Can I Trust A REALTOR?

You might wonder “Can I Trust A REALTOR?”  Great question!  How do you know if the agent is there to protect your interests or if they have another agenda…. and the answer to the question is found in agency.
In Virginia, agency requires a contract (this has not always been true, but it is now).  So if you do not have a written contract with the brokerage then you do not have an agent.
Sellers and landlords expect to have a written agreement.  It spells out all the offering terms, information about the property, as well as brokerage duties, and information on how the brokerage will get paid.
But buyers and tenants can have agents, too, if they sign a similar contract that spells out duties and services offered by the agent, to what end, and how the brokerage will get paid.
Sellers and landlords mostly think of their agent in terms of marketing their homes.  Buyers and tenants seem to mostly think of their agent in terms of showing them homes.  But agency is really so much more than that.

Oh, sure, everyone wans the market knowledge…how should the property be presented and priced, are there a few or a lot of similar properties available, how long will it be on the market… that kind of thing.

Within agency, I personally place the highest value on confidentiality and promoting and protecting the interests of our clients.

Let me give you a couple of examples which happen more often than you’d think:
(1) You go to an open house which is listed for $450,000.  You don’t like it.  You start asking the agent there questions.  You say you can pay $550,000 for the right house.  She takes you to see another house, priced at $525,000.  You fall in love.  You ask her to write up a contract, quick, before someone else buys it.  You tell her to offer $500,000, and tell her to tell the owner that it is all you can afford.
STOP HERE:  Who does this agent represent?   By default, all agents represent the seller.  So if you have no agreement you have no agent.  What this means is that she will write up the offer, present it to the seller and say “They told me to tell you that this is all they can pay, but I am sure they can pay more and will pay at least your asking price.”  Why would she do that to you?  Because she is legally obligated to represent the seller unless she has an agreement with the buyer to represent him.  That means telling her client all she knows.

(2) Your home is for sale.  An agent comes to preview the house for a client.  She’s nice, and you’re bored.  You begin to chat.  Before you know it, you tell her you’re worried about getting this place sold, and you’d love to see any offer at all.  The agent leaves and goes back to her computer and emails her client that the house is perfect for them, and that even though comps support a higher price, if they move quickly, they may be able to get a deal.   WHY WOULD SHE DO THAT?  Well, this agent’s clients, who will be buying sight unseen, have a written agency agreement with her.  She is obligated to tell her clients about the conversation with the seller and to use it to their advantage.
This post is not intended to make you afraid of real estate agents.  We’re not evil people, we’re nice people (most of us anyway) and once we’re hired to do a job, we do it.  I think we get a bad rap sometimes because people do not understand who we represent, but with the laws now requiring a written agency agreement,even for buyers and tenants, this should become a lot clearer.
Bottom line… Remember, unless you have a written agency agreement, assume the agent is working for someone else…. and “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a later negotiation.”
Ready to hire your own agent?
Vicky Chrisner

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