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Buyers Beware

Buyers of real estate are empowered by the internet’s ability to view properties in great detail, and this has enhanced if not replaced the real estate agent for the purpose of finding properties to consider, especially in the current social-distancing environment. They often call the listing agent directly to ask questions and schedule showings, which is their right. But, it is a mistake to assume a buyer’s best interests are equally well served by the listing agent whose loyalty is exclusive to the seller. 

Until 2005, and for some time afterward (some areas are still slow to adapt), the concept of “buyer agency” was not in the realtor’s or layman’s vocabulary. Listing agents would still favor their seller clients who pay their commission, leaving buyers to fend for themselves. Since then, especially in southern Maine, buyer agency has taken hold.  It is something the public should embrace, as it protects them and their buyer agents, so long as a buyer agreement has been executed.

Savvy buyers, especially in the commercial real estate world, might feel comfortable acting as their own “agent”. They may already be familiar with the nuances of disclosures, contracts, and the due diligence to complete a successful purchase. But, for most residential buyers this is not the case, which is why having a buyer agent in your corner makes perfect sense. 

A signed buyer agreement protects the buyer’s confidential information, the same as an attorney-client relationship. It enables the agents to do research, give advice, and provide the attention a buyer deserves. And, agents will then be obligated to provide prioritized service, knowing they will be paid at the end of the transaction. Without a signed buyer agreement, the agent is prohibited from doing anything beyond setting up showings, opening doors, and turning on lights. No advice. No research. No real estate services. Period.

The Maine Real Estate Commission is firm on these rules. However, it is ignored by many agents who don’t understand the benefits or don’t want to take the trouble to explain it to their would-be clients. To a prospective buyer, this agreement should be a no-brainer. It costs nothing and can be limited to one property and a one day term. If your buyer agent doesn’t ask to sign one, you should ask her, and you will get much better service being a “client” versus a “customer”.  

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