The Secret Life of A Double Agent (real estate style)

Real Estate Agent with Mountain Retreat Real Estate

I have often wondered if there is a legitimate case where the buying and selling parties of a real estate transaction are best served by the same person. 

To be honest, I'm not sure I can think of one. 

But in a numbers game, the payout can be extremely lucrative for a licensee. 

With the help of a whiteboard and marker, I recently explained to a co-worker exactly how the real estate "commission pie" gets split. 

I drew a box, and then a line down the middle, representing the buying and selling sides of the transaction. 

"This box represents 6% of the purchase price", I said. "Both the buying side and the selling side each get half, usually. So 3 percent."

Instantly he was doing the math.

"So $3,000 on a $100,000 home?"

"Good try, but no" I said, as I drew another line that cut the first two boxes in half again.

"The buying and selling agents each split the pie with their brokerage"

His face fell, as he realized what we all eventually do--the real estate pie gets split a lot.

But for real estate agents that can manage to represent both sides of the equation, the pie gets split 1 less time, giving both the agent and the broker a full 3%. 

That's a double commssion. 

But there's a catch.... you have to get the permission of both the buyer and the seller. This means that they have to knowingly agree to let you help out the other side. 

So I'm back to wondering about what kind of clients would realistically do this. The one area that I could see double agency MAYBE being a good thing for both parties, is in really small and specialized niches of real estate--cabins or raw land sales for instance. 

If you are an agent that specializes in agricultural land, and has a unique knowledge of food production, growing conditions, and the requirements, it seems like you might be among a minority, and therefore qualified to represent both sides of the transaction. 

Can you think of any other examples?

Have you ever represented both sides of the transaction? If so, what was the experience like?

Comments (59)

Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Welcome to ActiveRain!

Dual Agency is permissible in my state, but so far I've avoided it. I had several occurrences where I could have done both sides - but I referred the buyer out to another agent. 

Aug 19, 2016 09:21 PM
Debra B Albert, PA - Keyes Realty
Keyes Realty Treasure Coast, 34986 - Port St Lucie, FL
Ron and Debbie 772.708.3292

There have been several times that I have represented both sides with the knowledge of the other.  As long as everyone is on the same page and the title company is in the loop.  From negotiation thru close,  we have never failed to close a "double dip" to the satisfaction of both parties.  It is RARE - but it does happen.  ps, the seller gets a discount in this situation.

Aug 19, 2016 10:07 PM
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

Yes we haved and continue to represenet both sides of a transaction. This may happen with a short sale. The object for the Sellers is to avoid forecloure and for the Buyers to have the home they want at the best possible Price. The listing agent knows that price....wants the Buyer to write and the Sellers benefit from closing a short sale. Fraud ? Absolutely not....we are all adults working in a business transaction to make it a win/win for all parties involved.

Aug 19, 2016 11:30 PM
Tim Maitski
Atlanta Communities Real Estate Brokerage - Atlanta, GA
Truth, Excellence and a Good Deal

Dan,  Why do you choose to give half of your commission to your broker?  I found a brokerage who charges a flat monthly fee which works out to be less than 5% over the course of the year.  

Aug 19, 2016 11:56 PM
Terry McCarley
Coastal Real Estate - Cape Coral FL - Cape Coral, FL

We don't have dual agency in Florida - we have transactional agency relationship .  I have handled both sides in numerous transactions but personally prefer not to.  

Aug 20, 2016 12:09 AM
Lorrie Semler, REALTOR® in the Dallas area. Call/text 972-416-3417
Texas Pride Realty Group Brokered by HomeSmart Stars - Addison, TX
Real Service. Real Results. Real Estate

We don't do dual agency in Texas. We have something called "intermediary" where one agent can assist both sides but not give either side help on how much to price or offer, no advice with negotiations, no sharing of confidential information provided by either party. Basically, with intermediary with one agent, the agent acts as a referee and guides the process. I have done intermediary twice. 

The first time was when the ex-husband, who had purchased the house way after the divorce so that his son would have a home to grow up in, decided to sell the house to the ex-wife. She was already living in the house, didn't need a seller disclosure, they had already agreed on the price. All I did was facilitate the transaction with the title company.

The second time was when a mother & father sold their home to the daughter who was already living there with them.  They also had already agreed on the price and I didn't have to represent either of the parties.


The other "flavor" of intermediary is when the buyer's agent and the seller's agent are both in the same brokerage.

Aug 20, 2016 01:01 AM
Eren Millam
Realty World Cosser & Associates, Inc. - Chehalis, WA
Certified Negotiation Expert

To treat dual agency the same as buyer agency or listing agency is wrong. You move from representing the buyer or seller, to not acting against either party in the transaction. You become more of neutral advisor which can be extremely difficult. With that in mind, dual agency is always a good thing for both parties - unless they feel like their agent is working against them. 


Aug 20, 2016 02:32 AM
Kimo Jarrett
Cyber Properties - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Seems very simple to me about dual agency issues. So, if you're fearful, don't do it and if fearless, do it! Under certain circumstances, as referenced by Sally and David Hanson, # 42, using dual agency might work best to close a transaction.

