Working with a Realtor: The Agency Relationship

Realtors are governed by the legal concept of “agency”. An agent is legally obligated to look after the best interests of the person he or she is working for. The agent must be loyal to that person.

A Realtor may be your agent…if you have clearly established an agency relationship with that Realtor. But often, you may assume such an obligation exists when it does not.

We as Realtors believe it is important that the people they work with understand when an agency relationship exists and when it does not…and to understand what it means.

In Real Estate, there are different possible forms of agency relationship,

  • Seller’s Agent
  • Buyer’s Agent
  • Multiple Representation

When a real estate company is a “seller’s agent”, it must do what is best for the seller of a property.

A seller’s agent must tell the seller anything about a buyer. For instance, if a seller’s agent knows a buyer is willing to offer more for a property, that information must be shared with the seller. Confidences a seller shares with a seller’s agent must be kept confidential.

A buyer can expect fair service and disclosure of pertinent information about a property. Nothing will be misrepresented about a property. All questions will be answered honestly.

A real estate company acting as a “buyer’s agent” must do what is best for the purchaser.

A written contract establishes purchaser agency. It also explains services the REALTOR will provide, spells out who will pay and specifies what obligations a buyer may have. Typically, buyers will be obliged to work exclusively with that REALTOR for a period of time.

A REALTOR working for a buyer will keep information about the purchaser confidential from the seller.

Occasionally a real estate company will be the agent of both the buyer and the seller. Under this “multiple representation” arrangement, the REALTOR must do what is best for both the seller and the buyer.

Your Re/Max agent will discuss multiple representation during conversations dealing with representation and provision of service.

A REALTOR can act in multiple representation only if both the buyer and seller agree in writing.

Usually, the REALTOR will be paid from the proceeds of the sale. The listing agreement states the REALTOR’s fee.

When more than one REALTOR is involved

Often, a buyer will work with one REALTOR and a seller will work with another. It may appear that the REALTOR working with the buyer is working for that buyer, in an agency relationship. That is not necessarily the case.

The REALTOR working with a buyer may be a “sub-agent” of the seller. In this case, the REALTOR is actually a seller’s agent. While a seller’s agent can provide many valuable services to a buyer, he or she must do what is best for the seller.

If a written contract exists with a buyer, a REALTOR can be a buyer’s agent.

Buyers and Sellers will always be told – in writing – who a REALTOR is working for.

Most real estate professionals in our province are members of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) – and only members of OREA can call themselves REALTOR.

When you deal with a REALTOR, you can expect not only strict adherence to provincial laws, but also adherence to a Code of Ethics. And that code is very important to you – because it assures you will receive the highest level of service, honesty and integrity.

Before receiving a real estate licence, candidates must successfully complete an extensive course of study developed by OREA on behalf of the Ontario Government. And that is only the beginning: in the two years after receiving their licence, the new professionals are required to successfully complete three additional courses as part of their articling with an experienced broker.

NOTE: Should you consider to buy or sell any real estate, be sure you have your agent explain agency law to you so that you completely understand the relationship,if any, you may have with the agents involved. Buyers and Sellers will always be told,in writing, who a Realtor is working for.

It may be best for you to have a contract up front with any agent working for you, so that your best interests are looked after.

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