The Buyer’s Broker – Getting Started – The New York Times
IN this do-it-yourself era of online real estate listings, it is easy to find out what is on the market, visit open houses and even research sales data to come up with a reasonable price to offer for a home. So why should a buyer bother using an agent? In a nutshell: to protect his or her interests in an expensive, often complex purchase that can become even more complicated by the labyrinthine co-op approval process in New York City. A buyer who relies on the seller’s agent to handle both sides of the deal may not hear about problems with the apartment or the building, or have a real advocate during contract negotiations.
“When you work with a buyer’s agent, their fiduciary responsibility is to you as a buyer,” said Walter Molony, a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors. The organization has helped establish state laws that require clearer disclosure to consumers about which party in the transaction an agent represents. In New York, real estate agents must have clients sign a disclosure form that explains the difference between a seller’s agent, who provides undivided loyalty to the seller, and a buyer’s agent, who represents the buyer’s interests. A dual agent can represent the buyer and the seller, but both parties must consent to the arrangement and acknowledge that they are giving up the benefits of exclusive representation.
“Obviously if you’re representing a buyer and a seller in a transaction,” said Neil B. Garfinkel, the residential counsel to the Real Estate Board of New York, “you can’t have undivided loyalty.” A dual agent can maintain each party’s confidence, Mr. Garfinkel said — for instance, by not disclosing to the seller that the buyer just received a big bonus check, or by not telling the buyer that the sellers are divorcing and want a quick sale. But things get murky when it comes to negotiating a price or discussing a home’s flaws.
“Perhaps it’s a defect in the property or potential financial issues in the building,” said Gea Elika, the founder of Elika Associates, a real estate agency that works exclusively with buyers.
“Or maybe the resale potential is terrible. Buying a home is an emotional thing, so buyers may not see what’s wrong.” When the market was booming, it was sometimes difficult for buyers to find a broker to show them properties unless they had millions of dollars to spend. That is because properties were selling so fast that agents preferred working with sellers rather than buyers who might take months to make up their minds. But agents say that with listings taking longer to sell, there is generally more willingness to work with buyers.