If you've ever searched online for a house with sites like Zillow.com or Trulia.com, you've probably seen the "contact agent" button.
The "contact agent" button allows you to choose the real estate salesperson who you'd like more information about the property from, and after clicking, you'll probably hear from your selected agent by text, email, or phone.
Why would you contact an agent?
Well, some buyers might be inquiring about something like the size of the home, or when it was built. For other buyers, scheduling a showing is on their agenda. All buyers should know that simply hitting the "contact agent" button does not mean representation, and that a buyer wanting representation must sign a buyer representation agreement (a contract), and be given a copy.
This is called "buyer agency," and the agent through this contract, represents you, the buyer, in the transaction. While the law allows a real estate salesperson to work with a buyer as either a client (with a buyer representation agreement) or a customer (meaning that the licensee does not represent the buyer and is an agent of the seller, representing their interests), for some real estate salespeople, it may be their policy to only work with buyers as buyer agents, owing you, the buyer, not the seller, their fiduciary responsibility, as you go from casual online looker to house buyer.
There are some preliminary activities that a real estate agent may conduct for a buyer before a written buyer representation agreement is entered into. When a real estate agent replies to you after you've contacted them, one of the first questions that you'll probably be asked is whether you are currently being represented by another real estate agent.
They may also share the real estate office firm's policy on various representation (including buyer and seller agency, dual agency, designated agency, and customer relationships that the licensee could potentially have with the buyer).
And finally, they might remind you that you shouldn't provide confidential information unless, and until, you as the buyer and the agent have entered an agency relationship with a buyer representation agreement.
Before entering into a buyer agency agreement, a licensee can provide some very basic levels of service, including providing the buyer with property information, giving the buyer information on the licensee's firm, or forwarding the buyer information on mortgage rates and lending institutions.
When a buyer and a real estate agent have entered into a written buyer agency agreement, or the agent is going to represent the seller and has presented the buyer with an agency disclosure notice, (which is given to unrepresented persons, stating that the agent represents the seller), then an agent may give a different level of service.
They can then ask the buyer to disclose more confidential information pertinent and needed to facilitate their purchase, express an opinion or give advice about a piece of real estate, physically show property, discuss an offer with the buyer, or engage in verbal or written negotiations on the buyer's behalf concerning the price or the terms or conditions of the purchase.
Hitting the "contact agent" button will usually give you the "more information" that you're looking for.
Taking the next step and signing a buyer agency agreement means that you have a licensed professional in your corner who owes their fiduciary responsibilities to you in the assistance in locating and purchasing of your next piece of property.
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