In North Carolina, as in most states, real estate agents can represent both buyers and sellers during a real estate transaction. In some cases, the agent works only for the seller. In others, the seller and buyer may each have his or her own agent. And in other transactions, the same agent represents both the seller and the buyer.
What's important is that YOU know the difference—whether the agent is working for you as your own agent or simply working with you while actually representing the seller.
Agents working with sellers
When you're ready to sell your property, you can obtain the services of a real estate firm to “list” your property for sale. The firm and its agents then become the seller's agent. For representing you and helping you sell your property, you will pay the listing firm a sales commission or fee. The listing agreement must state, among other things, the amount of the commission or fee and whether you will allow the firm to share its commission with agents representing the buyer.
Once you have signed the listing agreement, the firm and its agents may not give any confidential information about you to prospective buyers or their agents without your permission as long as they represent you.
The listing firm may belong to a listing service to expose your property to other agents who also are members of the service. Two Gulls Realty belongs to the Brunswick County (N.C.) Multiple Listing Service.
Agents working with buyers
In North Carolina, agents can help you purchase a property by representing you—and only you—during the transaction as your buyer's agent. In some cases some agents have declared themselves to be only buyer's agents and will never represent a seller.
Once you have agreed—orally or in writing—for the agent to be your buyer's agent, your agent cannot give any confidential information about you to the seller or their agent without your permission as long as they represent you. To make sure you and your real estate firm have a clear understanding of your relationship with the firm and its agents, you may want to have a written buyer's agency agreement.
Usually, the seller or the listing firm compensates the buyer's agent. In some cases the buyer's agent will require the buyer to pay a fee if the listing firm does not. Whatever the case, make sure you understand the compensation arrangement, which is spelled out in the buyer agency agreement, before you make an offer to purchase property.
Seller's Agent or Subagent
In real estate transactions, there's one important thing to remember: The agent with whom you are working represents the seller and becomes a seller's agent or subagent. The seller's agent or subagent represents the seller—not you—unless you and your agent already have agreed to a buyer's agency agreement.
A seller's agent or subagent must treat you fairly and honestly and disclose all the material facts about a property, such as major roof damage or water leaks. Most important, the seller's agent or subagent also must disclose to you—the buyer—that he or she represents the seller.
If you do not have a buyer's agency agreement with your agent, you are on your own during the transaction and may not have all the information about the property available to you. What's more, you should not tell the seller's agent or subagent with whom you are working anything that you would not want the seller to know.
A real estate agent or firm may represent both the buyer and seller in the same transaction—but only with the knowledge and written consent from them. In short, everyone involved with the transaction that the agent is acting as a dual agent, when he or she represents both buyer and seller.
It may be difficult for a dual agent to promote the interests of both the buyer and seller. Nevertheless, a dual agent must treat buyers and sellers fairly and equally. Although the dual agent owes them the same duties, buyers and seller can prohibit dual agents from divulging some confidential information about them to the other party.
Two Gulls Realty also practices “designated agency,” where one agent in the firm represents the seller and another agent represents the buyer in the same transaction.
For more details and information about working with real estate agents, click here.