Choosing Sides (Or Not)

[Note to Readers: The views expressed here are solely those of Ross Kaplan, and do not represent Edina Realty, Berkshire Hathaway, or any other entity referenced. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney.]

No one asked me, but I know how to bring the practice of “single agent dual agency” ” whereby one Realtor represents both Buyer and Seller in the same transaction ” to a screeching halt: start referring to such agents instead as “double agents.”

But even that label is misleading.

Whereas a true double agent nominally works for one side, but secretly represents the other, a Realtor who plays the role of double dual agent arguably advocates for neither Buyer or Seller.

Instead, they act as a neutral third-party, legally obliged not to harm the interests of either party.

Which I’d say is tantamount to representing neither client.

“Conflict of Interest,” Defined

While Minnesota allows the practice of single agent dual agency** as long as it’s fully disclosed and both parties consent, as a former corporate attorney, I regard it as a classic conflict of interest ” and contractually promise my clients that I won’t do it.

My logic: while I may lose some money in the short run, in the long run I’ll come out ahead ” and have fewer headaches (in the event that issues arise ” and there are always issues ” whose side does a dual agent take?).

I believe it was Goldman Sachs’ credo, once upon a time, to be “long-term greedy”. . .

**The second kind of dual agency is at the broker level: for an example, an agent in Edina Realty’s Highland Park (St. Paul) office represents the Buyer in a a transaction, while an agent in Edina Realty’s 50th & France (Edina) office represents the Seller in the same transaction.

Both Buyer and Seller are Edina Realty’s clients ” hence, the dual agency.

However, given that Edina Realty has a market-leading 2,300 agents in the Twin Cities, I regard my instant (and free!) access to that very-plugged in real estate audience as a very distinct plus for my clients.

See also, “Perils of Dual Agency:  Exhibit A”; “Awkward Dual Agent Moment #24“; and “Listing Contract: “Seller’s Agent Will Not Also Represent Buyer”.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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