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Buying a home can be a confusing process, and it’s made even more confusing when you encounter a slew of different realtors along the way. It’s important to understand each realtor’s role in the transaction, and how to protect your interests when buying a home.

Here are a few common areas where confusion arises.

Visiting open houses. If you walk into an open house, you’ll most likely encounter the listing agent (often called the seller’s agent). This person was hired to represent the fiduciary interests of the home seller. Their job is to get the best deal for the seller. They are not the person to ask for advice about how to negotiate on the price. Tip: Usually the seller’s agent has a disclosure form posted in the home to clearly state who they are representing in the real estate transaction. If in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask.

Calling real estate offices. If you call a real estate office to inquire about one of their listings, they may put you in touch with the listing’s agent or they may put you in touch with whichever realtor in their office is “on call” at that time. If you’re going to ask that person to show you the home, it’s helpful to know if they represent the seller and if they’re familiar with the home.

Responding to third-party listings. If you’re browsing sites like, Trulia, or Zillow and click to get more details about a home for sale, you may be surprised to get calls from several realtors—many of whom don’t even know the home in question. Some realtors pay to have their contact information displayed prominently next to home listings, even if they have nothing to do with that home. Again, it’s helpful to ask before scheduling a showing if that person is representing the seller or will be representing you.

In a perfect world, realtors will explain up front whom they represent, and will give you a document stating this information clearly, but if that’s not provided, be sure to ask the question. It will be very helpful for avoiding confusing and protecting your interests in the long run.

The best scenario is to find a buyer’s agent that you’re comfortable with and have that one person represent you in buying your new home. That’s what 97 percent of luxury home buyers here in the Boston area do. It doesn’t cost you anything to have buyer representation, and it ensures that there’s someone looking out for your interests in this purchase.

To find a buyer’s agent that’s right for you, ask your mortgage lender as well as friends, family, and colleagues if they have recommendations of a buyer’s agent. Then talk with a few of that agent’s previous clients and/or check out their online reviews to get a better sense of how responsive and knowledgeable they are, and what they’re really like to work with.

Reprinted from my MetroWest Daily News column real estate column


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