What are the different levels of brokerage services to buyers and sellers?
The difference between a Client and a Customer is significant to us Realtors®. However, it is likely not understood by the general public. Before you begin working with a Realtor® it is very important to know what the different types of services are provided under Maine Law.
Let's start by defining what a Customer is and what a Client is:
Customer - A customer is serviced by an agent, but without contractual agreement as a Transaction Broker. Customers must be treated honestly and fairly by agents and given truthful responses to their questions.
Client - A client is in a binding contractual relationship with a Realtor®. This is documented by an Exclusive Buyer Representation Agreement when an agent represents a Buyer in purchasing a property listed by another agent. The Exclusive Right to Sell Listing Agreement for Sellers documents the relationship when an agent lists a property for sale.
There are two big differences between the brokerage’s obligations to a client versus a customer.
First, if you are a client, the brokerage has an important obligation to you, called fiduciary duty, and must promote and protect your best interests in the real estate transaction. If you are a customer, the brokerage does not have that obligation, but is obligated to treat you with fairness, honesty and integrity, and to provide you with conscientious and competent service.
Second, if you are a client looking to purchase a property, under a legislated Code of Ethics, the salesperson must take reasonable steps to determine, and then disclose to you, all material facts about the property. If you are a customer, however, the salesperson only has to disclose to you the material facts that he or she already knows or ought to know, and they are not required to take any further steps.
On occasion, an agent may work for both the buyer and seller on the same transaction, providing that there is written consent of both parties. When this is the case, the agent is considered a "Disclosed Dual Agent." The agent now owes both the buyer and seller a duty to deal with them fairly and honestly, and to hold each of their respective interests in confidence. With this agency relationship, the agent does not represent either the buyer or seller exclusively. Additionally, neither party can expect the agent to advise either party on how to gain an advantage over the other.
No matter what you decide, remember to do your homework in advance. Before you sign your agreement with the brokerage, make sure you know what you want and the services you expect to receive.
As I have said before, please call a local REALTOR for all your real estate needs no matter how big or small. We are trained professionals here to make your life easier. It's best to surround yourself with the right team of professionals that can continuously give you the right advice for all your circumstances.
Lisa DiBiase is a Broker/Owner. She and her company represent buyers and sellers in the Greater Portland area. For all your real estate needs contact firstname.lastname@example.org.