It happened again, and still, I simply couldn’t do it! I was showing some really wonderful buyers property in Lake Norman several weeks ago and we happened to run in to a builder. He invited us to look as his newest home currently under construction across the street. My buyers fell in love; it was perfect for them. As it turned out, the builder’s listing agreement just expired so when my buyers proposed making an offer the builder suggested that I represent both sides and cut the commission. I told the builder no. Not because I had to cut the commission, but because I absolutely will not personally represent both sides of a sale. The builder as astonished, exclaiming that every agent he knew would have jumped at the chance. I told him I would gladly do all of the work for just the buyers’ agent’s half of the commission but he would have to act as a For Sale By Owner and my representation would be exclusively of the buyers. He agreed and we are successfully moving forward with the sale.
Okay, here is my problem: By law, we, as licensed real estate agents, owe a fiduciary responsibility to our clients. The definition of fiduciary according to my Webster’s Dictionary is: “the relation existing when one person justifiably reposes confidence, faith, and reliance in another whose aid, advice or protection is sought in some matter: the relation existing when good conscience requires one to act at all times for the sole benefit and interests of another with loyalty to those interests“. Where in this definition does anyone see room for a single Realtor to represent both sides of a transaction and still fulfill their legal responsibilities as a fiduciary?
In reality, an individual Realtor (as opposed to a firm) representing both sides in a transaction becomes a facilitator. But, don’t I owe my buyers more than that? When the builder brought up this idea of dual agency I immediately envisioned a few weeks down the line when there was a disagreement about the roofing or the hardwood floors. How in the world could I “protect” my buyers and act for their “sole benefit” and remain “loyal” to their interests if I am now simply a facilitator and owe equal representation to both buyers and seller?
Well, the reality is that I can’t and I never have in the 23+ years I’ve been a Realtor (Licensed in 1991).