There are some services that I don’t want to provide for our clients, and I won’t, unless someone makes me. So far, no one has. We don’t do dual agency, but I’ve always said I would make an exception if needed. I say that because I can’t foresee every situation we are likely to encounter.
So far, we haven’t had any dual agency transactions. Dual agency is allowed in Minnesota, and being a dual agent means that I cannot advocate for either party; I become a facilitator. Dual agency also happens when two agents under the same broker work with the buyer and seller in the same transaction.
Buyers who are interested in our listings are referred to a competitor. The buyers I refer out work directly with the brokers of small real estate companies in the area.
The other thing we won’t do? In-house listing, meaning listings that are only shared with other agents in the office. I call them in-house pocket listings, but I’ve heard them being referred to as “office exclusives.” In this market, what buyer wouldn’t love office exclusives? They are withheld from the MLS and advertised and sold without ever being made public.
In-house pocket listings are just another form of dual agency. Even though the clear cooperation policy that took effect last year requires us to put our listings on the MLS, they left a large loophole for in-house listings.
If fair housing complaints against listing agents were more common, the in-house pocket listing would make our insurance companies, fair housing advocates and real estate company legal departments crazy.
In the real world, the buyer who never gets the opportunity to buy the pocket listing never even knows the house was for sale. That buyer might not even know that if only she had known the right people, she could’ve bought the house.
Some real estate companies promote the idea of agent networking within their own company. How they can find a buyer faster because they represent more buyers. They tell buyers they can find them a house faster because they have more listings.
When I list a house, it goes on the MLS, and from there, is gets fed to websites all over the world. It’s seen by millions of people, including real estate agents. My network of agents is much larger than one company.
There are homeowners who prefer to keep the fact that their house is on sale a secret. Real estate agents I have discussed this with have said that they are providing a valuable service to their clients keeping the listing in-house and off the MLS.
Selling houses is about marketing and advertising them. Selling in-house pocket listings can be about networking, and buyers who know the right people get to buy the house. It’s kind of like getting a job — it’s all about who you know, not what you know. It’s a great concept for the people who benefit from the system.
Homesellers I have spoken with often believe that in-house pocket listings will save them money if their agent also works with the buyer. The reality is that most of the time, the listing agent gets the entire commission that the seller has agreed to pay.
Some homebuyers believe that they have an advantage if they work directly with the listing agent and that they will save money, too.
According to a consumer group, more than 14 percent of all the home sales in the area are through dual agents. It’s actually kind of sad, considering there are more agents than there are homes for sale. There are always experienced agents available to represent any buyer so that the buyer doesn’t have to work with the listing agent.
Our state Realtor association is lobbying for a “designated agency.” Under designated agency, two agents under the same broker can represent the buyer and the seller in a transaction. It’s obvious to me how real estate companies, especially the large ones, can benefit from designated agency.
The arguments we have amongst ourselves for and against this are getting more heated. There are a few large companies in the area that pretty much control all aspects of the industry and are well-represented in the associations. If designated agency is beneficial to those companies, it will happen.
I don’t understand the benefit of designated or dual agency to consumers, but I do understand the benefit for real estate companies, especially those that have a lot of in-house pocket listings.
Agents themselves have been practicing designated agency by advocating for their clients, even though both clients have the same broker. It happens all the time. Agency is misunderstood.
Some have suggested that designated agency hurts small real estate companies. I don’t see it that way; I think it is more harmful to consumers and any agent who is looking for clients.
We tell consumers that we will represent them and how we can help them in what could be the biggest transaction they will ever have, and yet, at the same time, we look for ways to be dual-agent facilitators.
I don’t even want to imagine what the lawsuit looks like when one company is representing both parties and one party hides a property defect from the other, even if it’s a designated dual agency. Multiple-offer situations must be extra challenging for dual agents.
There are a lot of people who don’t trust real estate agents or Realtors. During times when there is a huge surplus of real estate agents, we tend to start to fight each other when it comes to issues that affect competition in the marketplace.
In short, pocket listings, designated agency and double-dipping are just not a good look for the industry.
Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.