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posted: 7/27/2012 5:00 AM

A buyer's real estate agent must fairly represent seller

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Q. In some of your articles, you give readers the impression that the buyer's real estate agent is supposed to represent the financial interests of the buyer. This opinion is an error. According to law in most states, the buyer's agent has a fiduciary responsibility to the seller of the property because the commission the agent receives is paid by the seller. You need to make this point clear to your readers.

A. According to the legalistic letter of contract law, you are absolutely correct. In most states, a buyer's agent is paid by the seller and, therefore, must represent the seller's interests. This fact, however, is unknown to most homebuyers, because the agency disclosures in real estate contracts are veiled in esoteric language and because little effort is made to explain these things in the course of a transaction.

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Buyers, for the most part, believe that their agent is THEIR agent. They think it because they are allowed to think it, and the real estate profession, by and large, makes a less than earnest attempt to clarify the point. That's the negative side of the story.

Now for the positive side: In truth, there are many good agents who do, in fact, conduct themselves as buyers' representatives, even though their portion of the commission comes from the sellers' funds. These are the agents who would advise a client not to buy a particular property because it would not be a suitable investment for that buyer. These are the agents who negotiate in earnest when presenting a purchase offer, trying to the best of their ability to obtain the lowest possible purchase price for their buyers. These are the agents who routinely recommend only the most thorough home inspectors, the ones feared by other agents and unfairly labeled as "deal killers." These are the agents who negotiate strongly for the seller to pay for repairs to the property, after the home inspection report has been presented. These are the agents who willingly accept a buyer's decision to cancel an unsatisfactory deal because they are determined to find just the right property for that client.

If any such agent has been called to account for not representing the interests of sellers, it is rare and unfair. These are the agents who practice their profession as it should be practiced. Hopefully, their example will influence more agents to do the same, with an eye toward ethical representation rather than legal rigidity.

Q. The home I am buying has no screens on the windows. My Realtor says this is not a defect, but I think a house should come with screens. They are expensive to replace, and I won't have much money to spend after buying the house. What are your thoughts?

A. When you buy a home, most defects and repairs are negotiable. The seller is not required to install screens, but you have a right to request them and to press the issue if you so choose. You may or may not prevail, but your agent should represent your wishes, rather than brushing them aside.

• Email questions to Barry Stone through his website, housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

Action Coast Publishing

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