A Conversation with a Buyer Who Wants to Speak with the Listing Agent

Written by Posted On Monday, 09 December 2013 10:04

"I Want to Speak with the Listing Agent" – What That Means in Southwest Florida

A familiar phone call each week comes in, "I want to speak with the listing agent for property such and such." A very common occurrence in our office as our website lists all active properties for sale in the six major areas that we cover (Bonita Springs, Naples, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral, Sanibel and Captiva Islands – known as the Lee Island and Paradise Coasts). Let's chat a few minutes about representation in Southwest Florida and what you should know before making this inquiry.

You’re in a quandary, when on the receiving end, because first and foremost the person on the other end isn't really interested in anything you answer, only whether or not you’ll direct them to the listing agent. OK, with thousands of properties listed on our site – I'm always trying to figure out the easiest response since I already know the best one!

Why do you want to speak with the seller's agent? If you're interested in buying a property and want to speak with the seller's agent, then I assume you believe you'll get the property for less because you think the seller's agent will reduce the commission, thus reducing the price of the home. In some cases, that may well be true. My experience is the larger the company, the less likely this occurs. Typically, their policy is if the seller buys another property through them, then they will reduce the commission on that next transaction to the seller – now a buyer for them. But, this is a big but, they don't like working on the "if come" so reducing the commission on a sale, when the seller may not buy, or doesn't close, means the reduced commission is on the "if come" of a buy. Therefore, the buyer asking for a listing agent would receive nothing less than the seller gave in any case.

More importantly, what does it mean when you, as a buyer, is not represented on a purchase in Florida? Quite simply, the agent representing a seller and a buyer needs written permission changing the relationship to a transaction broker with limited duties to both parties, or they are working as the seller's agent and are not representing the you (the buyer) at all. No in-betweens here, either it's limited representation or no representation. You should ask for the disclosure describing how, and who, the agent is representing. The state of Florida assumes all agents are working as Transaction Brokers (limited duties to both parties) unless specified by written agreement. Agents and brokers are required, by Florida law, to give you a disclosure explaining this relationship.

What does this all mean?

Firstly, an exclusive seller's agent can tell you the asking price of a home but not provide data or advise on an offering price. They can tell you general information about the seller, but they must tell the seller everything about you and your motivation for buying their home. A seller's agent is required, by law, to obtain the highest price possible for the seller.

An exclusive buyer's agent (still paid by the seller) can be loyal, trusted, and give you advice freely. As an example, your personal agent can interpret the sales data for you and suggest a price. A buyer's agent can tell you everything they find out about the seller and their motivation for selling – and they don't have to tell the seller any information that could weaken your negotiation position. A buyer's agent must tell you everything about a property. A buyer's agent is loyal "Only" to you and must do everything possible to gain the advantage for you – a seller's agent is opposite of that and must do everything possible for the seller's advantage.

Well, then, what can a transaction broker or agent do? They "facilitate" the transaction and you are a customer versus being a client or a principal of theirs. They are required to deal fairly and honestly, account for funds, use skill, care and due diligence, disclose all facts that materially affect the value of the property, present all offers in a timely manner, limited confidentiality, and only those additional duties specified in writing that do not exceed the duties above.

Essentially, these duties are more easily explained in the following manner – a transaction agent or broker cannot tell the seller the buyer will pay more, cannot tell the buyer the seller will accept less, any factors that may motivate either party cannot be disclosed. They can assist the seller in setting the price but they can't assist with negotiations on price with buyers. That doesn't sound too bad. However, transaction brokers and/or agents do not have the responsibility of the fiduciary duties of obedience or loyalty to either party. The loss of these duties for either client can cause concern about agents who only seem intent on closing the "deal" no matter what. Both buyers and sellers can feel frustrated by this type of representation. A transaction broker or agent does not get paid if there is no sale, their commission can be substantially higher by representing both sides (known as double-dip in our industry), so their incentive is closing the transaction whether it's good for the buyer or seller. They are not advocating on either party's behalf and this limits their liability in the transaction. Neither a buyer, nor seller, should expect a transaction agent or broker to represent their personal interests in this type of relationship. And, it also means claims for professional negligence are hard to win.

Buyers may enjoy the exclusive representation by agents in Florida, at no cost, and the builders offer compensation to exclusive buyer's agents - buyer's agents are welcome everywhere there is a property for sale. And, this may well be the best avenue for protection that you, as a buyer, receive the best information before you buy.

If it takes me this long writing the answer, you can imagine how hard it is answering the caller! All consumers should be aware of how they are represented in a transaction, keeping in mind, that real estate agents may not exclusively represent both buyers and sellers in Florida. Non-exclusive representation – transaction brokerage - means, something has to give, on one side or the other, or both!

Benjamin Dona is the Broker and Owner of Gulf Coast Associates, Realtors in Bonita Springs, Florida. He holds two advanced degrees, an MBA and an MA, and has an extensive background in both business and marketing. In 1998, he founded Gulf Coast Associates, and formed a group of like-minded Realtor® associates dedicated to offering professional real estate services by concentrating on information, education and the use of leading edge technologies. He also is a recognized expert on the "Net," a much-quoted and read blog author, and a contributor to both national and international news outlets. Benjamin is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the Florida Association of Realtors, and numerous local real estate boards throughout Southwest Florida.

Contact Benjamin Dona at 239-948-3955

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