The Chicago Real Estate Minute

As a buyer, should I contact the listing agent directly to see a home?

5 minute read

I’ve heard several people ask this question — including really smart people who are excep­tion­al with money — so you’re not alone for thinking it. But there are numerous costs you could pay, financial and otherwise.

What’s the harm?

On the face of it, calling the agent whose number is on the marketing seems so simple and logical. You want to see a home, and they’re the one that can show it. It’s quicker, it’s easier, and the listing agent always seems so eager to show it!

Think you get a better deal buying through the listing agent?

Image by Maklay62 from Pixabay

Potentially, nothing could be further from the truth. In order for an agent to act on behalf of a seller, there must be a signed listing agreement. Warning: The listing agreement is between the seller and the listing brokerage (i.e. Acme Realty). It has nothing to do with the buyer. 

The listing brokerage in Illinois is the company that receives payment of the entire com­mis­sion due, and then pays a buyer’s agent’s brokerage their com­mis­sion. The listing brokerage is legally entitled to the full com­mis­sion if no other brokerage is involved — thus, con­tact­ing the listing broker directly does not reduce the amount the seller pays in com­mis­sion and can, in fact, increase what the listing agent gets paid without them even rep­re­sent­ing your interests at all.

Potential conflicts of interest

So, if someone (you, for instance) calls them and asks to see the property, who is the listing agent con­trac­tu­al­ly obligated to represent at that point? Hint: It isn’t you. Even if they agree to represent you, who have they known longer and have a more estab­lished rela­tion­ship with?

Ideally, an agent in the situation would inform a buyer that they may be receiving more com­mis­sion. That doesn’t mean that it happens, however. And who then is the one with “Sucker” stamped on their forehead? I think you know the answer to that …

Understanding agency

In simplest terms, “agency” between a client and their Realtor boils down to a person who will represent the client’s best interests above all else. That being the case — will the agent who has known the seller and their specific situation for a long time, who out of the blue gets a call from a buyer wanting to see their listing — treat both parties equally? Not likely!

Indeed, rep­re­sent­ing both parties in a real estate trans­ac­tion (known as “dual agency”) is legal in Illinois, and in many other states. 

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

Think it through

Do you really want to cost yourself the following, just because it seems a little bit easier?

  • Time — Yes, time. You will find yourself waiting for answers a lot longer than you would have if you had your own agent
  • Representation — Like to find yourself working without help on poten­tial­ly the biggest financial decision you can make? That’s what you’ve signed up for
  • Confidence — Fancy yourself as someone who can handle just about anything? Don’t often second-guess yourself? We’ll see how certain you are at the end of this journey
  • Frustration — I don’t want to see you suffer through pain points on your own without someone looking out for you. The further you go into a trans­ac­tion without someone in your corner, the more anxious and annoyed you are going to get
  • Money — Working directly with the listing agent does have to do with money. Not yours though, but rather the increased amount going to the listing agent that you think is looking out for you and your $. You’ll be very likely to pay a lot more than you would have if you had your own agent

Final Word

It’s your choice. Calling the listing agent directly is an ideal situation — for the listing agent, not for you. You can call someone you don’t know who is con­trac­tu­al­ly required to represent the seller, or you can take a little time to find a qualified agent to look out solely for you. There’s no comparison.

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