Realtor only not really
June 8, 2011 4:16 PM   Subscribe

A real estate agent waited until the night before showing us some properties to send us two contracts to sign. One states that he's not a buyer's agent, he's a "non-agent facilitator". The other would, if we sign, grant him the "exclusive right to locate or procure real property" for us until the end of the year. Question A: is he trying to screw us? Or is this sort of thing normal, or at least reasonable? Question B: assuming this is reasonable, what's the practical difference between a facilitator and a buyer's agent?

YANML, YANMRealtor. US, MA. (If you're watching my previous questions, yes, we're keeping our location options open.)
posted by ook to Shopping (20 answers total)
Response by poster: (Most google results for realtor vs facilitator seem to result in the same document copy-pasted to a number of different realtors' blogs. So I get that an agent "must put the buyer's interests first and negotiate for the best price and terms for their client, the buyer" and that a facilitator "has no duty to keep information received from a seller or buyer confidential" but I don't know what the real-world effects of that difference would be. Also the last-minuteness of him sending us these contracts is raising my suspicions; I'm mostly looking for a reality check on whether this is a sign we should ditch this guy and start over with someone else.)
posted by ook at 4:26 PM on June 8, 2011

So he not a buyers agent, but he wants to be your exclusive buyers agent for the rest of the year? And not being a buyers agent, he isn't obligated to work in your best interest?

Yeah, I'd take a look at the realtors behind doors b and c.
posted by COD at 4:29 PM on June 8, 2011 [13 favorites]

He's trying to have his cake and eat it too. Typically the relationship between a buyer a facilitator is non-exclusive, and technically a facilitator doesn't represent you as a buyer. Because of this, a facilitator has much lower standards of accountability and confidentiality.

By comparison: A buyer's agent works for you and theoretically puts your interests first, in return for the right to represent you exclusively. He wants your exclusivity, but doesn't want the accompanying responsibilities of (ya know) having your best interests in negotiating and maintaining confidentiality.

Here's more.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:31 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anybody who pulls a last-minute contract is not trustworthy. Politely decline. If he doesn't want to show you the properties, someone else will. He's trying to lock you in, and there's no benefit to you in this.
posted by theora55 at 4:39 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

If he doesn't want to show you the properties, someone else will.

This is the key, IMHO. AFAIK, all the realtors have access to pretty much the same information (there are exceptions when homes have only just come on the market), so your goal should be to get a realtor who doesn't make you feel itchy.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:45 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, this is sketchy. We worked with two different buyers agents (not at the same time), with neither requiring an exclusive agreement, and certainly not for a year. You want someone who is watching out for your interests, and springing a contract on you the night before doesn't inspire a whole lot of confidence. Realtors are looking for buyers in this market, you can easily do better.
posted by goggie at 4:46 PM on June 8, 2011

Response by poster: Yeah, 2bucksplus's "here's more" link is exactly the document I was talking about; the realtor included it in his email to us as well -- I get the impression that it's mandatory.

So, ok, let's take it as given that the exclusive contract is a no-go, and the last-minuteness sucks. Are there any realtors or recent home buyers who can tell me whether the facilitator thing is an instant red flag or a workable option? (It's a small town, there are a limited number of options, and everybody talks to everybody, so much as I'd like to tell this guy to fuck off I want to make sure I am absolutely justified in doing so before I do so.)
posted by ook at 4:47 PM on June 8, 2011

Are there any realtors or recent home buyers who can tell me whether the facilitator thing is an instant red flag or a workable option?

One of the biggest issues IMO with the fact that the facilitator has no fiduciary duty to you is that you can find yourself paying a lot more than you would otherwise.

Example: Normally, a seller won't know the maximum price you're willing to spend (and so may be willing to accept a lower price) because your agent wouldn't be allowed to reveal that information. However, the facilitator can reveal that information, so the seller can ask for your maximum or close to your maximum.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:55 PM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

(which can be in their interest to do since they get a larger commission in that case -- whereas a fiduciary like a buyer's or seller's agent is bound to only act in their client's best interest.)
posted by Ashley801 at 5:01 PM on June 8, 2011

In Massachusetts go to and sign up. You'll have full access to the MSL listings. It doesn't always give you listing agent's info, but that you can locate either by googling the MSL or by going real estate listings.

For "average" transaction having buyer's agent doesn't do much if you are at least semi-literate. On the other hand not having buyer's agent means that seller's agents love you.
posted by zeikka at 5:05 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's not a bad thing to have a buyer's agent as they are obligated to look out for your best interest. That having been said, you don't need a facilitator. Any agent can show you any property including the selling agents of the property.

