Role playing: Why dual agency is bad


Role playing: Why dual agency is bad
Gary Kelley, Realtor –
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By Gary Kelley, Realtor®

“You can sell our house and we don’t want your help buying the next home.” We were sitting in the kitchen of client/friends when the wife blurted this out. “My friend told me not to let someone handle the purchase and sale of our homes.” The friend’s advice was solid and misinterpreted.

It’s OK to have your Realtor work on selling your home and buying the next. In fact, it’s recommended. Real estate transactions are discrete events culminating when the deed is recorded. Once “on record,” the transaction is over. When selling a home and buying another, it generally makes sense to try and align the closings….one after another. It doesn’t always work out that way; sometimes there are days or months between closings leading to sleepless nights on Aunt Mary’s couch.

So having a single agent buy and sell the home is a good thing?

It’s a good thing when the agent is helping a single client with their sale, and then with the purchase. It falls apart when the agent gets in the middle of buying and selling a property representing both sides. Imagine I am selling the house representing the seller and also representing the buyer….where do my loyalties lie?

If it is truly a case of “dual agency,” where I represent the buyer and seller of a single property, how do I represent both sides well? For example, how do I negotiate a repair addendum after an inspection?

Why would an agent put themselves in this role? Sometimes it’s ego; oftentimes it’s so they can get the buy and sell side (double ending) commission. In these cases, they often retreat to using “disclosure” as the remedy.

Massachusetts likes disclosure. There a myriad of forms highlighting disclosure and agency. So a well-intended agent might say, “I am representing the seller in the transaction and have disclosed this to the buyer so they know my loyalty is to the seller and I will treat them fairly.”

We expend lots of words making it all legal, and then the question remains…how do you negotiate the repair addendum?

Somewhere a real estate agent is reading this and thinking through examples where dual agency can work…like where two parties are 100 percent in alignment and it’s just getting the paperwork done. While this can happen, my sense is both parties are best represented independently.

And what if there are two agents from the same firm? That’s OK as the agents are then “designated agents,” with one being the seller’s agent and one being the buyer’s agent. It’s when a single agent tries representing both the buyer and the seller things go awry.

Don’t get twisted by a boatload of agency and disclosure forms an agent might put in front of you. Ask the agent who they represent. If it’s not you, in clear and certain words, then get another agent.

Kelley is a member of the Rotary Club of Westborough and is an award-winning Realtor. He invites you to follow him on Facebook at

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