Who is the buyers' agent working for?

Q. Some of your articles suggest that a buyers' agent has a responsibility to represent the interests of buyers. As a real estate attorney, I strongly disagree. The buyers' agent is actually a subagent to the sellers' agent because both agents are paid from the sellers' commission. Therefore both agents are actually working for the sellers. Unfortunately, most buyers are entirely unaware of this legal distinction. They assume their agent is actually representing them. You should bring these facts to the attention of your readers.

A. From a strictly legal standpoint, what you say is correct. Buyers' agents are paid from the sellers' commission. This obligates the buyers' agent to serve the interests of the sellers, unless the buyers hire and pay their own broker to represent their individual interests. Unfortunately, most buyers are entirely unaware of this aspect of the law, and few agents adequately inform them of it. Disclosure may be contained in the many pages of fine print that most buyers sign, but how many actually read this boilerplate?

In this writer's opinion, buyers' agents should inform their clients verbally and in 12-point font that "I am not required to represent your interests. Actually, I am a subagent to the listing agent and, therefore, must protect the interests of the sellers."

While they're at it, a few agents might also disclose that "The home inspector I'm recommending to you has been in business for about a year and is not very thorough. We like him at our office because he makes it easy for us to close our deals. There are other local home inspectors with many more years of experience who would disclose far more than our favorite inspector, but that might make you cancel the purchase contract. So we're not going to let you know about those other inspectors. And since we're representing the sellers' interests anyway, it's perfectly legal for us to mislead you in this way."

In practice, however, there are many agents who actually do represent the interests of their buyers, regardless of the dictates of real estate law. These agents truly assist their buyers in negotiating the lowest price. They even recommend competent home inspectors. In my book, this is the high mark of integrity in the real estate business. It exemplifies a way of doing business that does and should trump the law.

Much can be said about what is legal, but more should be said about what is right. Fortunately, there are good agents who know this and practice it.

Q. Is it permissible to have more than one layer of shingle roofing on a manufactured home?

A. The number of roof layers allowed on manufactured homes depends upon the specifications of the manufacturer, rather than the building code that regulates conventional house construction. In most cases, only one layer of roofing is allowed on a manufactured home because of the lightweight framing. If you have more than one layer on your roof, contact the maker of the unit to see whether this exceeds their standards.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

© 2014, Action Coast Publishing

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