciary" responsibility to the seller, not to you. It is very difficult to have this level of responsibility to both a seller and buyer. Especially since sellers want the most money for their house and buyers want to pay the least amount of money to buy the house. A good buyer's agent will be your local market expert, negotiate like a pit bull on your behalf and oversee all the transactional details. There is close to 100 documents you will be required to sign in the process of buying a home. An agent looking out for your interests is key to making sure you dot all your "i"s and cross all your "t"s and don't leave money on the table.

I can send a copy of a "Buyer/Broker" agreement to compare to the online terms and conditions so that you may better determine whether or not you are at risk.
0 votes
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