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Ask Adam: Exclusive Buyer Agreements

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email.

Question:  I recently made an inquiry with a realtor and they asked me to sign an exclusive buyer’s agreement before putting in an offer. I am curious if that is a standard practice with your company as well. While I am not “actively” looking at properties, I do want to have the ability to put in an offer for a property.

Previously, we were only required to have an exclusive agreement in place when working with sellers. Individual agents and firms were free to set their only policies regarding exclusive buyer agreements. On July 1, 2012, the Virginia Agency Law was revised, now requiring all Virginia real estate agents and brokers working with a home buyer to have an exclusive buyer’s agreement in place.

We are not supposed to show homes, write contracts or otherwise act as a real estate agent on your behalf without having such an agreement in place. I’m quite certain that the intention of the agency law changes are to protect consumers. Three primary protections the agreement provides to home buyers are included in the Broker’s Duties paragraph:

  1. The agent/broker must disclose to the purchaser all material facts related to the property or concerning the transaction of which they have actual knowledge.
  2. The agent/broker must maintain the confidentiality of all personal and financial information and other matters identified as confidential by the purchaser.
  3. The agent/broker must account for in a timely manner all money and property received in which the purchaser has or may have an interest.

Agents / brokers also agree to comply with fair housing laws.

The primary duty of the purchaser is to work exclusively with the broker during the terms of the agreement.

Personally, I have never wanted anyone to feel they need to work with me simply because they signed an agreement early on in our business relationship. I only want to work with clients that truly feel I’m the best real estate broker for them. Therefore, I add language to my exclusive buyer’s agreements that allows the purchaser to discontinue the agreement at any time. No penalties. No questions asked.

You may want to ask your agent to do the same. If they are unwilling to do so and you are uncomfortable with a long-term business relationship, ask for a concise agreement. I’ve heard of exclusive buyer’s agreements that only last for a day, week or single property.

The standard buyer agreement used in Northern Virginia is four pages long and delves into topics such as term, retainer fee, compensation, employee relocation, types of real estate representation, compliance with fair housing and attorney fees. Please feel free to email me for a sample.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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