Understanding Agency

Know your rights

It is important to understand what legal responsibilities you have with any Realtor® or real estate agent and all parties of the real estate transaction. 

Single Agency

Most of the time, a real estate firm representing one party (the buyer or the seller) will represent only that party and will not also represent the other parties.  Unless you and I agree in writing to the contrary, your agency relationship will be a standard agency and will be governed by Virginia's laws and regulations setting forth the duties agents and brokers owe their clients.

Seller's Representative

Also known as a listing agent or a seller's agent, is hired by and represents the seller.  All fiduciary duties are owed to the seller.  The agency relationship usually is created by a listing contract.


A sub-agent owes the same fiduciary duties to the agent's principal as the agent does.   Sub-agency usually arises when a cooperating sales associate from another brokerage, who is not representing the buyer as a buyer's representative or operating in a non-agency relationship, shows the property to a buyer.  In such a case, the sub-agent works with the buyer as a customer but owes fiduciary duties to the listing broker and seller.  Although a sub-agent cannot assist the buyer in any way that would be detrimental to the seller, a buyer-customer can expect to be treated honestly by the sub-agent.  It is important that sub-agents fully explain their duties to buyers.

Buyer's Representative

Also known as as a buyer's agent is a licensee who is hired by prospective buyers to represent them in a real estate transaction.  The buyer's representative works in the buyer's best interest throughout the transaction and owes fiduciary duties to the buyer.  The buyer can pay the licensee directly through a negotiated fee, or the buyer's representative may be paid by the seller or by a commission split with the listing broker.  As a buyer's agent I can help you as a buyer with many tasks in purchasing your new home.  I can help you determine how much you can reasonably afford to spend on a house, help you obtain a loan commitment from a mortgage lender, help you establish priorities such as location, personal states, availability and budget and find the home that fits your needs and desires.  One of the most important and valuable skills that I have is the ability to negotiate for favorable terms on your selected home.  While you will make the ultimate decision on what to offer for a home, the price you pay will be influenced by market conditions, interest rates and market subtleties that you and I can go over and I will explain to you.  When you have agreed on price and terms with the seller, I can help you locate a qualified home inspector, finalize your loan and select an attorney or title company to close your purchase.

Disclosed Dual Agency

Occasionally a buyer will wish to make an offer on a property listed by my firm and by me.  Virginia law allows an agent to represent both the seller and the buyer in the same transaction, but with only the mutual and informed consent of both parties.  Dual agency relationships do not carry with them all of the traditional fiduciary duties to the clients.  Instead, dual agents owe limited fiduciary duties.  The dual agent's position in one of neutrality, which means the agent cannot favor one party over the other, cannot offer negotiation assistance and cannot disclose the confidential and personal information of either party to the other party.  The agent will typically make every effort to act impartially and facilitate a win-win conclusion to the transaction.

Designated Agent

This is a brokerage practice that allows the managing broker to designate which licensees in the brokerage will act as an agent of the seller and which will act as an agent of the buyer.  A buyer may wish to make an offer on a property listed by the buyer agent's firm, but a different agent in the firm.  In this situation, it may be possible for both buyer and seller to retain full representation and assistance by the use of what is known as designated representation.  The firm's principal broker, who remains impartial regarding the parties, designates one agent in the firm - to the exclusion of all others - to represent the seller, and similarly, one agent - to represent the buyer.  Designated agency avoids the problem of creating a dual-agency relationship for licensees at the brokerage.  The designated agents give their clients full representation, with all of the attendant fiduciary duties. The brokerage remains available to assist in resolving any conflicts or disputes that may arise between the parties.  The broker still has the responsibility of supervising both groups of licensees.

Non-agency Relationship

Some states permit a real estate licensee to have a type of non-agency relationship with a consumer.  These relationships vary considerably from state to state, both as to the duties owed to the consumer and as the name used to describe them.  Very generally, the duties owed to the consumer in a non-agency relationship as less than complete, traditional fiduciary duties of an agency relationship.