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Should a buyer work directly with the listing agent?

Many buyers think they will get a better deal on a home if they work directly with the listing agent. They believe a listing agent will reduce the commission if he or she doesn’t have to share it with a buyer’s agent, thus lowering the price. It sounds promising, but this thought process could end up costing the buyers much more than it could save them.

First of all, the listing agent, the one who brings the home to market, works for the sellers. That agent is the homeowners’ biggest advocate and contractually obligated to get the sellers the most money for their property. He or she actually works against a buyer’s best interests. Working with the listing agent could easily cost you money. A buyer’s agent is a realtor dedicated to the interests of you, the buyer.

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Listing agents are responsible for communicating anything and everything they learn about you to the sellers. This means if they find out what your bottom-line number is, or your level of motivation for buying, they are obligated to disclose it, giving the sellers an advantage in negotiations.

If the listing agent does decide to reduce his or her fee, it would probably be an inconsequential amount compared with what it could cost you in the long run. For example, if you are relying solely on the listing agent, you will be at a disadvantage during the home inspection. A buyer’s agent would make sure you received the most compensation for any issues of concern, such as water in the basement or evidence of insect damage. A buyer’s agent would negotiate aggressively on your behalf. The listing agent does not have this responsibility. In fact, he or she will not encourage you to ask the right questions.

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Now let’s check the numbers. Let’s say you are looking at a $500,000 home. The listing agent agrees to knock $10,000 off his or her commission if you buy the house directly without representation. Do you even know what that home is really worth? A buyer’s agent would do the research and say what makes sense for you to pay based on recent sales of similar properties. Maybe that number is really $470,000, not $490,000. In this scenario, if you buy from the listing agent, you just lost $20,000!

Listing agents do not have a buyer’s best interest in mind nor are they obligated to guide you through a very confusing process that may take a number of unexpected twists and turns along the way. If you rely on the listing agent in one of the most important and complicated transactions of your life, in actuality, you have no one representing you.

Q. In September, I signed a six-month contract with a real estate agent. He listed my property on Multiple Listing Service and did minimal advertising. I was very displeased with his services, and in December I asked him to remove my listing and to terminate our contract. He agreed and took down the listing, but I did not receive anything in writing officially terminating the contract.

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If I sell my property on my own before the six months is up, will I still owe this agent the 5 percent commission? Or if I list with someone else and that realtor sells my house before the six months is up, will I owe anything to the previous agent?

And what is the typical contract length? He told me six months was standard, but I’m hearing differently from others.

KAREN

KAREN

A. I am sorry this happened to you. It’s always disappointing to hear when a seller/agent relationship does not work.

To answer your first two questions, I consulted the real estate attorney I work with. His response:

“The listing agreement itself should define any termination provisions, so in order to analyze how it may be properly terminated, I would need to read it, but short of that, I would request a written release from the agent that affirmatively states that the contract has been terminated, the listing has been canceled, all obligations of the parties to the contract have ended, and that under no circumstance whatsoever will a fee be due from the seller to the agent.”

Regarding contract length, yes, six months is typical, but as you may know, everything is negotiable.

Lastly, I just want to add that selling a home yourself bears risks you might not be aware of. I encourage you to interview other referred agents. Ask them why working with them would be more advantageous than if you were to sell the property yourself. If they don’t have a good answer, they are not the right agent for you. Selling your home yourself could end up costing you more than it saves you. But either way, good luck!

Marjorie Youngren is a broker at RE/MAX Leading Edge in Lynnfield. E-mail your questions to Address@globe.com.
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