When Buying, Know Your Broker Well

Written by Posted On Sunday, 12 June 2005 17:00

This question was emailed to me recently: "If I am in a buyer-agent agreement with my realtor for a property up to $225,000 and I buy a for-sale-by-owner [property] for $250,000, am I still obligated to pay the agent commission; even if she had nothing to do with it?"

Answering this particular question without seeing the specific buyer-broker agreement is not prudent; however, the question does raise an important reminder for all buyers. Before you sign any agreement, know your broker well.

"You need to know that [buyer] broker better than you would if you were listing [your home] because you really are putting more at risk with a buyer broker," says California attorney John Sorensen.

Sorensen has been practicing real estate law for the past 25 years. He advises consumers who sign a buyer-broker agreement to research the agent just as consumers should do before signing a listing agreement.

"To try to go out and find a property that you want is a more difficult task and if [her or she] isn't a good, diligent broker you could be sitting there for three to six months not getting the kind of product you're really looking for," says Sorensen.

But, Sorensen says not to let the homework scare you away from signing a buyer-broker agreement. Of course, the agreement makes sure that the agent gets paid, but it does more than that.

"[The buyer-broker agreement] can be good for the buyer too because there is no question if you enter into a buyer-broker agreement that that broker is now your fiduciary," explains Sorensen.

In a normal purchase of a home without a buyer being represented under a buyer-broker agreement, there is a question of whether there is a fiduciary relationship with the buyer because the broker is being paid by the seller, often as a sub-agent of the listing agent.

"[Agents] have a higher level of duty to the buyer under a buyer-broker agreement than they do under a normal sales agreement," says Sorensen.

"It's beneficial in that the consumer has the ability to hold someone responsible for what's taken place in the transaction," says McKinley Jones, a realtor who owns Exclusive Relocation Realty in San Diego, Calif.

McKinley says buyer-broker agreements also bond the agent and the consumer together.

"It creates a level of trust and eliminates the doubt on both sides as to whether or not [both people] are going to remain committed to what they say they are going to do," says McKinley.

Five Tips to Consider Before Signing a Buyer-Broker Agreement

  1. Make sure the buyer agent is going to diligently work for you, get referrals, and ask plenty of questions.

  2. If you don't know the broker well, you might want to make the buyer-broker agreement apply only to properties that the buyer-broker brings to you.

  3. Keep the time of the buyer-broker agreement to a reasonable timeframe; for instance, 90 days for residential and six months for commercial properties.

  4. Decide if you want to have a fixed fee or a percentage for the buyer broker's compensation. If you use a percentage you may want to cap the percentage.

  5. Understand that the buyer-broker agreement can be very beneficial for you as a buyer. However, ask all your questions regarding the agreement up front and get all specifics in writing.
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Phoebe Chongchua

Phoebe Chongchua is an award-winning journalist, an author, customer service trainer/speaker, and founder of Setting the Service Standard, a customer service training and consulting program offered by Live Fit Enterprises (LFE) based in San Diego, California. She is the publisher of Live Fit Magazine, an online publication that features information on real estate/finance, physical fitness, travel, and philanthropy. Her company, LFE, specializes in media services including marketing, PR, writing, commercials, corporate videos, customer service training, and keynotes & seminars. Visit her magazine website: www.LiveFitMagazine.com.

Phoebe's articles, feature stories, and columns appear in various publications including The Coast News, Del Mar Village Voice, Rancho Santa Fe Review, and Today's Local News in San Diego, as well as numerous Internet sites. She holds a California real estate license. Phoebe worked for KGTV/10News in San Diego as a Newscaster, Reporter and Community Affairs Specialist for more than a decade. Phoebe's writing is also featured in Donald Trump's book: The Best Real Estate Advice I Ever Received and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buying Foreclosures. She is the author of If the Trash Stinks, TAKE IT OUT! 14 Worriless Principles for Your Success.

Contact Phoebe at (858) 259-3646 or phoebe@livefitmagazine.com. Visit PhoebeChongchua.com for more information.


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