Sellers Education - Difference in Customer and Client
Read Your Agency Disclosure.
Are You a Customer or a Client?
When you choose to work with a real estate licensee, he or she may or may not be your agent. An agent owes certain duties to a client but has a different obligation to a customer. You must know whether you are a customer or a client in a real estate transaction, and it is your decision as to how you will work with the licensee.
In order to make an informed decision, you should discuss the following information with any agent you're thinking about working with.
Who is a customer?
A customer is a person who seeks to purchase real estate, but who has NOT established an agency relationship and is NOT represented by an agent. A customer can expect the salesperson to provide honest information but cannot expect the salesperson to act as an agent or to negotiate the best price in a purchase. A real estate licensee is also obligated by law to treat customers honestly, to disclose known material facts about the property, and to promptly present all offers to the seller.
As a buyer, you may decide you don't need your own agent. The seller's agent may be able to provide you with all the information you require to buy real property without your being represented by your own agent; however, if you are a customer, the licensee's primary loyalty is not to you. It is to his or her client. The agent must convey all known information to his or her client, such as your urgency to move or your willingness to increase your offer.
Who is a client?
A client is a person who establishes an agency relationship with and agrees to be represented by an agent in a real estate transaction. A seller becomes a client of a real estate company by signing a listing agreement with one of the company's licensees. This agreement must be in writing and must clearly establish the obligations of both the buyer and the agent.
A buyer becomes a client of a real estate company by requesting through a licensee that the company be the buyer's agent. Such an arrangement must be in writing and must clearly establish the obligations of both the buyer and the agent.
Who is an agent?
An agent is the licensee who, at your direction, acts for and represents you, above all others, as his or her client. In South Carolina, once an agency relationship is created, the broker-in-charge of the company is considered to be the agent of the client, and all licensees within the company become sub-agents of the broker-in-charge representing the same client.
Acting on your behalf, an agent in a real estate transaction will negotiate the best price and terms for you. An agent owes utmost loyalty to you, the client, and must convey to you any information he or she knows that might influence your decision to buy or sell.
What is a dual agent?
In certain circumstances, which should be explained to you by the licensee, an agent may represent the buyer and the seller in the same transaction, provided each has consented in writing prior to the transaction. This arrangement is called dual agency since one agent represents both parties and both remain clients of the company.
Working with a dual agent is not the same as having your own agent. For instance, when representing both a buyer and a seller, the dual agent must not disclose to one party confidential information obtained from the other party. Also, a dual agent may not be the advocate for either party and cannot negotiate for nor advise either as to price or terms.
It is important that you discuss this with the licensee in order to understand the limits of services that a dual agent can provide and to determine whether you want to modify a relationship that you may have established.
Do you want to be a customer or a client?
Do you want to receive services (customer) or be represented (client)? If you are not sure, discuss your options with the real estate licensee with whom you are working. It is your choice and you need to decide whether you will hire an agent or be self-represented. At your discretion, it may be advisable for you to obtain legal or other professional advice in connection with a transaction. It is your continuing responsibility to protect your own interests.