Aug 20, 2016 02:42 AM
Dorte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Dan,

Where we are, you can only represent one master. You can be nice to the other side, but they are not represented by you.

Aug 20, 2016 03:12 AM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

The listing agent is the fiduciary of the seller/owner.  Period.

The selling agent is the fiduciary of the buyer/borrower.  Period.

There can not be two sides being served IN THEIR BEST INTERESTS when their is dual agency.  And if the motivation to conduct this type of real estate service is based on the profit margins of the licensees . . . they have no clue what a fiduciary is all about.  They are self-motivated and do neither seller and/or buyer a real estate service.

Aug 20, 2016 07:49 AM
Andrea Swiedler
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties - New Milford, CT
Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT

Welcome! You picked a touchy subject here I have to say. And there will be no shortage of strong opinions. 

It is legal here, I have done it a few sleepless times. 

One thing I usually ask people when they are so strongly opposed to it, why do they advertise their listings with a call to action to give them a call? If you really object to dual agency, why not state on your advertising, please call any other agent but me to view this property. It's just a thought.

Technically speaking, I am in a dual agency situation if any other agent from my company sells the property. That might not be quite as tricky, but let me ask this question. Is there a mentality within companies that keeping the sale in house is better than not? I would have to say the answer is yes. 

It isn't easy, but my dual agency deals were successful, both parties were very well pleased. 

Our high end properties are often sold in a dual agency situation. Probably more than not. 

Aug 20, 2016 11:10 PM
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Hi, Dan!  Every Sunday I do a recap of blogs that I read last week in Last Weeks Favorites on AactiveRainAnd today, I included your post on my list.  Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend.


Aug 20, 2016 11:53 PM
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Dan. This is a good post and welcome to the Rain. Years ago this was what we did normally.

Aug 21, 2016 12:50 AM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Estate Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

I am not a fan of dual agency.  I will refer leads on my listings to another agent. Not an agent that works for me ... another agent in another brokerage. 

I've done it twice. Both times at the request of the seller. Both Short Sale Listings.

One was with a real bully jack ass ... that jack ass is now being sued by an investor for embezzling $6 Million from him ... and a list of 30+ contractors he failed to pay while he purchased homes and flipped them.  I did not want to represent this person. Seller wanted it because they offered cash for keys to the tenant. In the end, they attempted not to pay the cash for keys. No surprise there.

The other worked out BEAUTIFULLY.  It was a short sale we had approval on. The buyer released because of a death in her family.  I was already working with a buyer, well-qualified & well-vetted. Not some random buyer lead. I had established a relationship with her ... even met her parents and enjoyed a meal together.  It makes a difference to me knowing the buyer.  I had 2 listings in the same development ... both were under contract.  The buyer in contract released. I told the sellers about my buyer client.  They said ... we don't want to go back on the market ... we want you to work with her.  Boom.  The contact was released ... the new offer submitted to the short sale lender ... 4 days later we had a new approval ... we closed.  Happy Seller. Happy Buyer!  I paid a referral fee as that buyer was a referral.  

Aug 21, 2016 03:10 AM
Thomas McCombs
Century 21 HomeStar - Akron, OH

Buyers often call the listing agent directly, hoping that they can  gain an advantage since the listing agent knows the terms of other listings that may also come in and can therefore help his own buyers.

But it rarely works that way. Often the buyer is for all practical purposes, unrepresented in spite of what the "dual agency" agreement says.

Aug 21, 2016 05:01 AM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Hi Dan Carpenter ... First off, welcome to the Rain! Second, you picked a good one to come out of the gate with... ;O) ... I'm kinda of old school in that I agree with Carla Muss-Jacobs, Principal Broker (503) 810-7192 ... I'm not in your shoes, because I'm a title guy,  and from my side of the fence 'dual agency' deals can present awkward situations in escrow when it's the fudiciary duty of the escrow officer to be an unbiased 3rd party and follow the closing instructions. I look forward to seeing your future posts!

Aug 21, 2016 07:13 AM
Olga Simoncelli
Veritas Prime, LLC dba Veritas Prime Real Estate - New Fairfield, CT
CONSULTANT, Real Estate Services & Risk Management

Dan - dual agency is in fact forbidden in some states due to exactly the kinds of concerns you have. It can work, but the transaction on all sides needs to be based on integrity and trust. 

Aug 21, 2016 08:55 AM
Robert Vegas Bob Swetz
Las Vegas, NV

Hello Dan

Congrats on your first post with some strong opinions on this subject and welcome to the ActiveRain network.

Aug 21, 2016 01:53 PM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

In many countries that is the only way to list a property. The owners can sign up with as many contracts and wait for the one brings an offer on the table. 

Aug 22, 2016 01:51 AM
Liane Thomas, Top Listing Agent
Professional Realty Services® - Corona, CA
Bringing you Home!

Early in my career I was told "It is hard to serve 2 masters". With that in mind, I rarely practice dual agency. I have found it is easier to refer buyers interested in my listing to another skilled agent. 

Aug 29, 2016 02:54 AM