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Double Agent

Kyle McIntosh, 1:03 pm ET

MY MOM HAD PLANNED to look for a new home near my wife and me in 2022. In November 2021, I searched Realtor.com to see what was available. I saw a home that looked like a good fit, but its status was listed as “pending.” On a whim, I called the selling agent. It turned out that the house was falling out of escrow. We made an offer.

We didn’t have an agent, so the selling agent offered to represent us. This dual-agent approach is allowed in California. While I was wary of having the seller’s agent also represent us, it ultimately worked in our favor.

The first benefit: Our offer was accepted. That’s no small feat in today’s hot real estate market. Given that the property fell out of escrow once, the seller didn’t want it to fall out again. The agent got to know us and she conveyed to the seller that we were solid buyers. I believe this was a big factor in our offer being accepted over two others that were made around the same time.

Another benefit was that the agent shared some of the extra commission that came from representing both parties. The seller received net proceeds higher than the prior deal, and we paid a lower price than what was previously contracted. While the agent was surely the biggest beneficiary of the arrangement, she made it a “win-win-win” for all involved.

A final benefit: All requested fixes were accepted by the seller. In the real estate transactions I’ve been through, the “fix it” list seems to be the point at which animosity peaks between buyer and seller. That was not the case this time. It was difficult for the seller to turn away a request list that was presented to him by his own agent. There was no back and forth. All fixes were made and the deal is now done.

What should you do if you’re involved in a dual-agent transaction? The key piece of advice I’d offer: Hire your own inspector. We ignored the list of inspectors presented to us by the agent, and instead hired a professional recommended by someone else.

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Rick Connor
Rick Connor
13 days ago

When we bought our first home, it was a strong seller’s market. We used the wife of one of my wife’s colleagues. She was great, but did not have any listings. We kept losing out to buyers who used the selling agent. So we went on our own and bought a house thru the selling agent. In the end it turned out OK, but the agent was dishonest and clearly favored the sellers. At settlement he told us the seller was not ready to move, and would need another day. We ended up holding back some money in escrow, and all the agent’s commission.

Kyle Mcintosh
Kyle Mcintosh
13 days ago
Reply to  Rick Connor

The most important thing we did is to hire the independent inspector and not one from the agent’s list. Even if it did not yield findings that would have been different from an inspector recommended by the agent, we rest well at night knowing it was checked thoroughly by our person.

Kyle Mcintosh
Kyle Mcintosh
13 days ago
Reply to  Rick Connor

Thanks for the comment, Rick. It is a tricky situation indeed and I can’t say that I would do it again if I was not comfortable with the agent. Given that the property fell out of escrow and the seller was motivated, that gave us some measure of leverage even though it is very much a seller’s market. And another interesting twist is that the agent lives just a few doors down from the home that is being sold, so there was less risk – in my mind – that there would be an issue. On top of that, I’ve been in the area for almost two decades with a few of the biggest employers in the area, so the realtor likely sees me as a good referral source. Given all of these factors, I think we were pretty well protected from the agent flaking, but I can certainly see cases where this could have gone the other way.

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