My name is Melody Russell and I am constantly taking a stand against what is known as "dual agency" in the real estate industry. I am not referring to when one real estate firm has two different agents represent different sides of a deal. In such a case, I feel that both the buyer and seller can each have their best interests protected by their own Realtor who is representing only one side of the transaction.
What I am passionately against and wish to educate home buyers about is when one Realtor represents both sides of a transaction. We as agents have a fiduciary responsibility to do what is in the best interest of our client and we have a vow of ethics through NAR to be "loyal" to our clients. The best interest of a buyer and a seller are not one in the same. They are naturally an opposing force. The seller has a goal of obtaining the highest price possible with the most favorable terms to the seller. The buyer has the opposite goal of obtaining the lowest price possible and obtaining the best terms in favor of the buyer. How can one Realtor be loyal to both clients and act in the best interest of each client when the goals are polar opposites? I have heard many justifications over the years but I can, and will, honestly tell you the answer is simple. The agent cannot and in my humble opinion, should not.
Being one of the top ten producing agents in Santa Cruz County, California, I am faced with the opportunity of acting as a dual agent on a regular basis. A large portion of my business consists of listings as far North as Los Gatos and as far South as La Selva Beach. As a result of having much of my business come from listing, marketing and selling homes for my clients, buyers call me or come to my open houses and often want to work with me in order to place an offer on one of my listings. The buyer is often confused when I explain that I am representing the best interests of the seller and they would be better served to have someone watching out over what is best for the buyer in the transaction as opposed to working with the listing agent.
I don't enjoy turning away business or money but I do it on a regular basis because I understand quite clearly, and without a shadow of a doubt, that it is a conflict of interest for me to represent both sides of a transaction. As required by my fidcuiary obligation as a Realtor and because I know in my heart that the only option for my client's best outcome is for me to work, with a single purpose, until I obtain the best price possible and the best terms that can be negotiated for the client that I am representing. I was excited to learn that there is a percentage of agents who agree and who also never represent both sides.
I have seen many agents who advertise that they will get their client the best price and the best terms and many of these agents jump on dual agency when the opportunity presents itself. What is wrong with this picture? There is plenty of business to go around with each buyer and seller preserving their right to representation on the purchase of what is most often their largest asset. Why is it even legal? It is not legal in some states and I wish that it were not in California.
Many people will not agree with my stance in regards to dual agency and each person is welcome to their own perception based on their own life experiences which have created thier own reality. From my perspective, buying a home is a huge investment. It is the American Dream and in pursuit of that dream, it is each person's right to have an agent who will represent them (and only them) to the best of the agent's ability while putting all other interests (including the agent's) aside. It is my hope that one day home buyers understand that they are cutting themselves short by having a listing agent "double end" a deal. Likewise, I hope that agents who represent both sides will stop to consider who they are truly serving when doing so.