Articles – When is a Buyers Agent Not?

by Roy E. Grimm, PhD

These days traditional real estate agents can and, typically, do promote themselves as “Buyer’s Representatives” and “Buyer’s Agents.” Many of the most successful agent teams include one or more buyer’s specialists who work together with the listing specialists in boosting sales. Other agents, working solely, simply switch hats between representing sellers and buyers or both, as the occasion arises. To establish credibility, many such agents obtain the ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative) designation.

At the initial consultation meeting, real estate agents are supposed to present prospective buyers with the Arizona Association of Realtors’ Real Estate Agency and Election form which describes the three types of agency: Buyer’s Broker, Seller’s Broker, and Limited Dual Representation. The buyer is then asked to select the appropriate relationship with the firm and the agent. The first two are rather straightforward statements of fiduciary responsibility to either the buyer or seller. Dual agency, however, is a tricky hybrid in which the agent is required by law to attempt to work with both sides in a transaction. It is akin to an attorney trying to work with both the defendant and plaintiff in the same court case. Very hard to do without compromising the level of service to one’s client. In fact, the Disclosure form states, in the case of Dual Representation,” There will be conflicts in the duties of loyalty, obedience, disclosure and confidentiality.”

Dual Agency arises automatically when a “buyer’s agent” shows the buyer one of her company’s listings, as she eventually must if she’s doing her job. That means in that instant the agent becomes a “Dual Agent” instead of a “Buyer’s Agent” and is thrust into the unenviable position of trying to serve two masters with very different goals.

The most reliable way of avoiding that situation is for the buyer to work with an Buyer’s Agent in the first place. By definition, Buyer’s Agents are employed by firms which refuse to take listings and therefore never work with sellers nor practice Dual Agency. They are usually members of the National Association of Buyer’s Agents. There are presently only four such firms in the state of Arizona. The clear advantage to the buyer of working with a NAEBA member is that there is never a question of whose side the EBA is on. The brokerage is paid from the proceeds of the sale, so there is no additional cost to the buyer-client for unquestioned loyalty and total advocacy.