getting ready to buy/realtor etiquette question

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Submitted by bzribee on May 4, 2012 - 2:44am

I've been using Zillow, Redfin, SDLookup, and long 92104 neighborhood walks to look at what's available. I recently met with a seller's agent to see a property, and then asked to see one more.

Is it correct that if I want either of those two properties I should use this person since he showed me the properties? That means he is representing both the seller and myself and that makes me uncomfortable. He suggested his partner could represent the seller and he'd represent me but that still has me uncomfortable. This person seems competent but does this agent's fiduciary responsibility to me trump his responsibility to the seller and to their firm?

He was up front about fees and commissions: there was a % to him, a %to the other agent AND to the firm they work for.

Because of these concerns, I've not looked at other properties with him. I've contacted another seller's agent to see another property. I'm essentially looking at properties AND agents at the same time, trying to find the best one for me, but since they're all seller's agents, I'm keeping myself in a bind.

Friends have suggested Redfin and I do recognize that there are realtors on this forum, but I"m looking at lower end properties (hopefully <$200,000 though I'd pay more if I switch from condo to house) and don't want to waste anyone's time--I know what I want within 3 categories (small house, 2/2 or 1/1 with garage). I could be a difficult client for not much I am trying to sort this all out ahead of time.

Oh, that seller I first mentioned, only showed me listings from his company., though there were other sale signs at the two properties. Should I be concerned?

Thank you for any etiquette instruction. Ms. Manners and Emily Post do not seem to cover these topics

Submitted by Huckleberry on May 4, 2012 - 7:23am.

Personally I beleive there is always a conflict of interest when an agent is working both sides of the transaction, no matter how hard they try to be objective.

That being said, I just had an outstanding experience purchasing a home in Pacific Beach with this realtor...

If you are looking for an outstanding broker/realtor, look no further! Whether you’re buying or selling, involved in a multi-million dollar investment partnership/group, or looking for a $350K primary residence, I have found the guy!

Gregg Whitney is at the absolute 1% top of the class.

I literally spent two weeks interviewing approximately 30 realtors and brokers from Remax, Coldwell Banker, Century 21, and many other small independent companies. My criteria was very stringent and our target location very specific (15 block radius in Pacific Beach, CA. 92109). I knew we needed someone with tons of knowledge of the area (as the homes are 1940 era), preferably growing up there. I also wanted someone with extensive real estate investment background, knowing that this type of person would be astute in negotiation tactics, understanding of property pricing points for excellent value purchases, and general financial market dynamics. Lastly, I knew I needed someone with widespread short sale and foreclosure experience considering the current market conditions. Based on my interviews you would be surprised, but 97% of realtors and brokers in the industry do NOT have these very basic skills.

In a six month time period we inspected almost 20 properties, and submitted six very “aggressive” offers. These were so aggressive that most sellers didn’t even bother to respond. The house Gregg helped us purchase was an estate sale which we closed on at a solid 10% discount. Now this may not seem like much, but in one of the most desired beach communities in San Diego, this is monumental!

Gregg’s negotiating skills are unsurpassed. He can hammer out any unfavorable position you may be in and come away with a favorable outcome. He truly does understand the legalities and nuances of the real estate, investing, mortgage and escrow industries.

He also has an extensive network of resources – inspectors, structural engineers, contractors, etc., everyone he has experience with both personally and professionally. We actually hired his sub-contractor buddy to completely remodel our new house. The project came in on time, on budget and every bit of what we wanted with absolute satisfaction in all aspects!

Additionally, my father is a well-known CPA from L.A. with 50 years’ experience putting together real estate investment partnerships, small and large, residential and commercial. He and Gregg spoke many times on the phone regarding our purchase and other general real estate subject matter. Even he was VERY impressed with Gregg’s knowledge, experience and professionalism.

On a side note, he also has an engaging, fun personality and a sense of humor that will keep you laughing for days…

You can view many other customer reviews of Gregg and his firm on Zillow at:

If you would like any more specifics or have questions regarding Gregg or his firm (Billionaire’s Row of La Jolla -, feel free to email me at

Submitted by sdrealtor on May 4, 2012 - 7:48am.

For the type of search you are doing and based upon your perceived level of experience I would definitely want solid representation for myself. Send a PM to urbanrealtor on this board. That area is where his office is located and I dont know that you would do much better. Since he is in the area everyday anyway you wont be wasting his time and I'm sure he would be happy to help you.

Submitted by bzribee on May 4, 2012 - 10:26am.

Thanks, I appreciate the referral. Yes, my perceived and real level of experience is nill. (null?)

Glad to have already noticed the previous poster's ad on re-fi topic, and someone's humorous response--worth reading--towards the end of topic.

Thanks for your suggestion, sdr.

Submitted by poorgradstudent on May 4, 2012 - 11:11am.

My feeling is it is reasonable for you to want your own representation for the transaction. The seller's agent who showed you the property will still get paid, so it's not like you had him show you around town only to have you switch to another agent at the last minute.

Really, there's no downside to finding your own agent. Be upfront with the new agent that you have been shown homes by the seller's agent, but my guess is they aren't going to turn you away.

Submitted by Diego Mamani on May 4, 2012 - 12:23pm.

How much representation do you really need? I'd like to hear some comments on this. In my case, I had been a renter in my area for many years, so when I decided to buy, I knew exactly what I wanted. I searched for houses using Redfin, Zillow, Ziprealty, etc. Also, a few local realtors have excellent websites where you can search the MLS according to your criteria. This way you not only find houses, but you can see their complete histories, and knowing the parcel numbers you can check for more info with the county recorder and the property tax assessor.

