What it is and what it means to you.

An agent is someone you appoint to act on your behalf. In so doing, the agent then becomes bound by certain fiduciary duties, which include obedience, loyalty, disclosure, confidentiality, accountability and reasonable care and diligence. An agency relationship can be created by a desire to be represented and a consent to represent, however it is more often created as a result of a listing agreement or a buyer representation agreement.

There are generally four types of agency relationships. They are:

Seller agency. In this relationship, the agent represents the seller and owes all the above mentioned fiduciary duties to the seller. In the real estate industry, this is the oldest and most often practiced type of agency relationship. Sometimes, especially in years past, a seller's agent extends the seller agency relationship to other agents who are then called subagents. Subagents are bound to the seller just the same as the principal listing agent. Of course, the extension of the seller agency relationship to subagents requires the seller's consent.

Buyer agency. The buyer agency relationship is usually created when a buyer and an agent agree between themselves to enter such a relationship. In this case, the agent works in the buyer's best interest and owes fiduciary duties to the buyer. In today's world, it is not uncommon to have a real estate transaction in which both parties have their respective agents representing them.

Disclosed dual agency. Disclosed dual agency is created when an agent represents both parties to a real estate transaction. In such a relationship, the above mentioned fiduciary duties are somewhat limited because it would be impossible to exercise them all to both parties. Both parties in a dual agency relationship are made aware of this limited representation and consent to it in advance.

Undisclosed dual agency. This practice is very similar to disclosed dual agency except it is practiced without the principle's consent, therefore it is illegal. Undisclosed dual agency is very often accidentally created when a subagent representing a seller by his words, acts or deeds unwittingly creates an impression in a buyer's mind that the subagent represents the buyer. Agency disclosure requirements vary widely from state to state. Nevertheless, most professional companies and their agents make complete disclosure in writing so that the public can be fully informed as to what the consumer can expect and the rights they have regarding representation. If you have any further questions, you can contact your local association of REALTORS® for more information.