Buying a home in Fresno, California? If yes, the house will likely be listed by a real estate agent. This article is written for those of you that decide to buy the house from the listing agent. (You know, you called the telephone number on the "For Sale" sign, the agent showed you the house and you want to put in the offer.) If you decide to the buy the house through the listing agent, make sure this agent is willing to go the distance with you and call you a "client". Otherwise, you might find yourself unrepresented should something go wrong.
Are You Sure You are Represented? You Might Only be a "Customer".
Unfortunately in Fresno, some listing agents elect not to represent both buyer and seller. Instead, they will have the buyer sign an upbeat document called something like the "Customer Confirmation" document. They document will tell you how they are going to provide with this great customer service. The true purpose of the document is to attempt to destroy the client/agent relationship. You will sign this document together with the plethora of other documents necessary to purchase a home. The document attempts to downgrade you from client to mere customer. As a customer, they will show you the house, help you fill out paperwork, take your calls and walk you through the escrow service. They will smile at you and give you a cold bottle of water as you sign paperwork essentially saying you had a chance to get help from another real estate agent and/or seek legal counsel, but you choose to represent yourself.
Hopefully, nothing goes wrong with the transaction.
Don't Be Downgraded to A "Customer". You Deserve Representation!
Great customer service has its place. Disneyland is the epitome of customer service. It is also at a restaurant or a hardware store. It is not enough inside a real estate transaction. That is why California law requires more than customer service from real estate agents and their clients. California imposes a fiduciary duty on the real estate agent.
Fiduciary duty is the type of duty you see between a lawyer and his client, between two business partners, or between a husband and wife. It is more than good customer service. It is the holiest of holiest of duties between two people.
Here is how California regards fiduciary relationships: every fiduciary owes her principal the duty of undivided loyalty. He must give priority to the best interest of the beneficiary. She is required to manage the subject matter with due care and must account to the beneficiary. As you can see, it is more than smiles and filling out paperwork. If a fiduciary makes a mistake, California law is equipped to hold the fiduciary accountable.
If the listing agent is treating you as "customer", you are forfeiting a lot of legal protection owed by a fiduciary. The listing agent is hoping that he/she is only required to be honest, fair and provide full disclosure.
The Listing Agent Is Allowed To Represent Both Buyer and Seller.
The listing agent is allowed by California to represent both buyer and seller in the same transaction. This type of representation is called "dual representation", where the agent represents both the buyer and seller. Agents love this because they do not have to share the commission.
It is not going to cost you, the buyer, or seller any more money for you to be represented by a real estate agent. The seller of the house is going to pay the same commission regardless.
Do you want to work with a Fresno real estate agent who only legally wants to be plain old honest and fair with you? Or, are you going to want and find an agent that is willing to represent you and provide you with undivided loyalty and look out for your best interest?
This article was written with consideration to current trends in California. Other states may have different laws. Employing an attorney who handles real estate issues in your state is recommended before employing real estate agents or signing any written contract to purchase a home. Employing a real estate agent that will represent you as a "client" is also recommended. Customer service only goes so far.