Increasing number of dual agents struggle to keep everyone happy

August 12, 2011 10:06AM

Dual agency, the act of representing both the buyer and the seller in a property transaction, is becoming increasingly common as buyers shop for houses on the Internet, contacting the seller’s agent directly, the New York Times reported. While there are certain advantages of having one less intermediary involved in a sale, the job of dual agent comes with its own set of difficulties, awkwardness and questions of loyalty.

“It’s always a little bit tricky,” said Joan O’Meara, a broker for Houlihan Lawrence who recently served as a dual agent, “because you want to make everybody happy and at the same time you don’t want either side to question your allegiance.”

According to state law, a dual agent is not permitted to advocate for the buyer or the seller. He or she cannot negotiate on behalf of one party or another, or even suggest an offering price.

Mark Seiden, a broker-owner in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., is strictly opposed to dual agency.

“I never allow it my office,” he said. “It’s not only about conflicts of interest, but also about the importance of specializing. No matter how brilliant a heart surgeon may be, would you want him to operate on your brain? The same goes for real estate agents. That’s why I have one department for sellers and listing agents and a separate one for buyers.”

There have been legal measures taken by the government to ensure that all parties are fully aware as to the terms of the deal. Earlier this year, New York State amended its disclosure law for real estate agents, aiming to help consumers understand the sometimes murky world of commissions. [NYT]