With spring around the corner and the housing market revving up with new listings, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation offers tips and advice to consumers buying or selling homes using dual agents.

Dual agency arises when a real estate broker or salesperson represents the buyer and the seller in the same real estate transaction. In Massachusetts dual agency is permitted with the requirement that the broker or sales person provides a full disclosure and written informed consent of the dual agency to both the buyer and the seller. Further, a dual agent is required to maintain the duty of confidentiality of material information provided by the seller and the buyer.

It is important to understand the various roles of the different agents when selecting a real estate broker or sales person to ensure the needs of your individual situation are met.

  • A seller’s agent specifically owes the seller undivided loyalty, confidentiality, accountability, and must put the seller’s interests first when negotiating for the best price and terms of a sale.
  • A buyer’s agent must obey the buyer’s instructions, keeping confidential anything the buyer tells the broker that may affect the potential purchase of the property, and putting the buyer’s interests first when negotiating for the best price and terms of a sale.
  • A dual agent is neutral regarding conflicting interests of the seller and buyer. The agent must disclose the dual agency to both parties and how that agent’s representation affects both parties. As a result, the dual agent will not put the interests of either party first, but rather assist in finding the best outcome for both the buyer and seller.

Home buyers or sellers using a dual agent may lose some of the protections provided in a typical seller- or buyer- agent relationship. Buyers and sellers should know and understand the roles and responsibilities of each of the different types of agents before deciding to sign with one.

More information on the laws and regulations governing real estate brokers and salespersons can be found on the website of the Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons. The Board is overseen and supported by the Division of Professional Licensure.

Consumers are encouraged to check a license for disciplinary history or other actions.

The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education, and also works to ensure that the businesses its agencies regulate treat all Massachusetts consumers fairly. Follow the Office at its blog, on Facebook and on Twitter @Mass_Consumer.