Musings on Buyers Working With Listing Agents

I work an open house every weekend. I absolutely enjoy doing so. It’s fun to meet people who are excited about purchasing a home, and if I’m lucky, there are streams of them who cross my thresholds on Saturday and Sunday.

At almost every open house I get the same question at least once, “Are you the listing agent? I will only work directly with the listing agent. I want to get the best deal.” This statement drives me crazy! Naturally, I have my own listings and I would be more than happy to double-end a transaction but, the reality of it is, an agent is hired by the seller to get the best price for the seller.

Some of the arguments I hear go like this – “You know what the seller will take, so if I work with you, you’ll tell me.” “Since you are making more commission, you’ll make sure my offer wins.” These people are telling themselves that by removing a buyer’s agent from the equation will somehow meet their needs better.

At the root of those arguments lies an assumption that we will transgress of our fiduciary duty to our first client – the seller. The potential buyer is assuming we will do anything to get a deal done. The bad news for them is, we don’t practice real estate that way.

Forget about any potential fiduciary transgressions – inadvertent or intentional – for a moment. We’ll assume the buyer and seller are of high moral grade and expect nothing but above-board dealings. The ever-so-complicated dance of the escrow period is coming up now. Inspections are going to be done, requests are going to be made for items to be fixed, disclosures are going to be passed back and forth, etc… By the end of the transaction, expect to have a four inch thick stack of paperwork you’ve signed. During all of that, which side does the agent take during the transaction? Can that agent argue as forcefully as he or she needs to for either side? Whose side are they on? Don’t forget – the listing agent was originally hired to represent the seller. I’m sure you could picture how it could become exceedingly difficult to argue for one client or the other.

Think about it this way – if you were being sued by someone, would you use the same lawyer? No, of course not.

Here’s what I think – a buyer should find and work with a buyer’s agent who will have a fiduciary responsibility to you alone. There is more to it than the purchase price. A good buyer’s agent is there to work only for you. Because they are not tied to selling you one property or another, the agent is constantly pressing into all of the details making sure the house – and the transaction – is right for you. They are your bulldog. Your bloodhound. Your counselor. Your agent.

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