On Tuesday, new VARBuzz author Heather Elias wrote a post entitled “Too Bad“, in which she recounted the story of hosting an open house and having buyers do everything they could to avoid conversation at all costs. It’s happened to all of us, I’m sure – and judging by the comments there are a lot of different thoughts on what’s the right approach.
As real-life as it is, there was something else in her post that struck me. She wrote:
I’d hate to think that those buyers are going to end up traveling from open house to open house until they hit upon one that works for them, only to possibly be preyed upon by an agent willing to take advantage of their lack of consumer education about agency and representation.
I’m sure Heather wasn’t inferring that agents who practice Dual Agency are preying upon clients. Candy Lynn made the argument FOR Dual Agency right here on VARBuzz recently, and I can see where she’s coming from given her niche specialty of selling farms. I know Candy, and maybe many of you do as well – I know she’s got her clients best interests at heart, and she makes a good argument in defense of Dual Agency.
Dual Agency has been argued for and against for years, by consumers AND REALTORS®; that’s certainly no secret. Most of those who are against it will say that it hurts the consumer – by having an agent who’s representing both sides, the the consumer is hurt by not having the value of full representation. I thought Heather did a good job of laying out some of the many hats an agent will wear in the transaction – the Market Expert, the Defender of their privacy, the Cheerleader, the Negotiator … the list can go on an on. Dual Agency prevents the consumer from benefiting from the value of full representation. Proponents of Dual Agency might say that by agreeing to Dual Agency, the consumer is waiving their rights to that level of representation, and that’s true. In my opinion though, we have a higher purpose to maintain full representation at all costs. Article 1 of the Code of Ethics reads “…REALTORS® pledge themselves to protect and promote the interest of their client.” (emphasis mine). If that’s the case, then who is the client? Who does the agent serve? Matthew 6:24 tells us “”No one can serve two masters, because either he will hate one and love the other, or be loyal to one and despise the other.”
I’m not trying to bang on whether or not Dual Agency hurts the consumer or not – that’s been covered ad nauseum. No, there’s another group that gets hurt just as much by the practice, and that’s us. You and I. REALTORS®, real estate agents … our entire industry gets damaged by Dual Agency, in my opinion, because it prevents us from providing a fiduciary value to the consumer. If an agent can’t represent the client and provide a solid, tangible value, then all we’re doing is perpetuating the perception that all you need from an agent is someone to unlock front doors. As all of us know, we’ve got a lot of uphill ground to climb as we try to improve an eroding perception of our industry in the eye of the public, and “opening doors” isn’t going to go a long way toward improving that opinion. Ending the practice of Dual Agency and showing clients we’re going to listen, communicate, negotiate and celebrate with their goals in mind – not our own – will do more to repair the damage.
That’s my $.02. The real estate industry has taken a body shot through the practice of Dual Agency, in my opinion, and it’s no one’s fault but our own. If we’d be willing to eliminate the practice, or at least make the decision that on the agent and broker level the practice would not be practiced, it’d be a major step toward showing the public we’re serious about THEM, and not our own bottom line.