Understanding Whom the Agent Represents (Maryland)

I don’t blame first time home buyers. The amount of information out there about buying a home has got to be over whelming.

Think about it, once a first time buyer has garnered the courage to actually speak with an agent, they are setting the stage for more confusion. You see, in Maryland, the law requires that you inform folks of certain information at your first scheduled meeting. You have to be told about whom the agent represents, you have to have dual agency explained and you have to decide whether you want the agent to represent you.

These are not my rules. These are not any brokers rules. These are not ReMax’s rules. Nope, this is the law in the State of Maryland.

In their infinite wisdom, the powers that be have provided agents with documents to be signed by their clients. As with all documents, they were designed by attorneys that have mastered the art of obfuscating the obvious while covering the rear end of the industry that hired them.

How quickly so many agents forget how “foreign” the documents sound. I have been told that some agents just don’t bother with the documents anyway. It seems they feel if they present forms at the first meeting, the prospect will shake their head and walk out the door.

They would rather “wing” it, violate the law and hope that no one notices.

Many of them have the documents signed while preparing an offer. It is much easier to just stick them in the large pile and have them signed at that point.



After initial introductions are accomplished and refreshments are offered………you must receive a document that resembles this:



Now that is a lot of small print to absorb while sitting in a strange office with someone you just met. They just sit there smiling while your mind races, scanning legal terms and hoping that the door behind you is not locked. Usually, the agent will point out…this is information required by law and it is not a contract. They may even act as if signing it carries no weight.


It does matter. It is important. You are acknowledging that the information was presented to you. If you check the bottom area of the form, it tells you that you should understand everything that you sign. I think you should know what is going on as well. I believe the law is in place to protect consumers. I really hope that any buyer understands that skirting the law is never the best route to take.

In short, if you do not have a written agreement with an agent, they do not contractually represent you. Your relationship is “assumed”. They can show you properties (except those listed with their broker). They can not negotiate. They can not advise. They can not prepare an offer. Actually, a presumed agent is nothing more than a cab driver that has access to homes not listed with his/her broker.

The next level up the food chain is the cooperating agent. You will not have agreed to dual agency ( see post on dual agency). Oh, and they will represent the seller of the home. Yes, you read that right. The cooperating agent represents the seller. Now, that always perplexes me. Why would anyone that understood their legal right, use a cooperating agent. It would seem to me that if your options are explained to you, you would opt for the one that offers you the most protection and representation.

I have to mention the listing agent. You have no protection as a buyer when you ask the listing agent to write an offer for you. There is a misconception that you will be saving money. The amount you believe you are saving is actually minimal in most cases and in every case… you are making the biggest purchase of your life without the benefit of representation.

The only way to be completely represented is to sign an exclusive right to represent agreement. If signing a contract makes you feel uncomfortable, limit the terms of the agreement. The consumer has every right to limit his relationship with an agent to specific homes viewed or to all homes viewed on a specific day, etc. Rather than lose the benefit of representation, control the representation.

It is much more effective to hire the agent and be specific about the limits of that contract than it is to view homes without an agreement. It is also important to note that the agreement is binding on all parties. The agreement does state that the buyer is responsible the fees the agent will earn. Most agreements indicate that the buyer agent will reduce them amount that is due them by the amount of money that is offered as a co-op fee in the listing. The contract protects the buyer.

In Maryland, we allow dual agency. Most people get it very confused. The buyer’s factual relationship is with the broker their agent works under. The broker also has the ultimate relationship with the seller in homes listed with the broker. If a buyer wishes to purchase a home that is listed with the broker that is also the broker for their agent, the broker becomes what is called a dual agent. The broker will receive the commission proceeds from the sale and the broker will determine how those proceeds are shared with the agents.

Dual agency has nothing to do with an agent attempting to sell his own listing to a buyer. The agent CAN NOT represent both sides of the transaction.

This is a brief overview of Agency in Maryland. If you have any questions, I will be glad to answer. Feel free to call me at 301-509-5111



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