Once I found what I liked, I contacted the listing agent directly and asked for a showing. They invariably asked me if I already had an agent, and said no. In one instance I liked the house and made an offer, which was turned down. Interestingly, the listing agent volunteered to represent me in searching for other properties. I said "no, thank you". He didn't like to hear that, he got upset, and lectured me saying that I need an agent, yada, yada, yada, that it doesn't cost me anything, etc.

What I found funny about this guy is that he was OK with me making an offer on his house and him getting both sides of the commission. But if it was another listing agent getting that sweet deal, he was opposed to it!

I found his approach creepy, and decided to avoid him. In fact, when we have new hires and they ask me for a referral, I give other agents' names, and also tell them the story of Mr Creepy so that they avoid him.

I know that it doesn't cost me out-of-pocket to have an agent representing me, but the 6% (or whatever) commission will come from the purchase price that I pay. If I deal only with the listing agent, don't I have some leverage at the time of negotiation? The listing agent may think "this buyer is offering 5% below the listing price, but I get to keep both sides of the commission... that's better for me than getting only one side of the commission at full asking price."

In any case, that's what we did at the end. We found another house that we liked and dealt directly with the listing agent. My wife made a low-ball offer, that I thought would be turned down outright, but to my surprise, the sellers countered with a price much below their already reduced asking price. So, we countered again meeting them half way (their counter was very, very close to our first offer), and we bought the house.

Did I do something wrong by not having an agent representing me? Did I miss anything?

Submitted by sdrealtor on May 4, 2012 - 1:33pm.

Hard to say without knowing the exact details of the deal and what the comparables were at the time. There are so many variables that you may think you got a great deal and didnt or think you got an OK deal but got a great deal. In my eyes its about risk tolerance/management. Getting good help will benefit you in most cases but when someone is experienced and has been through things a few times before they might do fine too. No right or wrong here.

Submitted by Diego Mamani on May 4, 2012 - 2:01pm.

Thank you sdr. The comparables are of course public information, and we were not in a hurry, so we visited at least a dozen houses before making any offers. We had a good idea of what was out there, and at what prices.

Submitted by sdrealtor on May 4, 2012 - 2:07pm.

I'm pretty sure you probably did fine. Of course its just an opinion just like yours. Hard to know for certain....ever.

Submitted by bzribee on May 4, 2012 - 9:14pm.

Response to Diego: Yes, I live in North Park and do know the area well but don't feel comfortable doing this on my own--I recognize this so I would use a realtor. I have an "inner sense" of what I feel something is worth or what I'd be willing to pay but I prefer to pay a professional for guidance and expertise, at least for my first home.

I appreciate reading about your experiences. I know many folks on this site are very knowledgeable and I"m sure others have done this on their own, too. Thanks to all the posters here, I've learned a lot. And I recognize there's a lot I don't know. And I don't know what I don't know, so I have to find and trust someone to take care of that for me.

Submitted by zzz on May 7, 2012 - 8:28am.

bzribee another agent that i'd suggest you talk to is jerry linney. he works metro SD and knows NP and all the urban areas quite well. most importantly, he's ethical and professional.

Submitted by treehugger on May 7, 2012 - 1:38pm.

I have an interesting perspective.
I just sold my house myself, interviewed a lot of realtors who wanted to help me. Then went on the hunt for a home and went through a lot of realtors who told me "I had to buy now".

We are currently in escrow, in the neighborhood I have been stalking for years! I watched the house go to foreclosure then stalked it until the realtor was attached, then went after him. In this case we went round and round and eventually went to a "highest and best". Due to my realtor also being the listing agent he had the inside scoop on what I needed to offer. We won. I was told after all this that the house needed termite work to the tune of $4500 and the bank would not pay. The realtor went back to the bank and was able to get them to offset the purchase price that amount. Also no home warrenty from bank owned. I kinda hinted to realtor that he was making both sides of the deal and he should kick in for the waranty (less than $400) he didn't seem to want to. So we want the house and are proceeding, but don't think I would ever recommend this realtor to anyone else.

Me being me yesterday saw a house I had chased and lost as a shortsale (same neighborhood as i am in escrow) it came back on market yesterday as a flip and I wanted to see what they had done. I called listing agent. He was AWESOME! Fairly young guy, super knowledgeable about all the repairs and upgrades to the house. When we talked price we told him the house was fantastic, but probably a little out of our comfort zone. he was emphatic he would do whatever he needed to make it happen if we decided to move forward. We were his clients now and he was going to look out for us, even if it meant giving up a few thousand of his commission. I actually left him and felt guilty for not buying from him, I really wanted to!

I believe we would not be in escrow on a house we are super excited about if I had not used the listing agent....but wow, the guy yesterday willing to go the extra mile was impressive!

Submitted by bzribee on May 10, 2012 - 1:47am.

Treehugger, Thanks for the story. I can see why the foreclosure worked with the seller agent. Too bad you found the short sale guy afterwards. He'll be around for your next transaction.

Thanks to sdr and zzz for the realtor names.

Submitted by Diego Mamani on May 10, 2012 - 12:50pm.

treehugger wrote:
Also no home warrenty [sic] from bank owned. I kinda hinted to realtor that he was making both sides of the deal and he should kick in for the waranty (less than $400) he didn't seem to want to. So we want the house and are proceeding, but don't think I would ever recommend this realtor to anyone else.
Wait, you are buying an asset worth hundreds of thousands of dollars but you make an issue of less than $400? I guess that realtor won't be recommending you to his colleagues either!

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