Dual agency is allowed in California real estate transactions. The term is used quite broadly, but can have varying definitions. It can be really confusing, so let me break it down a bit.
Dual Agency- Company. One real estate company can represent a seller, and the buyer in a single transaction. This is quite common with large national brokerages as well as multi-office regional brokerages. Those individual offices could have different managing brokers. There would be two different real estate agents in this scenario.
Dual Agency-Broker. The same broker can be the broker of record for a number of franchises or offices. So my brokerage, Alain Pinel Realtors may have the same broker in Danville for example, as the Livermore office. The broker/manager may be different though in those two offices, as would be the two real estate agents. The agents may or may not know each other.
Dual Agency-Broker/Manager. The same broker is the broker/manager of two different agents from the same office. For example, agent Jane Smith represents the seller, and agent John Doe represents the buyer. Both report to Broker Bob. It is more likely that these two agents know each other. However, many agents work remotely or from home offices, so may never have met someone in their own office.
Dual Agency-Agents. In this case the listing agent and the selling agent (buyer’s agent) are one and the same. This is allowed in California, but is not permitted in some other states.
All of these instances are considered Dual Agency. But the option with a single real estate agent, is the one that is most sensitive. There are arguments for and against one agent representing both sides in a transaction. And it is this level of agency that creates the most controversy. Some consider that at the very least, a conflict of interest exists – one cannot serve two masters. Others will say that one agent will handle both sides and make sure the deal stays together, making it to the closing table. This is sometimes referred to as double-ending.
During the fast market of multiple offers, buyers and sellers frequently found themselves in dual agency situations. When inventories were low, and properties were moving quickly, buyers were happy to get their offer written, presented and accepted. They perceived that working with the seller’s agent might work in their favor. However, now that our market dynamic has shifted, some of those same buyers and sellers look back and wonder if their best interests were served.
So when you begin a real estate transaction, make sure you fully understand agency relationships. Before you write an offer or list a home, your agent should be providing you with this disclosure.