MABA logo child
Good News For Consumer

Good News for Consumers

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) has finally addressed the confusion around representation issues in the real estate industry and their implications for consumers. The CFA is a nonprofit association of 240 pro-consumer groups that was founded in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through education and advocacy. This past October, they released a report entitled "Changes in Real Estate Agent Representation: Implications For Consumers." The report was prepared by Stephen Brobeck, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of America.

The report calls on state regulators to protect consumers from "imprecise and ambiguous" language by real estate practitioners. It calls for "aggressive distribution" of informational materials in addition to agency disclosure. These efforts should include "energetic dissemination" of information to the press.

"Truth in Labeling"

Truth in labeling is at the very heart of this report: "Brokers should be required to accurately and understandably label the practices that they advertise." For example regulators should not permit the use of the term 'dual agent,' described by CFA as 'self-contradictory. 'A 'dual agent' is really nothing more than a facilitator and therefore not representing either the buyer or seller. Brokers should acknowledge that and not try to mislead consumers.

Non-agency Relationship Not Worthy of Full Commissions

Good News For Consumers of Real EstateBy experimenting under terms such as "facilitator ship," "transaction brokerage," and "dual agent," the broker seeks to hold on to both sides of the commission while limiting liability. Limiting the role of the broker ought to limit the compensation as well. If compensation is significantly reduced, then this could be an attractive option for a consumer. However, consumers may want a real estate agent, someone who represents their interests can be held accountable. Also, the industry goal, by overwhelming agreement is the preservation of existing commission levels.

Advice to Sellers

The CFA advised sellers to ask for exclusive representation. The report did fall short of elaborating potential risks the seller may face in non-exclusive or non-agency relationships. Some of the headlines regarding the news at the release of their report highlighted the link CFA made between the type of agency relationship and the value of service. They suggested to sellers that unless the broker represents them exclusively the sellers should negotiate a "substantially reduced" fee. They further stipulated fee ranges based on combinations of non-exclusive representation and the presence of lack of co-operating agents in the sale.

Advice to Buyers Seeking Representation

The CFA advised the buyer who wants representation that it is better to work with a buyer broker who represents only buyers. Buyer brokers are legally obligated to represent the buyer´s best interest and can be sued if they do not perform. They did not think under these circumstances that a buyer agent´s sharing of a split commission with the listing agent was a significant disadvantage to the buyer. They pointed out the buyer agent´s reputation, future referral and repeat business, and good reputation are "most important."

Buyer brokers who list property, or whose firm lists property may face conflicts of interest. If the buyer works with such a broker then the buyer ought to insist on full disclosure of these property listings and any financial interests the broker has in these listings. The CFA did not draw this out as to whether this would include the commission arrangements on these properties. They did not suggest that the buyer not reveal any confidential information until the buyer determines that none of these property listings would be of any interest.

Advice to Buyers Without Representation

The CFA defines a dual agent, facilitator and transactional broker as non agents. The buyer is advised to negotiate for him or herself or hire an attorney to negotiate the purchase. The buyer is also advised to "thoroughly investigate" the property with a home inspector.

If the buyer is dealing directly with the listing agent then the buyer is advised to negotiate a lower price that reflects the fact that a second agent is not involved in splitting commission fees.

"Do not work with subagents unless there are no other alternatives." The report goes on to "it makes no sense for there to be two agents representing the seller. "The buyers "will not receive representation in the transaction and are likely to pay top dollar."

What would be most desirable according to the CFA would be the complete separation of listing and buyer brokerage. The listing agent would work only for the seller and the buyer agent would work only for the buyer, thus avoiding the dual agency dilemma altogether.

The Consumer Federation of America can be reached in Washington DC at (202) 387-6121.

Source: Banker & Tradesman, February 15, 1995, Barry L. Nystedt, MABA member


Latest from the Blog

  • Massachusetts Pending Home Sales and Median Price Up Again in June

    The Massachusetts Association of Realtors® (MAR) reported today that single-family pending home sales were up over nine percent in June from last year. Pending condominium sales were also up more than 12 percent. The median price for both single-family homes and condos saw a hike, with the single-family median price rising over the $400,000 mark. Realtors® confidence both in the market and in home prices dipped slightly in June. This month’s “Hot Topic” question finds that the majority of Realtors® surveyed have had at least one transaction that was an all-cash deal (i.e. no mortgage involved) since the beginning of the year.

    June Pending Sales: 

    Single Family June 2017 June2016 % Change
    Sales 6,723 6,128 9.7%
    Median Price $410,000 $380,000 7.9%
    • Pending sales have been up 51 of the last 52 months 
    Condominium June2017 June2016 % Change
    Sales 2,596 2,307 12.5%
    Median Price $370,000 $349,900 2.9%
    • Pending sales have been up or flat 20 of the last 22 months 

    “The increase in homes put under agreement this month may be a positive sign for a spring market that has suffered plummeting inventory,” said 2017 MAR President Paul Yorkis, president of Patriot Real Estate in Medway. “However, median prices have continued to rise, which can push some buyers out of the market.”

    Realtor® Market and Price Confidence Indexes: 

    Confidence Index June2017 June2016 %Change
    Market 80.73 80.97 -0.29%
    Price 71.79 73.87 -2.82%
    • The Realtor® Market Confidence Index went down for the first time in 27 months
    • The Realtor® Price Confidence Index went down for the first time in six months
    • Measured on a 100-point scale, a score of 50 is the midpoint between a “strong” (100 points) and a “weak” (0 points) market condition  

    “The Realtor® Market Confidence Index has dipped year-over-year for the first time in over two years, indicating that Realtors® are growing concerned about some of their buyers being able to succeed in this market,” said Yorkis. “However, both indexes reveal that ultimately Realtors® remain positive. We just need to see more inventory to keep up with the demand.”

    With home inventory being as tight as it is, you want to give yourself every advantage if you are thinking of buying a home in Massachusetts. For the best possible experience, be sure to work with an agent who is a member of the Massachusetts Association of Buyer Agents.