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About five years ago, my wife and I started discussing whether to buy a small summer place either on the Cape or somewhere north of our home. Those plans were put on hold for a while with the birth of our two children. With summer now in full swing and our kids getting older, the topic of buying a summer home is once again on the radar. Like most people looking for property, our search started on the Internet. My in-laws own a summer home on the Cape, and we have gone there many times. Based on the travel time, we decided to look north.

With advice from friends, we narrowed down the location, and then did a Google search. A property caught our eye, so we called the listing agent to set up an appointment. Because we were very excited to preview the house, we made one for the next day. As we were finishing up the conversation with the listing agent, she asked for my e-mail so she could send additional information.

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A few hours later, an e-mail landed and a form caught my eye — one that was different from the standard ones I have seen countless times. The document was for the listing agent to be our agent as well. That sounds strange, I thought. Professionally, I have never represented both a buyer and a seller in the same transaction. I can’t. It’s a huge conflict of interest. This led to more questions: Can she represent both sides? Who is she working for? I decided not to push the issue. We really liked the house and did not want to lose it.

After this discussion on agency and representing both parties in a transaction, I decided to dust off my old legal dictionary. After reading the definition of “agency” a few times, I still did not understand the concept of dual agency in the context of a real estate transaction.

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Despite my immediate reservations about agents who represent both the seller and the buyer, friends in the real estate business told me that it is quite common.

Although we consented to dual agency, my advice would be to get your own agent — and not one from the same office — to guide your home-buying experience. With an independent agent helping you, your interests will be given top priority.


Hugh Fitzpatrick is the founding partner of New England Title and Fitzpatrick & Associates PC, a Tewksbury-based law firm specializing in real estate conveyancing. Send your questions to Address@globe.com.