Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Agency Debate Rages On

I recently came across a blog entitled Exclusive Buyer Agency Discussed in Realtor Magazine Online written by fellow EBA, Stephen Scholls, from Buyers Broker Of Northern Michigan, LLC. His blog was a synopsis of an article done by Realtor Magazine Online, which intended to gather the views of perceived innovators in the real estate industry, regarding their opinions of where they believe the real estate industry is heading.

When three brokers were asked where they saw exclusive buyer agency heading in the coming years, it was not surprising when all three responded negatively, since they were all from traditional real estate firms. What I did find surprising, and Stephen pointed this out in his synopsis, is that Realtor Magazine Online did not even consult with brokers who actually work in the field of exclusive buyer agency. This caused me to question the motives of the magazine, as well as, question the association behind it. As a Realtor member in good standing, it concerns me, because it means that my trade association does not support my company's business model. By not consulting with brokers working in the field, they demonstrate a bias in favor of traditional agency, which can introduce the risk of dual agency to consumers.

The general negative attitude towards exclusive buyer agency is apparent in the comments made on Stephen's blog by those who do not fully understand the need to completely avoid the risk of dual agency. Some believe that most consumers do not know, and could care less, about exclusive buyer agency; but, would consumers not care if an issue arose in their purchase, and their "designated agent," aka. dual agent, had to remain neutral to both parties? No one wins with dual agency, neither buyers nor sellers.

Some brokers believe that exclusive buyer agency will not last. Their reasoning is that listings have traditionally attracted buyer leads. While there is some truth to this, it is a truth that is in transition, as more consumers become aware of the risks posed by dual agency, aka. "designated agency." Real estate consumers are not simple-minded, nor are they stupid.

To imply that consumers do not have the ability to understand or care about agency issues is downright insulting to them.

There is a general confusion about agency issues that seem to be generated by those who are intent on muddying the waters, and it is worsened by law makers. Introducing terms like "designated agency" and "single agency" are designed to compete against exclusive buyer agency, but the truth, is that "designated agency" is only dual agency called by another name, and "single agency" means that a buyer will not see properties listed by their agent's company.

The bottom line, is that exclusive buyer agency helps buyers completely avoid dual agency, while having access to all properties, whether they are listed or unlisted. Buyers do not win with "single agency" because it limits their choice of available properties.

Smart real estate consumers want maximum choice of properties, with absolutely no risk of a conflict of interest. This is the ideal buying position to be in. This is only common sense.

Here is the comment I posted on Stephen's blog:

"According to Elizabeth Weintraub's definition of single agency: on

'Single agency means a real estate broker represents the buyer and cannot show the buyer properties listed by the broker's agency.'

With exclusive buyer agency, the buyer has access to all properties. This includes all listed and unlisted properties. The issue of who pays the buyer's agent is not really an issue, because if the seller agrees to cover the buyer's broker fee to make the sale, it is no different than when the buyer asks the seller to cover closing costs.

The problem with merely being a transaction coordinator/facilitator is that consumers do not get the level of service they should receive when fully represented. After all, this is not like going to Walmart and shopping for clothes, or basic goods and services. This is what real estate consumers need to understand. No two real estate transactions are identical, and often times, problems can escalate if not swiftly and properly dealt with (as I am sure everyone here is aware). Knowing how to do this comes from having years of experience, which the average real estate consumer does not have, unless they are also in the real estate business.

Designated agency is just another name for dual agency, in my honest opinion. As more exclusive buyer agents enter the field, and earn the trust and loyalty of their clients, the truth about dual agency, aka. "designated agency," and the downside of "single agency" will become more familiar to the average consumer. Exclusive buyer agency is a virtual infant, when compared to the age of the real estate industry in general. It is only a matter of time, patience, and perseverence on the part of real estate professionals who recognize the importance of establishing a fair and balanced closing table between buyers and sellers, and not introducing the risk of dual agency. Changing its' name is not the solution, but avoiding it is. I firmly believe in exclusive buyer agency, and what it means for buyers, as well as sellers, because no one wins when there is a conflict of interest.

I do not regret choosing to specialize in this field of work. I enjoy educating buyers about dual agency, as well as, helping them to avoid it. It is a calling to do this kind of work, because it is challenging, as much as it is very rewarding."

Here is the feedback I gave to Realtor Magazine Online:

"When asking about the future of exclusive buyer agency, it would have been more appropriate to ask Realtors who have chosen to specialize in this field, and not asking traditional brokers, who will naturally display a negative bias towards it. Did you really expect them to speak positively on this topic?

You do the public a great disservice by presenting biased and negative views from traditional brokers, without presenting the views of brokers who actually practice exclusive buyer agency.

For those who are confused and misinformed, exclusive buyer agency is about the complete avoidance of dual agency, which is a conflict of interest in real estate. No one wins when there is a conflict of interest, especially, when issues arise requiring the dual agent to remain neutral. The truth of the matter, is that exclusive buyer agency is here to stay, and it will flourish in the years ahead."

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