Double agents a lose-lose for consumers
As independent buyers’ agents we only represent and work for property buyers. We charge a fee directly to the buyer for the work that we undertake, and are completely independent of selling agents. Ours is definitely a service-based industry, and we really enjoy what we do for our buyer clients. Finding the right home or investment property that works and fits our client’s needs is highly rewarding, no matter how long the process sometimes takes. As such, this means we are able to work across the entire marketplace and present properties without bias or conflict, as we are not allied or associated with any selling agency. We’ve been doing just buyers agency now since 2005 and our service has been awarded multiple times. Without sounding like we’re tooting our own horn, we love what we do here at House Search and we believe we do it very well. Our hundreds of happy clients also believe so, as evidenced by their testimonials.
What we have noticed recently, however, is the proliferation of some selling agencies to add “buyers agency” as a side arm of their selling agency businesses. We call them double agents, as they really appear to be sitting astride both sides of the fence. It’s a concept that is truly fraught with potential conflict of interest, as I’ve written about previously in my article ‘Beware of selling agents wearing two hats’ but it’s really surprising to think that consumers would choose to take the risk of engaging a selling agent (with their own agency’s properties front and foremost for sale) to act on their behalf as an independent buyers’ agent when searching for their ideal property. After all, an independent buyers’ agent is trained to assess and secure properties according to a client’s specific needs, to thoroughly research and critically assess a property’s value and to negotiate the best deal possible for their client. A selling agent, on the other hand, is motivated to help the buyer client buy at any cost to obtain the highest possible price for their vendor. These two roles are clear opposites and involve different skillsets, which is why it pays to have the right person acting for you and “on your side” 100% during the complete process.
So, some questions to consider:
How can such selling agents, playing the role of in-house ‘buyers agent’, possibly remain independent, when the very company they are representing gets predominantly engaged and remunerated by vendors?
How skilled are these ‘double agents’ are at unearthing those off-market and pre-market stock via other selling agencies? After all, in our experience, most selling agencies within a suburb are very much competitors, certainly not buddies who are willing to share their listings with their fellow selling agencies. As independent buyers agents (with no listings to sell) we obviously pose no threat here, as we only represent purchasers, and have nothing to do with sellers. We often hear of properties fresh or not yet listed to the market, via our wide circle of relationships with selling agents, and we know 100% they certainly wouldn’t be letting their competitors know. Lose-lose for the consumer right there.
How biased or tempted is the ‘buyers agent’ going to be towards pushing buyers towards their own company brand’s listed properties? After all, selling agencies are brand-loyal and often refer clients to other agents within their own brands, certainly not stock within rival or other agencies.
As independent buyers’ agents, we don’t list property for sale. Our time (and particularly our Saturdays) are often taken up with showing clients suitable properties once we have inspected and shortlisted them. A typical Saturday would be spent inspecting anywhere up to 12 properties often with 2-3 different clients, depending on workloads. Dare I say it, but buyers’ agency is highly time-consuming and all-encompassing work. A typical search for one client alone consists of communicating and speaking to in excess of 30+ selling agents, enquiring on numerous properties (our record here at House Search is 169 properties for one client alone) and then inspecting and shortlisting suitable prospects across many suburbs for our buyers. It’s a significant input of time, research and resources and luckily our clients appreciate and value the time spent on a complete search of the entire marketplace on their behalf.
We find it perplexing, then, to wonder how a selling agent, who is also moonlighting as a part time buyers’ agent in-house within their own selling agency, simply finds the time to attend all these inspections with buyer clients (most often on Saturdays) and do the job as thoroughly as it deserves? What about their own sellers? How are they also servicing them as well as purchasers on the side? Though the legislation is very clear in NSW that agents cannot represent and take a fee from two parties in the same transaction, there is nothing to stop selling agents from acting for purchasers and getting paid to do so. The question remains, however, for consumers: Why wouldn’t they use a totally INDEPENDENT buyers’ agent to conduct a search for them instead?
As the saying goes in business, do one thing and do it well. That’s our mantra. No conflicts of interest. No divided loyalties. No obligation or bias towards stock from one agency over another. For a complete list of other independent buyers agencies here in Australia remember to check out the only industry body for independent buyers agents at REBAA