For another week, my inbox has been sagging under the weight of your feedback on the Ummels story, the Carlsbad couple who sued their real estate agent and lost last week.

When I posted thoughts from a juror in the case on Monday, I’d asked what you thought the case would do for buyer’s agents. It seems the case has illuminated the fact that buyer’s agents are not the be-all, end-all in the home-buying transaction, as some market themselves to be.

Today I heard from Benjamin Clark, a real estate broker in Salt Lake City, who says he only represents buyers, never any sellers. And he’s on the board of directors of a national group of such agents, known as Exclusive Buyer’s Agents, who sign a code of conduct that “binds their loyalty to home buyers” and mandates they disclose all comparable sales to their clients.

That was a big issue in the case last week, as the Ummels claimed their agent had caused them to overpay for their house by not telling them about other houses that had recently sold for less. The jury sided with the agent, who was not a member of that organization and as such was not subject to its code of conduct.

Clark passed along that association’s response to the Ummel verdict, which concludes “buyers need to be careful in choosing their ‘buyer’s agent.’”

I also heard this week from reader KK on the question of agent responsibilities, along similar lines:

There are agents who will work in the consumers best interest and who would have shown them comps, but not all agents are created equal. I don’t agree that once someone has hired an agent, that they should have to do the homework.  Isn’t that what they hired the agent to do? I do agree, though, that the buyers are responsible in doing their homework when hiring an agent. Are they a dual agent? A designated buyer’s agent? An exclusive buyer’s agent? Are they a member of any organization that holds them to a higher standard than the law requires? The answer to these questions may very well determine the type and amount of service the consumer should expect.

Here’s a personal take from RB:

I sold my own condo about eight years ago. I did not use a real estate agent. What I found was this, the buyer and seller agree on a price and fill out a sales agreement form, once this is done, the buyer and seller select an escrow company, all legal forms for the sale are looked out for by the escrow co. In other words the escrow co makes sure all legalities of the sale are on the up and up. … I had never sold any real estate before or after this sale. The reason I didn’t use an agent was the fact that I needed all the money from the sale to purchase my current house, and it would not have been possible to do this if I had to give up three % of my proceeds.

OK, I’m about finished talking about this, unless one of you can think of some square inch of this story we haven’t yet covered. If you’re that lucky reader, send me an e-mail.


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