Let’s talk about that elephant now exposed in the real estate room: you may have seen CBC’s Marketplace Friday evening, the show did an expose on realtors and ‘double ending’, no doubt this raised some concerns—
A listing will offer a commission, this commission is split between a listing, aka seller, agent and a buyer agent, double ending means one agent has negotiated a deal representing both sides, she/he is being paid the full commission. Let’s say we have a seller, we then find a buyer who is not yet using an agent, that buyer would like us to negotiate an offer with our client, the seller—that’s double ending. You’ll also hear this described as multiple representation and it is but multiple representation also refers to agents within the same brokerage representing a buyer and a seller, a different situation but one that also requires full and clear disclosure.
Yes logically this seems a conflict of interest and technically it is, we agree. Have we done this? Yes we have, the thing is a realtor must disclose this double ending/multiple representation situation and ensure both parties understand what it means, all parties must sign off on that understanding at the earliest opportunity.
In the above scenario we are legally and ethically obligated to fully represent our seller, that is we act in the best interests of our client. We are obligated to be fair and honest with and to provide information to our now buyer client, our full disclosure certainly extends to making sure the multiple representation situation is understood but we do not, cannot, will not ‘make a deal’ with the buyer. There is no ‘well, I think the seller would agree at $625,000, we had an offer near that already’ or any of those scenarios exposed on the show, nope, not ever. Our job is to work with this buyer on an offer they feel comfortable with, we review comparable sales, come up with a price they want to offer, conditions they want in the offer, we do not encourage, cajole, reveal or jerry-rig to finalize that deal; we are eventually paid on successful transactions negotiated fairly and honestly.
We do what we do because we love real estate, we enjoy working in relationship with our clients, every deal is something new, each property is different. We know there are agents who are less than upfront, just like other professions, like a car mechanic I had years ago, there is good, and not good, everywhere. Our intention always is that our clients are happy, that they have a positive, proper real estate experience; we firmly believe in integrity in our work as do many other realtors, it’s the only way.
The solution? In Alberta a realtor cannot negotiate for both sides in a transaction, BC is considering ending the practice of double ending and maybe that is the answer. Truthfully we too see the illogical nature of representing both parties but it is done, it is legal and it can be done fairly with both sides getting what they want. Your realtor needs to be clear and you should ask as many questions as you need, make sure you’re comfortable with the process.
Marketplace has successfully exposed countless situations contrary to fair consumer treatment, this show presented worst case scenarios, I don’t dispute at all that this happens, but there is another side: those of us who are serious about our careers, our ongoing education, our reputations and doing good work. This story angers consumers, it angers us, of course it’s wrong to make your living off someone else’ naivete or worse, lying to hustle together a deal and for us it leaves our profession in an unfavourable light we don’t appreciate.
Is there room for improvement? Yes. Clearly. Our profession matters to us, we are at your service, home buying and selling is a very big deal for all of us, ask questions, find a realtor you are comfortable with and know your rights.