The Skinny on Buyer's and Seller's Agents

Posted by Rich Neste on Thursday, January 15th, 2015 at 11:45am.

Until recently, it was a fine line separating a buyer’s agent from a seller’s agent. Typically a traditional buyer's agent (also called a sub-agent of the seller) has more legal obligation to the individual selling than the one buying a property. We have seen a new breed of buyer agent emerge, committed exclusively to the buyer’s best interests. But a new breed of agent has appeared on the market over the past several years, one committed exclusively to the best interests of the buyer.

The New Breed of Buyer’s Agent

Usually paid a percentage of commission (but sometimes paid a fee) this new buyer’s agent is contractually bound helping clients find, realize the best price, and negotiate the best possible terms when purchasing real estate. The traditional buyer’s agent (sub-agent) also finds, shows, evaluates and negotiates contracts on real estate for the buyer. Both provide expert advice on real estate services including inspections, mortgage lending, and the purchasing and closing of real estate transactions. There are advantages to having an exclusive buyer’s agent as opposed to a sub-agent and they include:

  • Ability to disclose important information about the seller's position that the sub-agent cannot legally divulge. This information can benefit the buyer when making an offer to purchase real estate.
  • The buyer's agent can work for the lowest sale price while the sub-agent legally cannot.
  • Buyer will not be under pressure to purchase any particular property since all sales will be commissioned under terms of the exclusivity contract.
  • The agent's expertise in real estate can help a client comfortably negotiate the purchase and sales process.
 Selling or Listing Agent

Better understood is the selling, or listing, agent. Employed by a real estate firm, this agent works with the seller to establish an appropriate sale price for the home then markets that property, usually through a multiple listing service.

In any real estate office, each agent works hard to sell their company's listed properties and each is paid only if the home is sold, taking their commission on a percentage of the final sale. If the selling agent fails to produce a buyer for their client within the negotiated time frame, the seller may pull the property listing and contract with another real estate company.

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