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House-Hunting: Should I Hire My Own Agent? When? How?

December 5th 2017

House Hunting? Should I hire my own agent? 

The Buyer Representation Agreement: When & How?



CB – Cooperating brokerage, Buyer Agent or fee paid by Listing Brokerage to the Buyer Agent

B.R.A.- Buyer Representation Agreement



1-Some people know exactly when they are going to make a move.

2-Others don’t really need to move but will if the right place comes up so they keep their options open waiting to see if they find something that “moves them” enough to pull the trigger.


Group 1 usually has a time line and often recognizes that engaging their own representation and starting the agency relationship benefits them early on. When entering into a B.R.A. buyers become Clients rather than Customers. Their Realtor® owes them fiduciary duties at this point which include confidentiality and protecting the buyer’s best interests over any other party including their own. Clients receive prioritized attention, advocacy, professional advice, property research and valuations as well as offer preparation & negotiation, and if necessary, quality referrals and quick access to lawyers, home inspectors, contractors, trades people, roofers, electricians, plumbers, designers and a myriad of other connections their representative has for them along the way.


Group 2 is not usually as intentional about moving, may be less prepared and might just be looking around when they stumble onto a property that they love! They may have called the listing agent to view the house, gone home and spent some time thinking about it and suddenly find themselves further along in the process than expected. They may decide they want their own representation and the benefits of an independent professional opinion & guidance about strategy & next steps. At any point prior to writing an offer a buyer may opt for their own independent representation.


Buyer Representation Agreements cover a number of things including

  1. 1- Length of contract commitment
    • a. How long will the agent be representing you & owing you fiduciary duties?
    • b. How long are you obligated to work exclusively with the agent?
    • 2- Payment
    • a. How is the agent getting paid, how much and when?
      • i. Generally, agents only get paid if and when a contract is successfully negotiated & completed. It will happen sometime after closing day when funds are disbursed. The listing brokerage (seller broker) pays the cooperating brokerage (CB or buyer broker).
      • ii. A fee is usually stated in the Buyer representation agreement and is often similar to what is covered by the Selling brokerage. The seller brokerage advertises the cooperating commission on the boards database.

If the agreed B.R.A. fee is not covered because it is lower, discounted or no fee is being offered to the CB (a private sale for example) the Buyer may be required to make up the deficiency.

      • iii. On rare occasions a Listing Agent/Seller agent will discount their advertised CB fee if a buyer has booked an appointment directly before determining they prefer to have their own representation. The listing agent may not have disclosed that to you but it could impact you should you opt for independent representation and proceed with an offer. 
        1. If you are booking a showing directly the Listing Agent should ask if you are working with a Realtor®. If you ARE working with a Realtor® all showings & inquiries about properties you wish to see should be made through your agent – advise your Realtor® that you would like to view a property & let them make the arrangements.
        2. If you are NOT currently working with a Realtor® but want to keep the option open you might want to ask the listing agent if viewing the listing directly would result in an any commission penalty should you decide you are interested in the property but want to engage independent representation before moving forward. If the answer is yes you should consider getting a B.R.A.  in place first before booking a showing. Your own Realtor® can add tremendous value during the initial visit to a property. A property may have certain layout challenges, you don't recognize or don't mind,  that potentially affect future appreciation. Unsupported pricing can jeopardize a lender appraisal and leave you scrambling to come up with funds to cover the differential between your offer price & the bank appraisal! Location or Sales History stigmas can also limit resale audience leading to lower values. Having that information up front can save you a fortune later.
        3. Services- What can I expect & what are the Fiduciary Duties owed to me under a B.R.A.?
    • a. Accountability
    • b. Confidentiality – including finances, motivation, personal information.  
    • c. Reasonable Care- protecting the client from foreseeable risks of harm.
      • i. Seeking expert advice & assistance when outside the agent’s realm of experience
    • d. Loyalty –not advancing the interests of another party over the clients own.
    • e. Lawful Obedience – a representative cannot make decisions for the client.
    • f. Advocacy
    • g. Full Disclosure – all information that may affect the client’s decisions regarding the transaction
    • h. Priority – over customers who are not signed to agency
    • i. Promotion and Protection of the client’s best interest



You can choose to be a customer but will not have the priority, privileges, protection or guidance afforded to clients.


In short, if you are considering making a move sit down and talk to a Realtor® so you understand all of your options and can make an educated decision early in the process about how to protect your best interests.



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