Why would you need a facilitator? I never heard of that and my husband has been in the biz for over a decade.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:20 PM on June 8, 2011

He's basically locking you into an agreement that for the next 6+ months, if you buy a house, he gets a commission. We got this shit pulled on us AFTER we made an offer on a house.

Honestly, I don't think I'd ever get an agent again for a buy. He's no magic keyholder to properties. Anything that initially lists exclusive with a particular realtor is going to go MLS damn quick. You can basically glean everything you need from MLS and use a good lawyer (who you'd likely want to hire anyway) to do the rest... especially in this market in Massachusetts.

Decline his forms, and go elsewhere. He's a dick for throwing this at you last minute.
posted by jerseygirl at 5:21 PM on June 8, 2011

The facilitator is a useless position. Meaning the agent is going to work in BOTH parties interest. You know who also does this? The buyer and the seller, and their attorneys. You don't need a redundant person involved in the process and sticking their nose into stuff, pressuring you one way or the other, there's enough of those people already in the mix.
posted by jerseygirl at 5:26 PM on June 8, 2011

The purpose of a buyer's agent is having someone that can negotiate on YOUR behalf. That ain't useless particularly if a seller is crazy. And a lot of them are.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:56 PM on June 8, 2011

But yeah, a facilitator, not so much.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:56 PM on June 8, 2011

I wouldn't sign those contracts, and I would find a bona fide buyer's agent. I'm in MA, bought my house about six years ago (shortly before the bubble burst), and I appreciated having a good agent. Among other things, a buyer's agent can show you a house without the listing agent being there, which lets you discuss it more candidly.

I'm in the Pioneer Valley; if that's where you're looking, memail me for a recommendation.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:33 PM on June 8, 2011

I would second the advice to avoid getting contractual with this person, but with differing reasoning. Real estate transactions are happening all the time and there are a lot of agents out there. My first impression of the person in question is that they are not very experienced and are trying to figure out how they can get the most they can out of this one transaction. Someone who's been around for a while and appreciates the balance between their interests and their clients won't be trying to get the best of both worlds (I am beginning a campaign to reclaim this phrase) as described by 2bucksplus above. Short story: they appear to be inexperienced and if "everybody is talking to everybody else", everybody else who matters knows this, too. I'm not experienced in real estate, but I think I do know the signs of an amateur who hasn't yet understood how fulfilling their obligations to a client is in their own best interests. Or they could know what they're doing and then you would probably also want to avoid them.
posted by skyscraper at 1:52 AM on June 9, 2011

As everyone else is saying, certainly do not sign the exclusivity agreement. There is no benefit to you in doing so. I would politely walk away from this agent even if they offer to work with you without the exclusivity agreement because trapping people in these agreements is not what I'm looking for from my agent.

I'd like to sound a cautious note about the folks above who are saying that a buyer's agent is supposed to represent your interests. It's been 12+ years since I bought a house, so consumer protection may have improved in some states, but my strong impression is that even with a buyer's agent you should not get too comfortable and assume they're looking out for you. There are situations (at least in some states) in which buyer's agents have no fiduciary duty towards you, the client. On the other hand, they do have a large financial incentive to drive the purchase price up, as they're usually getting a percentage cut of the deal, and sometimes they're legally bound to seek the best price.

I learned most of this from Home Buying For Dummies. I recommend reading the pages about "Types of agent relationships" and especially "Dual agency". (You can check it out with Amazon Look Inside The Book--search the book for "agent relationships". Pg 189-191 in the 4th Ed.) In short, involvement in Multiple Listing Services made (makes?) agents actually sub-agents of the seller's agent. Also, if you end up wanting to buy a house that's listed through the same real estate firm that your buyer's agent belongs to (but a different agent from that firm is the listing agent), your agent will have a strong conflict of interest. (Thus, when buying a house I would prefer to use an agent from a smaller firm that's not listing half the properties in my town.)

This stuff may make your head hurt at first, but hey, it's the biggest financial transaction you're going to go through. Take your time.

The best way to find an agent is to ask for referrals from people you know and to interview two or three agents.
posted by mvd at 4:30 AM on June 9, 2011

Run. Run as far and as fast as you can from this agent, and don't sign these papers. This is all just too weird for words.
posted by easily confused at 7:55 AM on June 9, 2011

I bought a house in Massachusetts last year. I signed a mountain of paperwork and didn't come across anything like this.
posted by xbonesgt at 9:55 AM on June 9, 2011

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