Not long ago, a young woman walked in to our Real Estate office and wanted information about a house she had seen with our company's "For Sale" sign in the front yard. After talking to us briefly and getting the information she had wanted she said she was in a hurry to go. She explained that in order to get the information that she needed by the end of the day about the two other houses she was interested in, she would have to get moving because they were "with" other companies.
Wondering why she was going to all of this work on her own we asked her if she was already being represented by an agent, and to our surprise she said "Yes."
We realized at that moment that our new friend neither understood about how the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) worked, nor what should have been the proper role of the Agent with which she had already engaged.
The Multiple Listing Service is a cooperative arrangement between most Real Estate Brokers to pool information about Real Estate for sale into a common data base from which all cooperating members can access. When a house is listed by one company, that information is shared with all cooperating companies. In most cases any commissions generated by the sale of such a property are then split between the listing agency and the selling agency. It's a win-win arrangement that allows listings to be effectively shared among the membership.
The most important result of this arrangement is that any property placed on the MLS can be sold by any other member (Real Estate Broker) of the MLS. In other words (and this is important,) real estate brokers don't just sell their own company's listings, they can sell any within their MLS. This is extremely important for the seller as well. Without information being shared via the MLS, Real Estate would be exceedingly difficult to market beyond what newspapers, periodicals or any other advertising would be able to accomplish.
Because information is shared among brokers and a broker is not limited to selling property listed within his/her agency, that broker is capable of doing extensive research via the MLS for his clients. The role of a "Buyer's Agent" is to conduct such research on behalf of his/her client, and to represent that client throughout the whole process.
A Buyer's Agent is the client's advocate in every regard who's job it is to provide the client with all possible information and or services that will be of benefit to the buyer throughout the transaction.
Once a broker is engaged by the client, it is hopefully understood at this point that because the client is asking a broker to go to work for them, conduct research, show property, allocate time without compensation until a sale is executed etc., that the client will not engage another broker at the same time. Although there's nothing by law stopping a buyer from talking to multiple agents simultaneously, it's strongly discouraged.
A common scenario occurs when a potential buyer will make multiple inquiries to a variety of agencies in response to advertising they've seen in a periodical. They'll talk to lots of different brokers but eventually will ask for one of them to do more research or show a property. At this point, or any point where a buyer has asked a broker to provide more than just cursory information, the buyer should engage that broker (at least informally) to act as their "Buyer's Agent," by allowing that agent to conduct additional research, show other properties beyond his own agency and act as the advocate of the client from that point forward, unless notified.
Of course, a buyer is free to hire whomever they please at any point in the process (unless under specific contract.) If a buyer however, does intend to switch to another agent and/or agency, the courteous thing to do is to at least notify the first agent of their intention to move on. There's nothing more heartbreaking to a Real Estate agent than to find out third hand that a seemingly active client that had been given countless hours of time and energy had moved on and had completed a transaction elsewhere without notification.
The MLS is one of many tools at the disposal of your agent who will gladly use it to conduct extensive research on the behalf of the buyer. As that Buyer's Agent he/she has the ability to locate property well beyond the boundaries of a single agency as well as to provide other services that would be difficult and/or impossible for a buyer to accomplish on their own.
An excellent source of useful information for anyone considering buying Real Estate can be found via the Buyer's Advisory at: http://www.aaronline.com/documents/buy_tool.aspxFred Jaeger is a licensed Oregon Real Estate Broker and an e-PRO Certified Realtor® with Gilchrist Real Estate Company in La Pine Oregon. He can be reached directly via 541 598-5449 or email@example.com .