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Listing Agent vs. Buying Agent

By Elizabeth Elstien

A real estate agent can perform duties for the buyer, seller or both in the sale of a property in Pennsylvania. Understand that an agent may work for the seller in one transaction and a buyer in a separate transaction. How do you want your real estate agent to represent you during the purchase of your first home? Whom do you want the agent to work for?

As a homebuyer, a one-time agency relationship defines just what role you want your real estate agent to play to manage the largest purchase of your life. Of course, the seller will also have agency representation. An agency relationship legally defines you as the client of a specific real estate agent. There are three main types of representation in Pennsylvania (known as agencies) a real estate agent can perform, as explained below.

  1. Buyer agent - A real estate professional who advocates for a homebuyer by arranging viewings, writing and submitting offers, negotiating price and repairs, advising on the best homes based on the buyer's needs and checking property history. A buyer's agent put the buyer's needs first and does not disclose inappropriate information, or anything that would otherwise put the buyer at a disadvantage in negotiations. There are exclusive buyer's agents who only work with buyers and never list properties, but most agents work on the buying and selling side on a case-by-case basis.
  2. Listing (or selling) agent - A real estate professional who works for a home seller to negotiate the best terms and sell the property quickly and for the best price. A listing agent must also disclose any known material defects while placing the seller's interests first. There are exclusive listing agents who only work for home sellers, but as stated above, many agents work on each side.
  3. Dual agent - A real estate professional who advocates for both a homebuyer and a home seller in a transaction at the same time. Dual agency may result if you are the client in a buyer agency and your real estate agent is also working for the seller in a listing (listing agent) that you wish to make an offer on. In this dual relationship, it is difficult to adequately represent either party and neutrality may be needed in conflicts between the home seller and buyer. Both the seller and buyer must agree in writing to the dual agency.

Homebuyers will choose buyer or perhaps dual agency in some circumstances. Sellers will choose listing agent unless the agent also brings a buyer that make a purchase offer. Once agency representation is decided, an agency disclosure agreement will be signed outlining agency terms. It is important not to search for property with an agent or enter into any real estate transaction without a signed agency agreement. Once signed, the document makes you the client of the real estate agent. Now the real estate agent has specific duties to you that include:

  • Complete loyalty
  • Reasonable care
  • Disclosure
  • Obedience to lawful instruction
  • Confidentiality
  • Accountability
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