Protecting Yourself Using a Buyer Agent

Did you know that the agent you use to buy your house may not actually represent you, but the seller?  It may not sound like there's a big difference, but if you have a personal conversation with them --- for example, telling them the most you'd be willing to pay --- they will, and are obligated to, tell the seller!

Image of Thief in Black Hood
Image of Thief in Black Hood

That's definitely not information you want the seller to know, and if you can't tell your agent what your true needs and parameters are, how is that person going to find you the right match at a reasonable price?

They can't.  But you can protect yourself and it usually won't cost you out-of-pocket.

Buyer Agent Responsibilities

Not all agents who show you homes are responsible solely to you.  Only buyer agents are. 

Said in real estate speak, buyer agents are real estate agents whose sole fiduciary responsibility is to you.  So, an ethical buyer agent will always have your best interests in mind in your search, and negotiation with the seller and the seller agent.

A buyer agent:

  • Knows the local real estate market
  • Interviews you for your requirements and criteria
  • Helps determine how much house you want and can afford
  • Guides your search to refine your requirements
  • Acts as Devil's Advocate for the property you select
  • Negotiates and writes offers solely on your behalf
  • Shepherds the closing process

Buyer Agent Compensation

A buyer agent is usually compensated by the seller after escrow closes, so in most cases, you won't pay anything out of pocket.  Some buyer agents arrange a fee for their services and may ask for a buyer agency contract.

A Note on Dual Agents

You can also enter into a relationship where the agent represents both the buyer and seller.  This is known as dual agency.  When working with a dual agent, you can save money because the agent is paid on both sides of the deal, but you need to work with an agent you really trust.