Although it's different in other states, in Florida a Realtor can represent both the seller and the buyer in a real estate transaction.
This usually happens when an agent has a listing for sale and a buyer who isn't represented calls about seeing the house.
There are 3 options for how an agent can represent you in a real estate transaction in Florida. We can be a transaction broker, a single agent or have a no brokerage relationship.
Almost exclusively, the most common form is the transaction broker. This is the presumption in the state of Florida. In this case the agent provides limited representation to a buyer, seller or both, but they do not represent any party in a fiduciary capacity. The 7 duties of this type of relationship are as follows:
Dealing honestly and fairly;
Accounting for all funds;
Using skill, care, and diligence in the transaction;
Disclosing all known facts that materially affect the value of residential real property and are not readily observable to the buyer;
Presenting all offers and counteroffers in a timely manner, unless a party has previously directed the licensee otherwise in writing;
Limited confidentiality, unless waived in writing by a party. This limited confidentiality will prevent disclosure that the seller will accept a price less than the asking or listed price, that the buyer will pay a price greater than the price submitted in a written offer, of the motivation of any party for selling or buying property, that a seller or buyer will agree to financing terms other than those offered, or of any other information requested by a party to remain confidential; and
Any additional duties that are entered into by this or by separate written agreement.
This form of limited representation means that a buyer or seller is not responsible for the acts of the real estate agent. Additionally, buyers and sellers are giving up their rights to the undivided loyalty of the Realtor. This aspect of limited representation allows a Realtors to facilitate a real estate transaction by assisting both the buyer and the seller, but they will not work to represent one party to the detriment of the other party when acting as a transaction broker to both parties.
Of course, most Realtors are thrilled when they get to represent both sides of a deal because they then get paid for both sides and they have more control over making certain the deal proceeds as smoothly as possible. However, it can be tricky negotiating for two opposing sides when you have limited confidentiality to both.
If you're a seller, this is something you may want to discuss with your Realtor when you hire them. If you're a buyer, you may want to consider whether you are comfortable with this arrangement. If not, you should hire a buyer's agent to represent you in the process. I actually suggest to any buyer they hire an agent before looking at houses. Let the agent help you through the process and know they represent only you in any negotiation.
If you have any question about this process or anything else about a real estate transaction, please feel free to contact me. I'm always happy to talk real estate!