Let’s Get Real Estate: Dual Agency

Dear Jan: Our neighbors are selling their home. Their own agent brought them an offer from a buyer he had been working with for a long time. The agent now says he is working for both the seller and the buyer. Can he work for both parties? RP

Dear RP: Ahhhh, Dual Agency. Until a few years ago, in Washington, all agents worked for just the seller. Then an agency law was created so that buyers, too, would have representation. As they created the law, they knew there would be cases where one agent was working with both the seller and a buyer (as they had in the past). So as the law was written, a category was created regarding what would be called Dual Agency.

The law requires that both parties be given the Agency Law pamphlet, which clearly spells out the duties of the dual agent. One of the duties is that the agent must have the consent of both parties in writing to be a dual agent. Another is that the agent must not disclose any confidential information from or about the other party. In another words, if I were the dual agent, I could not tell the seller the buyer would pay more nor could I tell the buyer the seller would take less. Instead, I ask the buyer what they would like to offer, present it to the seller to see if that is what they want to accept and if not, ask whether they want to counter offer.

This is what most good agents do anyway in a transaction. Some clients don’t care about dual agency, others do. It is strictly a preference. There are agents who wear the hat of a dual agent well and there are agents who would never consider being a dual agent due to the liability. Bottom line, personally, I think it is a matter of trust. A person should know their agent well and make their decision according to their comfort level.

If you have a real estate question you would like answered, e-mail Jan Zufelt at janzufelt@telebyte.com.