Working with a Buyer’s Agent

Today, most buyers choose to work with a buyer’s agent who represents their interests. However, most of those agents also list properties for sale and things can get muddy if you want to buy a home that happens to have been listed by your own real estate agent. That single agent now has a duty to obtain the highest price for the seller and the lowest price for you. That’s impossible to accomplish of course. But both sides can and must be treated fairly.

Before you ever start shopping make sure you have an upfront discussion with your agent about how the agent intends to handle such a situation. If state law allows, some agents will try to work as nonpartisan intermediaries in such situations. This arrangement may be legal, but your negotiating help evaporates as soon as you agree to such an arrangement. Another option is for the agent to hand you off to another agent who works for the same brokerage and that agent can negotiate on your behalf. Because negotiating help is one of the most valuable services an agent provides buyers or sellers, most people are better off bringing in that other agent who can negotiate on their behalf.

For you the buyer, this whole complicated issue of agency boils down to a single, simple sentence: who will keep your information private and who will negotiate on your behalf. Don’t hire a buyer’s agent until you get a satisfactory answer. Even after you have a buyer’s agent in your corner, it pays to keep some things to yourself. Buyers agents are not supposed to blab about how much you love the house or about the big inheritance you could tap if you needed to, but it’s human to let secrets slip sometimes. Even when it comes to negotiating help you will be better off if you can make the decisions and rely on the agent simply for tips and advice. Remember that nobody has as much at stake in this deal as you do.