Agents may represent buyer, seller or both

  • Steve Tytler / Real Estate Columnist
  • Saturday, January 5, 2002 9:00pm
  • Business

Q: What is “dual agency?” We have signed a contract to list our home for sale. Now the real estate company wants us to sign a dual agency agreement. What should we do? – N.J., Snohomish

A: Real estate agency law has evolved a great deal over the past two decades. In the old days, real estate agents always worked for the sellers. They had a responsibility to get the best price possible for the sellers of the homes they were showing.

But this caused a lot of confusion among home buyers, who logically assumed that the friendly real estate agent who drove them all over town every weekend was actually working for their best interests and not the sellers.

In fact, the real estate agents often felt the same way, because they spent most of their time with the buyers, but they were legally obligated to represent the seller’s interests when writing up a purchase offer.

This all changed in 1987, when the state passed a law that required real estate agents to disclose in writing who they were representing in a transaction. Purchase and sale agreements contain language something like this: “At the signing of this agreement, the selling agent represented … Each party signing this document confirms that prior oral and/or written disclosure of agency was provided to him/her in this transaction.”

For the first time, home buyers were given written notice that the agents with whom they were working were, in fact, representing the seller.

Since this didn’t go over well with some home buyers, a few real estate agents starting working as buyer’s agents, representing the buyer rather than the seller. Once they disclosed that they were representing the buyer, these agents were free to try to get the best deal possible for their clients without violating a fiduciary responsibility to work for the seller.

They would try to get the lowest price possible and negotiate the best possible purchase terms for the buyer. Over the years, more and more real estate agents began to work as buyer’s agents until it became the most common type of agency.

Today, real estate agents typically represent the buyer, unless they listed the home. Listing agents always work for the seller, because that is what they are being paid to do. However, other agents from the listing agent’s office may show the home as buyer’s agents and represent the buyer’s interests in the transaction.

In some cases, the listing agent acts as a dual agent representing both the seller and buyer when the agent produces a bona fide buyer for a home which he or she has listed for sale. However, this must be disclosed in writing and both the buyer and seller must agree to accept the dual agency role of the agent.

I assume that is the kind of agreement you are being asked to sign, so that the agent listing your home can also represent buyers who may wish to make a purchase offer. This is not really a problem as long as everybody understands and agrees that the agent is representing both parties. For example, don’t tell the agent that you are willing to accept a lower offer for your house if you don’t want that information to get back to the buyers.

If you don’t want to accept dual agency, state law allows real estate agents the option of representing nobody in the transaction. They can simply act as a facilitator without a fiduciary responsibility to either the buyer or the seller in the transaction.

So the bottom line is, as long as everyone agrees, the agent can represent whomever he or she chooses – except for listing agents who are contractually bound to represent the seller’s interests on the properties they are marketing.

Mail your real estate questions to Steve Tytler, The Herald, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Fax questions to Tytler at 425-339-3435, or e-mail him at economy@heraldnet.com

Steve Tytler is a licensed real estate broker and owner of Best Mortgage, Inc. You can visit the Best Mortage Web site at www.bestmortgage.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Business

The Westwood Rainier is one of the seven ships in the Westwood line. The ships serve ports in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast Asia. (Photo provided by Swire Shipping)
Westwood Shipping Lines, an Everett mainstay, has new name

The four green-hulled Westwood vessels will keep their names, but the ships will display the Swire Shipping flag.

Lead climbers head up their respective routes at Vertical World North on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Beginner’s ascent: A newcomer’s guide to indoor climbing

Indoor climbing gyms in and around Snohomish County offer thrills without winter chills.

Alexis Burroughs holds a bigleaf maple leaf while guiding her participants through sensory observation during a forest bathing session Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, at Lord Hill Regional Park near Snohomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
To restore human bond with nature, locals lead forest bathing sessions

A yoga instructor in Bothell and Adopt a Stream in Everett say the meditative practice evokes emotion, health benefits.

Instructor Gael Gebow checks her stopwatch while tracking her group’s exercises during her Boot Camp fitness class Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, at the YMCA in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
YMCA fitness instructor challenges, empowers Everett residents

Gael Gebow has made inclusivity and healthy living her focus in 23 years at the YMCA.

A view of the Broadway construction site of Compass Health’s new mental health facility on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Compass Health dedicates Everett block to housing and behavioral health services

The “state-of-the-art” project is set to total over $90M. The nonprofit has asked for public support.

More than 150 people attend a ribbon cutting event on Nov. 16, 2023 celebrating the completion of Innovation Hall at the University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia College campus. The building, which highlights STEM instruction and research, opens to students in January. Credit: Tara Brown Photography/UW Bothell
New science, math facility opens in January at UW Bothell

Innovation Hall is the first new building to be constructed at the Bothell university campus in 10 years.

Everett
Rairdon Auto Group acquires Pignataro VW in Everett

Everett VW dealership is the 12th for the Rairdon Group, which marks 30 years in business this year.

A Keyport ship docked at Lake Union in Seattle in June 2018. The ship spends most of the year in Alaska harvesting Golden King crab in the Bering Sea. During the summer it ties up for maintenance and repairs at Lake Union. (Keyport LLC)
In crabbers’ turbulent moment, Edmonds seafood processor ‘saved our season’

When a processing plant in Alaska closed, Edmonds-based business Keyport stepped up to solve a “no-win situation.”

Angela Harris, Executive Director of the Port of Edmonds, stands at the port’s marina on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Leadership, love for the Port of Edmonds got exec the job

Shoring up an aging seawall is the first order of business for Angela Harris, the first woman to lead the Edmonds port.

The Cascade Warbirds fly over Naval Station Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald file)
Bothell High School senior awarded $2,500 to keep on flying

Cascade Warbirds scholarship helps students 16-21 continue flight training and earn a private pilot’s certificate.

Rachel Gardner, the owner of Musicology Co., a new music boutique record store on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024 in Edmonds, Washington. Musicology Co. will open in February, selling used and new vinyl, CDs and other music-related merchandise. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Edmonds record shop intends to be a ‘destination for every musician’

Rachel Gardner opened Musicology Co. this month, filling a record store gap in Edmonds.

MyMyToyStore.com owner Tom Harrison at his brick and mortar storefront on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Burst pipe permanently closes downtown Everett toy store

After a pipe flooded the store, MyMyToystore in downtown Everett closed. Owner Tom Harrison is already on to his next venture.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.