Dual Agency in California – A Buyer’s Perspective
A “dual agent” is a real estate agent who represents both the buyer and the seller in a real estate sales transaction.
Although uncommon, the practice of dual agency is legal in the state of California, so long as the dual agency is disclosed and consented to in writing by both the buyer and seller.
What are the benefits of dual agency to a buyer?
There are a few reasons why a dual agency situation may be desirable to a buyer. For instance:
Efficiency: Having one agent representing both buyer and seller can expedite the transaction and make communication between the parties faster and easier.
Negotiation: Because the dual agent has an interest in closing the deal, a dual agent can help the parties better come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial.
Bargaining Leverage: Having a dual agent could also help the buyer make a more desirable offer if there are multiple buyers interested in the property.
Information: A dual agent will often have more information about the property than an agent who is only representing the buyer.
What are the possible drawbacks of dual agency to a buyer?
However, there are also negative aspects of dual agency of which buyers should be aware.
Some examples include:
Pushiness: Because the dual agent has an interest in getting both parties to reach an agreement, the agent may become pushy or put pressure on the buyer if the buyer feels inclined to walk away.
Limited Information: Because a dual agent owes a duty of confidentiality to both buyer and seller, the agent may refrain from telling the buyer important information about the seller if that information is deemed confidential.
Conflict of Interest: A real estate agent has a fiduciary duty to his or her client to always act in that client’s best interest. In a real estate transaction, the seller’s interest is typically to get the highest price, while the buyer’s interest is often to get the lowest price. Because a dual agent is obligated to act in the best interests of both buyer and seller, there is potential for a conflict to arise between the parties’ competing interests.
Fewer Options: Working with a dual agent, who represents a particular seller, may prevent the buyer from exploring other properties from different sellers which may be a better fit.
Limited Legal Recourse: When a real estate transaction goes awry, a buyer may sue their own agent and broker, and possibly against the seller’s agent and broker as well. But in a dual agency situation, the buyer can only sue one agent and brokerage, which may limit their recovery.