Purchasing a residential property can be emotionally challenging and is, for most people, the most significant financial investment they will make in a lifetime. To position yourself for success when buying a home, it is critically important to hire a local, experienced real estate agent to help you navigate the complexities of the real estate transaction process. Increasingly, you will find that expert agents will ask you to execute a Buyer Representation Agreement (BRA) to formalize the responsibilities of each party and detail any compensation that will be paid to the real estate professional.
This article details common terms found in a Buyer Representation Agreement and discusses the benefits of signing a contract with a real estate agent when looking to purchase a property.
Understanding Buyer Representation Agreements
Common clauses in a BRA typically cover various aspects of the relationship between the buyer and their real estate agent. As with any contract you sign, it is important that you understand these terms as they define the scope, responsibilities, and limitations of the agreement. Here are some of the most important clauses found in a BRA:
- Duration of the Agreement: This clause specifies the term of the agreement, outlining how long the agent will represent the buyer. It’s important to ensure that the duration is reasonable and suits your property search timeline. You may ask for a shorter initial period to make sure your agent is a good fit for your needs. You can always amend the agreement to extend the representation period.
- Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive: An exclusivity clause determines whether a buyer is allowed to work with other agents during the term of the agreement. An exclusive agreement means the buyer cannot buy a property through another agent during the term of the agreement without owing a commission to the original agent. If you are considering multiple geographic areas to purchase a home it may make sense to have different agents for each region. Be completely transparent with any agents you are talking to about your representation needs to protect yourself from an obligation to pay more than one commission when making a purchase.
- Description of Services: This section details the services the agent agrees to provide, such as property searches, presentations, market analysis, coordination of property viewings, negotiation assistance, and guidance through closing procedures.
- Compensation: This clause outlines how the agent is compensated. Often, the seller will offer compensation to the buyer’s agent. Alternatively, you may request that the seller pay your agent’s commission as part of your purchase offer. However, this clause also addresses circumstances under which a buyer might be responsible for the agent’s commission directly.
- Duties and Obligations of the Buyer: This section addresses the buyer’s obligation to provide necessary information to the agent to facilitate the property search and purchase process, and to act in good faith.
- Dispute Resolution: The BRA should include a clause outlining the process for resolving disputes, whether through arbitration, mediation, or legal action.
- Termination Clause: This important clause details under what conditions either party (buyer or agent) can terminate the agreement before the end date and any consequences or obligations upon termination. As a buyer, you should have the opportunity to exit a representation relationship for any reason, so insist on a ‘termination for convenience’ clause in your BRA.
- Description of Property: Agreements should include a description of the type of property the buyer is interested in, such as residential vs. commercial, location preferences, price range, size, or other specific features. You want this section to be broad enough to cover the area of your property search, but not so broad as to obligate you to pay a commission on other real estate purchases.
- Additional Addenda or Disclosures: This can include things such as a disclosure on agent compensation offered by sellers, transactional or investigation advisories, or dual agency disclosures.
Each BRA is unique and can be tailored to fit the specific needs and agreements between the buyer and the real estate agent. It’s crucial for buyers to read and understand every clause in the agreement and to feel comfortable asking their agent or a legal professional for clarifications before signing.
Benefits of a Buyer Representation Agreement
There are many compelling reasons to contract with an exceptional real estate agent. When you establish a contractual obligation to work with a real estate professional, you’ll be getting a lot of value in return.
- Professional Commitment: A BRA establishes a formal relationship between you and your real estate agent. It ensures that the agent is legally obligated to act in your best interests, offering a higher level of commitment and personalized service than what might be provided to a non-contracted buyer.
- Dedicated Representation: With a BRA, your agent is focused on finding a property that meets your specific needs and negotiating the best possible deal for you. This can be especially valuable in competitive markets like Berkeley, where having an agent solely dedicated to your interests can make a significant difference.
- Access to Full Services: Contracted agents provide comprehensive services such as detailed market analyses, access to off-market listings, buyer net sheets to understand the costs of purchase, and assistance with complex negotiations and paperwork. In addition, a great agent will remain a resource to you well after your purchase transaction has concluded. They can continue to advise you on home repair, remodeling, financial planning, and future real estate purchases.
- Clarity on Agent’s Role: Without a BRA, an agent might be presumed to be working in the interest of the seller or as a dual agent (representing both buyer and seller). A BRA clarifies this relationship, ensuring that your agent’s loyalty is exclusively to you as the buyer.
- Risk Mitigation: Like any professional relationship, having a written agreement details the terms of the engagement and the responsibilities of each party. This protects you from misrepresentation, fraud, conflicts of interest, and unprofessional behavior.
- Control Over Duration: BRAs are typically for a fixed period, giving you control over how long you are committed to working with a specific agent. This can be particularly helpful if you’re unsure about the agent or if your property search is expected to be lengthy.
- Peace of Mind: With a BRA, there is an established trust and a clear understanding that the agent is legally and ethically bound to represent your best interests. This peace of mind is invaluable, especially for buyers who are new to the market or undertaking a significant investment.
In the diverse and competitive landscape of the Bay Area real estate market, a Buyer Representation Agreement offers numerous advantages. From personalized service and market insight to negotiating prowess and procedural guidance, a BRA with an excellent real estate agent is a strategic move for any potential homebuyer. It aligns perfectly with the goal of making well-informed, beneficial property investments and will protect your interests now and into the future. If you’re interested in learning more about the real estate purchase process, or discussing how I can help you buy a home, reach out for a free consultation.