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The Different Types of Real Estate Agents

Understanding the different types of real estate agents can make a big difference in the experience you receive in a real estate transaction. There are three types of real estate agents: seller’s agents, buyer’s agents and dual agents. Understanding the responsibilities of each of these three types of agents is important regardless of whether you are buying or selling.

It is always best to assume any real estate agent is a seller’s agent unless the agent specifically states otherwise. Most states do require agents to disclose whether they are buyer’s agents, seller’s agents or working in a dual capacity. A seller’s agent’s first responsibility is toward the seller of the property. This agent can still assist a buyer in locating and purchasing property; however, their primary responsibility is toward the seller. This means the seller’s agent cannot disclose any personal information about the sellers or the seller’s property. For example, they cannot tell you the seller is selling the property because they are facing foreclosure, changing jobs, have medical problems or they are getting a divorce. A seller’s agent is required to disclose material facts regarding the property to all buyers; however. These material facts include structural problems, leaky foundations, etc. In the end the seller’s agent’s primary responsibility is to make sure they get the best deal possible for the seller. So, while they can’t tell a prospective buyer whether a seller will take less for a property they can certainly, and should, tell the seller whether a buyer is willing to pay more for a property.

A buyer’s agent is an agent who has a primary responsibility toward the buyer in a real estate transaction. Traditionally, the only types of agents in the past have been seller’s agents. In most cases that is still the case; however, buyer’s agents are becoming more and more well known. If you are working with a buyer’s agent, the agent has a responsibility and duty to negotiate the best deal for you. In this case, the agent is not allowed to pass on any information to the seller, such as whether you would be willing to pay more for a particular property. Along the same lines, when working with a buyer’s agent, the agent is allowed to pass on any information they obtain about the seller and/or the property.

A dual real estate agent is an agent who works as a buyer agent with a buyer who is considering a purchase of property that is listed with the agent’s firm. A dual agent walks a rather tight line because they must provide loyalty to both the buyer and the seller. Be aware that dual agency is not allowed in all area. In areas where it is allowed this type of agency must be disclosed to both parties and agreed to in writing by both parties. In some cases, the broker in charge of the office may designate one agent to work with the buyer and another to work with the seller in order to avoid any problems or confusion. In this case the agent is known as a designated agent.

Taking the time to understand the different types of real estate agents can eliminate much confusion and many problems during your next real estate transaction. Remember, if you’re not sure whether you are working with a buyer’s agent or a seller’s agent, always clarify the matter up front-before you spill any information you might not want repeated to the other side.

Furthermore, always ask for an Agency Disclosure and read it carefully to be sure you understand the agent’s responsibilities to both sides of the transaction.
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