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It is important for anyone planning to purchase a home to understand the difference between a buyer's agent and the listing agent. Most people don't really understand what this means to them when they are purchasing a home.
The last thing you want to do is walk into an open house and start chatting with the listing agent about how much you can afford and how much you want to buy the house. The Listing agent owes his or her loyalty to the seller - and only the seller! If you're negotiating with a pro, you ought to have a pro in your corner too!
Some buyers initially resist when presented with the option of retaining a buyer's agent; however, this hesitation has more to do with a lack of understanding of the role of a buyer's agent than not wanting representation.
Before the advent of the buyer agency, all real estate agents were considered agents of the seller because the seller paid the commission. This was true even when an agent had been working with the buyer and was responsible for writing and presenting the offer. That meant that if the agent knew information about the seller which could help the buyer in formulating their offer, the agent was not allowed to share it with the buyer. The agent working with the buyer might know that the seller is under great pressure to sell due to a relocation, a difficult divorce or financial pressures. Prior to buyer agency, the agent showing the property to the buyer could not share this information with the buyer.
At the same time if the buyer shared information with the agent that would be advantageous for the seller to know, the agent working with the buyer had a responsibility to share this information with the seller. This never set well with me and I was very relieved when the law of agency was redefined and buyer agency became the rule rather than the exception.
But as a whole Realtors have not done a very good job in explaining this to their clients. We are bound by law to disclose our agency responsibilities but I think it makes most agents feel uncomfortable to discuss this with their clients. I try very hard to make sure my clients thoroughly understand our agency agreement and what my duties are in representing them.
When I represent a buyer it is my objective to see that my client has all the information they need to make an informed decision about the property they are purchasing. I can access county records, mls history of sales and I often get quite a bit of information from the listing agent about the seller's motivation and urgency to sell. I discuss all information with the buyer so that we can make an offer that is likely to be accepted by the seller.
If the listing agent is doing their job in representing the seller, they cannot share this information with you as it would be detrimental to the interest of the seller, their client.
Most buyers are unaware that if the listing agent shows you a home and you confide the price you are willing to pay or any information which would be advantageous for the seller to know, the listing agent has a responsibility to use that information to the seller's advantage. Although a listing agent may disclose their agency to a buyer, most will not explain this responsibility they have as the seller's agent. By law the listing agent cannot represent the buyer!