Whether from having purchased homes in other cities or from watching real estate shows on TV many Yellowknife homebuyers are familiar with the concept of Buyer Representation, where a Realtor works solely in the buyer’s best interests and protects his or her negotiating position at all times. Buyer Representation has been around since the 1990s in the provinces, but until we began offering it in 2012, it wasn’t part of the normal course of business when working with Yellowknife Realtors.
Yes, Realtors worked with buyers before 2012, but they generally didn’t work for them. The difference is subtle and yet incredibly important for homebuyers. It’s the difference between being a Realtor’s client, or just being a customer.
It helps to think of the difference in terms of other professions. When a buyer walks in to a car dealership a salesperson will work with the buyer, but that salesperson obviously isn’t working solely in the buyer’s best interests. The buyer is merely a customer. It is the salesperson’s employer, the owner of the car dealership, whose best interests are being served. Buyers know that buying a car is a case of caveat emptor – “let the buyer beware.” The rules of the game are understood, and buyers are fine with it.
Compare this with the situation when a person seeks out the services of a lawyer. The lawyer works with the person as a client, not a customer. And like all professionals who work as agents for their clients, the lawyer owes the client certain “fiduciary” duties: obedience, loyalty, disclosure, confidentiality, accountability and reasonable care and due diligence. If it were discovered at some point in the relationship that the lawyer had been working in some third party’s best interests, the lawyer would face harsh penalties.
What I’ve just described are two different types of common law agency relationships. The car dealership customer example is a case of what Realtors call “No Agency.” The buyer is treated as a customer, not a client. The Realtor must treat the buyer honestly and fairly, but does not owe the buyer loyalty, confidentiality, due care, or any of the other fiduciary obligations.
The lawyer example is a case of “Designated Agency,” also known in the Real Estate world as Buyer Representation or Buyer Agency. Under Buyer Representation the client is owed the full slate of fiduciary duties.
When asked which of these two relationships they would rather have with a Realtor, more and more homebuyers in Canada are choosing Buyer Representation, which is exactly why we introduced this service to the Yellowknife market in 2012. And in fact we are currently the only local brokerage that offers Buyer Representation, at no cost, on the purchase of both private and MLS-listed properties.
In my next post I’ll explain whose job it is to make sure buyers understand the potentially confusing differences between the different kinds of agency relationships. As a preview, here are some links to “Agency Disclosure” forms and websites used in the provinces.
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