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New Maryland Agency Law Changes Buyer Agent Requirements And Practices
The Maryland law which governs relationships between real estate agents and members of the public, the Maryland Real Property Broker’s Act (commonly referred to as agency law), has been revised. As of October 1, presumed buyer agency has been eliminated in Maryland.
Prior to October 1, when an agent not affiliated with a property’s listing agent helped a potential buyer with locating or viewing that property, that agent was presumed by law to be acting as the buyer’s agent. There is no longer a presumption that a buyer is represented by any agent.
Under the new agency law, a home buyer is only represented by a buyer agent if they have a written buyer agency agreement in place with that individual agent. Otherwise the agent showing them the home represents the seller.
You contact a real estate agent and the agent agrees to show you a house. You do not have a signed buyer agency agreement with that agent, and they are not the listing agent. The agent showing the home to you represents the seller, not you the buyer.
A real estate agent shows you multiple properties, but is not the listing agent for any of those properties. The agent represents those sellers, not you the buyer.
You contact a real estate agent and they agree to show you a house. You do not have a signed buyer agency agreement with that agent, and they are the listing agent. The agent represents the seller, not you the buyer.
You visit an open house and meet a real estate agent, who is the listing agent. That agent represents the seller, not you the buyer.
You visit an open house and meet a real estate agent who is holding a house open, but who is not the listing agent. That agent represents the seller, not you the buyer.
You sign a buyer agency agreement with an agent. That agent now represents you, the buyer, while showing you any listing anywhere, except for their own listings. They can arrange for another agent to represent your interests as a buyer regarding their own listings, if you wish, or you may proceed while understanding the agent represents the seller for those particular properties only.
At open houses, agents no longer must provide Understanding Agency forms (the full name of which is “Understanding Whom Real Estate Agents Represent”); instead they must conspicuously display a notice that the open house agent represents the seller. While the method of notification required of real estate agents at open houses has changed with the revision, the open house agent represented the seller both before October 1 and after October 1.
When attending an open house, a home buyer should keep in mind whom the open house agent represents. This may mean keeping some matters confidential, but buyers probably shouldn’t need to be too wary of discussing their situation or questions with the open house agent. After all, the reason buyers visit open houses is to learn about the house, the neighborhood and the market.
Agents still must provide home buyers and sellers the disclosure form Understanding Whom Real Estate Agents Represent at their first scheduled meeting.
One likely effect of these changes is that most agents will not agree to show homes without first having a scheduled meeting to discuss buyer agency. This is a better practice for the buyer and the agent and is sound business practice. More importantly, conducting a scheduled meeting at the agent’s office or a public place is also much better from a safety standpoint.
It has always been more professional, and to the buyer’s actual advantage, for agents to meet and have a thorough discussion of the buyer’s needs and wants, as well as a thorough review of the agent’s services, prior to the agent showing the buyer homes. The revisions to Maryland agency law will result in a greater number of agents following this practice.
Returning briefly to the safety issue, I would ask anyone to consider what kind of safety risks are involved in showing houses to someone the agent hasn’t previously met. Meeting strangers at houses, sometimes vacant houses, is not a safe practice.
In summary, agents are more than key-turners. They can be valuable partners in your search for a home and a source of many useful types of information. If you are looking for a home, wouldn’t you rather have a relationship with someone representing you, rather than the seller?
Charles Chapman has more than 20 years' experience in the Montgomery County real estate market. He has been a full-time agent through rising markets and good times, and also through falling markets an....