Last year’s revision of the Virginia Agency Law brought some clear changes to the practice of single agent dual agency (one agent “representing” both parties in a transaction). What it also brought is some confusion about the actual home buying process and when buyer broker agreements need to be signed – and by whom.
Here is an example of a common question raised by agents and buyers –
Question: “A coworker here was told by an agent in (somewhere in Virginia) that it was a law that he had to sign a buyer broker before seeing or obtaining any info about a house. um, BS, right??”
Answer: Yes. Really; in order to see a property with a real estate agent, the agent legally needs a written agreement with you, even if for only a day, or a single house. Many agreements are for longer periods – six months is a common term. The option of an Unrepresented Buyers Agreement exists, but that’s a story for another day.
The short answer is that Virginia law requires (the Disclosure of Agency and the Agreement) in order to protect you (the consumer). The longer answer is that having something in writing — whether it covers a single property or a months-long relationship — ensures that both you and your Realtor® understand exactly what’s expected from each other.
What does this mean in practice for a home buyer?
Here’s an example.
– You find a house for sale that you want to see. You call the listing agent (they’re not representing you/cannot represent you; their goal is to sell the house, not help you). That agent should give you something in writing stating that they are not there for you, and they may try to sell you on the merits of single agent dual agency (if this happens, my advice: be wary)
– You find a house for sale that you want to see. You know you need and want representation so you contact the realtor your friend used last year; you know you’re not quite ready to sign on with them – it’s a first date. Your prospective agent should still give you something in writing that you sign acknowledging this. This date might lead to a long-term relationship, but for now, sign a one-time, über-short-term brokerage relationship.
What does this mean?
Is this process overly cumbersome? Yep. (blame the lawyers and the legislature)
Do you have to sign something? Yes.