Getting the most out of a real estate professional
Julie Garton-Good, GRI, DREI

Q:We sold our home and closed on it two weeks ago, but the salesperson has requested that the sign remain for two months (he said something about ours being the first resale in this relatively new development). Now the buyers are upset with us. Shouldn't they honor our agreement with the agent?

A:A sold sign remaining on a property for two months seems excessive. While the sign provides great marketing for the brokerage and the salesperson, a sign remaining for several days to a week after closing is more the norm.

The buyer certainly has the right to complain since the agreement was made between you and the agent, not with the buyer. It would be a good gesture on your part to contact the salesperson and inform him that the buyer requests to have the sign removed. Even though he may balk at the request, he will understand that you cannot bind the buyer by the previous agreement. If the sign is not removed, take it down yourself and ask the salesperson to retrieve it. Real estate signage is expensive, and many brokerages make the salesperson responsible for any loss to signage.


Q:What is the difference between a buyer's agent and a regular real estate salesperson? Does the buyer's broker have to be paid by the buyer?

A:A buyer's broker is a real estate agent hired by the buyer to represent his or her interests. Real estate agents have typically listed property for sale and formed a legal relationship with the seller, though recent changes to Florida law have created new relationships for real estate practitioners to have with buyers and sellers. Buyers who feel that they need to have their interests advocated can hire an buyer's agent to negotiate on their behalf. This might benefit a buyer who has only enough down payment for a certain purchase price, or is looking for the best buy in seller-financed property.

The buyer's agent can be paid by anyone -- the buyer or a third party -- or could receive the co-broker (selling broker) share of the commission without it inferring that the buyer's agent represents the seller. This last method of compensation is the most common way to compensate a buyer's agent, but must be approved by both the seller and the listing broker before the property is shown to the buyer.

The bottom line is that representation and compensation are two distinct and separate items when it comes to representing a client (buyer or seller) in a real estate transaction.

Q:We are selling our own home. The buyers who are interested in our home apparently signed a buyer representation agreement with a real estate agent. While the buyers thought it applied only to the homes the agent showed them, the agent is now claiming that it applies to all properties they see during the next six months. At our current price, we didn't want to pay a real estate commission. What can be done so we don't end up losing the buyers?

A:The buyers should be the ones asking the question since they signed an agreement requesting that the agent assist them. They need to obtain an interpretation of the buyer's representation agreement language to determine the boundaries of the agreement. This is probably best provided by a real estate attorney.

If the agreement specified that the buyer's agent would represent the buyer on all properties shown to that individual, period, then your for-sale-by-owner property would be included and the agent could have a claim for a commission should the buyers purchase your home.

However, if the agreement specified parameters like "only those properties currently listed in the multiple listing service," then your home would be excluded.

Some agreements entitle the buyer's agent to a commission if he represents the buyer on "only the properties shown to the buyer by the agent." Based on the attorney's interpretation, your property would probably be excluded.

With buyer agency being so common today, it's increasingly important that buyers understand not only what services they're receiving from their agent, but the degree to which the agreement binds them as well.

But why go looking for reasons why the buyers can't buy. Why not search for ways they can? Why not ask the buyer's agent to research comparable properties that have sold and do a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) on the property for the buyer. If you haven't had this done prior to placing your home on the market, it could be that your home is priced under the market value and there may be room to raise your price and still keep your buyer.


Q: Is there a difference between real estate attorneys and other attorneys?

A: You'd only be able to discern the difference between a real estate attorney and other attorneys if you were a plaintiff who just lost his shirt in a real estate lawsuit. Seriously, there is no additional formal law school training required to be a real estate attorney; but there's a world of difference between someone who practices general law and someone who specializes in real estate law. It's a very unique practice, requiring a combination of financial/mortgage expertise, knowledge of the title industry, not to mention inordinate people skills.

For example, on any given day, a real estate attorney might review a survey to write a legal description, discuss foreclosure options with a seller who's behind in his payments and write an in-depth land sales contract (from scratch), totaling more than 30 pages. No two days are alike, because no two client's problems are similar.

In most cases, you'd pay the same amount of money for a regular attorney to draft real estate documents as you would a specialist in real estate law. Why not go for an expert?