If you are selling real estate, you may want to “list” your property for sale with a real estate firm. If so, you will sign a “listing agreement” authorizing the firm and its agents to represent you in your dealings with buyers as your seller’s agent. You may also be asked to allow agents from other firms to help find a buyer for your property.
Be sure to read and understand the listing agreement before you sign it. Your agent must give you a copy of the listing agreement after you sign it.
Duties to Seller: The listing firm and its agents must
• promote your best interests
• be loyal to you
• follow your lawful instructions
• provide you with all material facts that could influence your decisions
• use reasonable skill, care and diligence, and
• account for all monies they handle for you.
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 so long as they represent you. But until you sign the listing agreement, you should avoid telling the listing agent anything you would not want a buyer to know.
Services and Compensation: To help you sell your property, the listing firm and its agents will offer to perform a number of services for you. These may include
• helping you price your property
• advertising and marketing your property
• giving you all required property disclosure forms for you to complete
• negotiating for you the best possible price and terms
• reviewing all written offers with you and
• otherwise promoting your interests.
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 the amount or method for determining the commission or fee and whether you will allow the firm to share its commission with agents representing the buyer.
You may even permit the listing firm and its agents to represent you and a buyer at the same time. This “dual agency relationship” is most likely to happen if an agent with your listing firm is working as a buyer’s agent with someone who wants to purchase your property. If this occurs and you have not already agreed to a dual agency relationship in your listing agreement, your listing agent will ask you to amend your listing agreement to permit the agent to act as agent for both you and the buyer.
It may be difficult for a dual agent to advance 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 sellers can prohibit dual agents from divulging certain confidential information about them to the other party.
Some firms also offer a form of dual agency called “designated agency” where one agent in the firm represents the seller and another agent represents the buyer. This option (when available) may allow each “designated agent” to more fully represent each party.
If you choose the “dual agency” option, remember that since a dual agent’s loyalty is divided between parties with competing interests, it is especially important that you have a clear understanding of • what your relationship is with the dual agent and • what the agent will be doing for you in the transaction.