The right of a consumer to be represented themselves by a real estate agent has been the law in Connecticut for at least a decade now, but it is still not understood by many people. In the commercial arena, where many buyers are more sophisticated, and are used to buying and selling real estate under earlier regulations, it has been slow to take full effect. The way that the law is currently written, it requires a real estate agent to have a written representation agreement with a buyer, before s/he shows that person any listings other than his/her own company's listings, where the listing agreement with the seller would give the agent representation of at least one of the parties. A dual agency agreement must also be signed by all parties, when the agent represents both the buyer and the seller.
Why am I explaining this again? Because so many people do not understand the law. I got a call a couple of weeks ago from an attorney, skilled in real estate, and also licensed as a real estate agent. He told me that he had recently bought a property, which he had previously called me about (to ask questions about the area, not to represent him on a specific property). He said that he realized only after the deal was done that the listing broker had gotten paid to represent him, because he didn't have a buyer broker agreement. He had thought, as many people do, that he would save money if he was not represented. The way it works, though, is that the agent is (almost always) paid by the seller, as a result of a listing agreement, and that fee is named in that agreement, regardless of whether another agent is involved. That means that, if there are two agents, the agreement between the two agencies (almost always) divides that commission. If there is no selling agency, the listing agreement would still be in effect, so the listing agency would get that commission. While that listing firm would owe certain duties to anyone, and would do the necessary work to put the transaction together, the fee wouldn't change just because the buyer chose to be unrepresented. Brokers who do not represent a person, though, cannot give advice on value, except to state the listing price. So that question--what's it worth?--can only be answered legally by an agent who represents you.
So why don't buyers want to sign buyer broker agreements? Sometimes, they want the right to buy something without the agent, or with another agent. Sometimes that's fair, although sometimes it isn't, depending upon the amount of ground work that has already been, or is being, done. Sometimes they aren't authorized to sign, which is a problem that the CT Legislature plans to take up this year--it can be fixed by having a commercial buyer broker agreement signed later in the process. In some cases, they are dealing with more than one agent in different areas, a problem that can be fixed with the proper documentation. Many times, though, it's just a knee-jerk reaction against signing anything. But when's the last time you saw a doctor? If you declined to sign the HIPAA form, I bet that you didn't get in. (And, actually, I'd put my money on a bet that you signed it, and never even read it.) Why should real estate not have paperwork also? It's good business, and good practice. And, it's the law.