Important – Please Read:
Virginia has a NEW LAW regarding notification of Buyer Representation also known as Agency
The following information is provided by the Virginia Association of Realtors®
Buying or Selling: How to Choose a Real Estate Professional
First, understand the difference between “buyer’s agents,” who represent the best interests of the buyer, and “sellers agents,” also called “listing agents,” who represent the seller’s best interests. Understanding the differences between these two agency types can play a vital role in your choice of a real estate professional as well as the specific services, skills and capabilities offered by that individual.
Most of the time, the firm representing one party (the buyer or seller) will represent only that party and will not also represent the other party. Unless you and your agent agree in writing to the contrary, your agency relationship will be a standard agency and will be governed by Virginia’s laws and regulations setting forth the duties agents and brokers owe their clients.
Most of us are generally aware of the role played by the listing agent, who represents the seller. But within the last decade or so, buyer agency has become increasingly commonplace. A buyer’s agent can help you with many tasks in purchasing your new home. He or she will help you determine how much you can reasonably afford to spend on a house, help you obtain a loan commitment from a mortgage lender, help you establish priorities such as location, personal tastes, availability and budget, and find the home that fits your needs and desires. One of the most important and valuable skills is the ability to negotiate for favorable terms on your selected real estate. While you will make the ultimate decision on what to offer for a home, the price you pay will be influenced by market conditions, interest rates and market subtleties that your agent will know and understand. When you have agreed on price and terms with the sellers, your buyer’s agent will help you locate a qualified home inspector, finalize your loan, and select an attorney or title company to close your purchase.
Occasionally a buyer will wish to make an offer on a property listed by the buyer agent’s firm, or even by the buyer agent. Virginia law allows an agent to represent both the seller and buyer in the same transaction, but only with the mutual and informed consent of both parties. The dual agent’s position is one of neutrality, which means the agent cannot favor one party over the other, cannot offer negotiation assistance, and cannot disclose the confidential and personal information of either party to the other party. The agent will typically make every effort to act impartially and facilitate a win-win conclusion to the transaction.
A buyer may wish to make an offer on a property listed by the buyer agent’s firm, but by a different agent in the firm. In this situation, it may be possible for both buyer and seller to retain full representation and assistance by the use of what is known as designated representation. The firm’s principal broker, who remains impartial regarding the parties, designates one agent in the firm — to the exclusion of all others — to represent the seller, and, similarly, one agent – to the exclusion of all others — to represent the buyer. The designated representatives act more or less as if they were in separate firms, giving their full services to their respective clients while preserving all their client’s confidences. The broker remains available to assist in resolving any conflicts or disputes that may arise between the parties. Designated representation, when available, offers the advantage of full service that is not possible when the parties consent to a dual agency, in which one or both agents represent both parties.
What is a REALTOR®?
Many people are surprised to learn that not all real estate licensees are REALTORS®. REALTORS® are members of the National Association of REALTORS®, and are pledged to abide by the 17 Articles of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. The Code came out in 1912 and predates many license laws issued by real estate licensing boards. Typically, REALTORS® spend many extra hours continuing their real estate education. Consumers having problems working with a real estate licensee must address their complaint to the Virginia Real Estate Board, a state government agency, which licenses brokers and agents. Those having any problem or concern with a REALTOR® have the additional option of addressing that with the REALTOR®’s local association.
One more tip on selecting an agent…
Select your agent carefully and then work with only one agent. Working with more than one agent usually results in wasted time and energy and will only complicate your real estate transaction – neither agent will provide exceptional service because of split loyalties, transaction commissions and procuring cause conflicts. However, agents will be committed to you if you are committed to them. If you select wisely, your agent will provide detailed housing market information, be able to optimally access and utilize the various available technologies, and will devote the time necessary to find you the best home at the best price or find the buyer for your home at the best price and terms for you.
How do you decide which is best for you?
Virginia law defines “Agency” in the real estate context as a “relationship in which a real estate licensee acts for or represents a person by such person’s express authority in a real estate transaction.” If you enter into an agency relationship with a real estate firm, you are its client, and the firm represents you. If you are buying through a firm but do not enter into an agency or brokerage relationship with the firm, Virginia law says that you are the firm’s customer. Firms will generally give higher levels of service to their clients than to their customers.