When you speak to an agent at an open house, call an agent for more information about a house, or ask an agent to show you a home, you might be opening a can of worms for yourself if you don't intend to buy a home through any of these agents. Don't make the mistake of leading an agent on, even unintentionally, because it can come back to bite you.
The real estate agent and brokerage who have a home listed for sale represent the seller and that person's best interests. The listing agent is contractually obligated to report to the seller all activity & material facts they learn about the local market and potential buyers.
While all licensed real estate agent agents have an ethical responsibility to be truthful and not mislead anyone they also aren't necessarily able to advocate for someone they are not representing. A listing agent can't fight for a potential buyer and still represent the seller's best interests.
Many first-time buyers aren't aware of agency representation or agency disclosure, nor understand the concept of a buyer’s agent and seller’s agent. A real estate agent’s loyalties and responsibilities change depending on who the agent is talking to. Here’s a quick summary of roles an agent can play in any one transaction.
For starters, let the agent know whether you intend to work with that agent. Your best bet to avoid potential procuring cause disputes is to be upfront with each real estate agent you talk to. Along the way of inquiring about and viewing homes, you will continue to encounter agents.
When you are ready, hire the best qualified to help you find a home, negotiate the purchase terms and navigate you to the completion of the sale. Once you select an agent, use these tips to help your agent establish procuring cause:
Declare when you are working with another agent:
If agents don't ask you if you're working with another agent, then promptly volunteer that information. Agents are trained to ask you this question but sometimes they don't: they forget, are afraid to hear the answer, become distracted. Set them straight immediately.
When ready to commit to an agent, sign a buyer's broker agreement:
Do this when you are ready to use an agent for the life of your home shopping experience. Buyer's broker agreements will clearly describe the relationships, compensation, and duties.
Discuss your agency representation options:
Agency disclosures describe the various capacities under which an agent can operate. Since an agent doesn't know the specific capacity until a property is located, all capacities are described to you. For example, here is the Broker Disclosure which describes all representation options allowed in the state of Missouri.
Do not ask another agent to show you property:
Your agent is eager to help you. Part of your agent's duties is to show you homes for sale, even if those are homes that you have located yourself. Let your agent earn his or her commission.
Do not directly call listing agents for information:
Your agent will probably get more detailed information from the listing agent than you will get, anyway. There will be no confusion if your agent calls the listing agent.
Follow Open House protocol if you go unescorted:
If you attend Open Houses without your agent, hand your agent's business card to the agent hosting the Open. Sign guest books with your agent's name next to your own. Not only will this help protect you, the open house agent won't try to corral you or request personal information.