You are on Zillow. You find a property that captures your attention. You see what you believe to be the button to contact the agent who knows all the information. And finally, you talk to someone who may know some but wasn’t what you expected. Zillow is a big machine and there is a LOT going on behind the current. Here we’ll dissect one small piece. What is the difference between a listing agent and a Zillow Premier Agent?
You go to the Zillow platform and search for properties. Suddenly you see a place that is really interesting and you want more information and maybe even want to go see it. Right there in front of you are a few pictures of smiling agents who can help you.
You click on one believing they will be the listing agent who knows as much as anyone about this property. Suddenly things happen quickly and you find yourself on the phone being connected with either that agent or one working with them.
They already know the property you are looking at and likely offer to show it to you. Without getting into the weeds, this agent may or may not be the listing agent but in most cases will not be the listing agent.
To start, let’s talk about a listing agent vs a buyer’s agent for now. There is a school of thought that suggests that it’s better to work with a listing agent.
Who Is A Listing Agent?
A listing agent has a contractual relationship with the person selling the property. This means that they have a fiduciary duty to the seller. Therefore, listing agents owe the seller Obedience, Loyalty, Disclosure, Confidentiality, Accountability, and Reasonable Care/Diligence.
On the other hand, a listing agent has only one duty to the property buyer which is honesty. This means that they should provide the buyer with honest information all the time but without compromising the seller’s oath of confidentiality. Take note! As a buyer, the listing agent is focused fully on the best result for the seller. Yes, they know the most about the property. Yes, they know the seller and their true motivations. No, they are not going divulge information that might lower the price and get you the best deal. Not, at least, if they are ethical. And that thought that you can negotiate some of that commission you think they are making to save you more money, may not be what it seems.
Who Is a Buyer’s Agent?
The agent that represents you and isn’t the listing agent for the property being sold is known as a buyer’s agent. The good thing about this is that they are more likely to be dedicated to you, helping you find your future home and getting you the best deal possible.
In most cases, a buyer’s agent will be dedicated to you with no buyer’s agency agreement. If you like and trust your agent, a buyer’s agency agreement helps anchor that dedication. When you are dealing with listing agents you might notice they seem more responsive and motivated, and they should be. In the event they can represent both the buyer and the seller, their income may be higher.
Some buyers believe they’ll get a better deal from a listing agent by negotiating a discount because they aren’t paying another side of the deal. This can prove to be enough bait to capture the buyer. Beware, there is more going on here than meets the eye. We’ll talk about that in another post.
Blinded by the perception of possible initial savings, negotiations may prove out to have cost the buyer more. The buyer may never notice. Remember, the listing agent owes everything to the seller including getting them the highest sale price.
If your spouse was divorcing you, would you go to their attorney and suggest they represent you too and in turn give you a discount on legal fees? In many cases using the listing agent is penny wise and pound foolish. Note, I’m a listing agent as well as a buyer’s agent so I’m not sharing this flippantly.
Having said that, it’s also true that there are particular times when working with a listing agent makes more sense. One such scenario is during an overheated seller’s market when you are highly motivated to buy a particular property.
As I conclude, Zillow is a magnificent online real estate aggregator providing a truly helpful service. It is not the end-all for you to mindlessly click through and suffer dealing with endless phone calls, emails, and text messages from the long line of agents who you’ve been connected with. It is in your own best interest to connect with one professional agent and let them know you are dedicated to them being your agent. Interestingly, Zillow allows you to connect with one agent as your personal representative. I strongly recommend you do this when you find someone you trust and feel comfortable working with.
Hopefully, this helped clarify some things and will help you in your search for a new property. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. I look forward to hearing from you!