Every year I get involved in a few real estate transactions where the agent on the other side of the transaction is doing “limited” work. It is perfectly legal to be a Limited-Services Agent in Virginia, but home buyers should understand what this means for their buyer agent… at least from my perspective.
When I started as a real estate agent in the early 1990’s there where plenty of Limited-Services firms that collected a fee upfront and had the home seller send in a description. In return, the listing was put into the MLS with a comment to “deal with the owner and do not call the agent“, they were given a yard sign and a Realtor lockbox. These days they upload photos and post to Realtor.com too.
The real twist comes when you (the buyer client) decide to put in an offer on their property. Most times the seller still believes that any agent walking in the front door is on “their team” to make the deal happen and earn a juicy commission, but that really isn’t the case at all. The confusion created by this presumption prompted the Commonwealth of Virginia to revise the Code in 2012 requiring written buyer representation agreements that outline a basic job description including how their agent gets paid and what jobs they are to perform.
Here is the problem: home sellers still believe that they “own the agent”
How do you protect yourself?
The recommended way is to have a written agreement with your agent that states what they are going to do for you. You know, like a job description.
The Realtor Association does have a standard form that outlines confidentiality, basic duties, compensation, the purpose (buy a home), a fair housing disclosure, and important buyer responsibilities. These agreements always have a set time frame which may be one day or a hundred days… whatever works for you.
My point is this: you really do need to understand that your real estate agent is representing your interests in the transaction especially in Limited Agency situations. If your agent is meeting with the seller at the kitchen table to review all 24 pages of the standard Northern Virginia real estate contract, and probably explaining every paragraph, then you can picture why having a professional relationship is essential. Yes, they are doing practically double duty! The pothole which might slow things down is that the seller does not have a professional to consult with especially when trying to make a counter offer. Negotiation is a skill that most people need help with.
My experience in these matters is that a fine-line has to be drawn at that kitchen table from minute one.
- establishing a timeline for a response
- explaining contingency periods for home inspections or appraisals
- managing the transaction workflow with lenders and settlement companies
- communicating expectations of all parties
Negotiating on a home is complicated because there are so many variables, and Virginia home buyers should know that their buyer agent is working to promote their interests when negotiating on a home.
Read more on the blog in the Buyer Tips section.