We live and work now in a very digital age. We also find most of the stuff we buy online, including our homes. That means real estate agents and brokers are more present than ever before on the web, mobile, and social media with their home listings and marketing.
As the first place buyers turn to when looking for a home, the web makes things very convenient. Homes can be searched and found easily that match a given buyer’s wants and needs. Sites like Zillow have become the most popular and direct ways of finding a home – and connecting with an agent.
But as convenient as these sites are, they also lead home buyers to make one very big mistake: not hiring a buyer’s agent to represent them in the deal and going straight to the listing agent.
You see, by not having a free listing agent working for your interests – and only your interests – you allow yourself to be potentially taken advantage of by the seller and their agent. At a minimum, you’re tying the proverbial “one arm behind your back” by allowing the seller – by virtue of their special relationship with their client, the owner selling the home – to have an upper (or in this case extra) hand.
How is this, you may ask?
Well, “agency” in this country is a legally-defined and very regulated thing. You can think of it kinda like the attorney-client privilege or the relationship you have when granting someone power of attorney. Agents and their clients are legally bound by the agent’s “fiduciary” responsibilities to the client.
It’s a funny word, but it means the agent owes their client (under pain of litigation and legal mandate) the following:
- Obedience: Agent’s must legally do what their clients ask them to do as long as it isn’t illegal.
- Loyalty: Agents must act only in their client’s best interest – not in the interest of themselves or other parties.
- Disclosure: Agents must tell the truth about a home or a deal and must disclose what is called any “Material Fact.” Things like holes in the roof or when a home’s foundation is sinking into the ground.
- Confidentiality: Agents must keep private the business and information of their clients.
- Accounting: Agents must document everything (and hold onto it) and keep strict track of funds such as cash or checks according to applicable laws.
- Reasonable Care: Agents have to act rationally and prudently in their duties to protect their legal client.
When you search for homes on the web, it’s not always clear who exactly is listing a home. Especially on sites like www.zillow.com, it’s very tempting when you find a home you like to just click or call the agent that’s listed at the top right beside the home’s info.
In most cases, that means you’re calling the “Listing Agent,” or the real estate professional with whom the homeowner has a listing contract and who has a fiduciary, legal responsibility to the client (i.e., the home seller).
What does that really mean, you may ask?
Well, it means that the agent, above all else, must be all those things outlined in the bullets listed above to the home SELLER.
When a listing agent handles both sides of a deal, it means you’re their customer, not their client. They can share any info you give them, don’t have to do exactly as you ask and must put their seller’s interests above yours.
Nothing in the law says a deal must be fair if you are not an agent’s client. In fact, real estate agency where there are buyer’s agents and listing agents was created to allow the choice of a level playing field. If you don’t choose a buyer’s agent, well, you’re intentionally or neglectfully making your deal unfair!
Many home buyers don’t know this and think, “Well, here’s a home I like, I’ll just call the listing agent and cut out paying for a middleman!”
First off, buyer’s agents are free. The home seller sets and pays the commission when they list a home, so no money will come out of your pocket.
Plus, not having a free buyer’s agent can be a very, very bad right from the start.
What most don’t realize when they make this decision is that having a buyer’s agent is a middleman (or woman) you desperately need to make sure your interests are represented when making pricing offers, negotiating terms, following legal procedures, digging up “gotchas” that you may not easily see when looking at a home and much, much more.
Would you walk into a courtroom and just rest easy thinking you’ll be well-represented by the opposing side’s attorney? I don’t think so.
Yet, every week, I get calls from home buyers who either a) want to deal directly with me for the homes I list or b) find out after speaking with me that the home they called about isn’t my listing and hang up to call the listing agent.
Sadly, in both cases, the buyer’s are doing themselves a great disservice and, more times than not, end up hurting themselves badly in the end.
As the old saying goes about legal matters, the person that represents himself has a fool for a client.
Call me today to represent you for free when buying your next home! I’ll make sure your interests are my top priority.
205-737-2983 or email me here.