Even though home sales are starting to decline, it’s still a tough real estate market for buyers in many areas. Asking prices have remained relatively high and interest rates have also risen, meaning many homebuyers have had to adjust their budgets to find a home with a manageable mortgage payment. And stocks remain scarce in many parts of the country.
In short, affordable homes can be difficult to acquire, especially if you’re up against real estate investors or others who pay cash. Should you use more than one real estate agent to ensure you see all available properties and make the most competitive offer on a home?
Can you work with more than one real estate agent?
First, you may not be able to work with more than one real estate agent. It depends on your contract and your situation.
Many agents will have you sign a contract that includes an exclusivity clause – basically stating that you will only work with them for a set period of time in a specific area. The use and duration of the exclusive contract vary from country to country. “The typical exclusive deal in New York and Miami lasts 180 days or six months,” says Sarah Williams, founder of Societe Real Estate, a luxury real estate agency based in the two cities.
Shopping in multiple areas
Of course, in some cases, hiring multiple agents is a practical necessity. For example, working with “more than one real estate agent makes sense if you are looking for properties in different parts of the country. A New York agent might not be able to help you find properties in Seattle,” says Alex Capozzolo, co-founder of Brotherly Love Real Estate in Philadelphia.
If your search isn’t as broad geographically, it can still span multiple states. For example, if you are looking for a house in Washington, DC, you might consider a house in the District of Columbia itself, in Virginia, or in Maryland.
Although many real estate agents in this area may be licensed in several neighboring states, this is not a guarantee. “It makes sense to work with multiple realtors when the realtor of your choice isn’t licensed in one of the areas you want to buy,” Williams says.
While there are valid reasons why it may be beneficial to work with multiple agents, ethical considerations must be taken into account. Buyer’s agents only receive their commission when they complete a transaction. Working with multiple agents means whoever doesn’t close a house with you misses out on pay. “Put simply, you ask one of the agents to work for free, and that’s wrong,” Capozzolo says.
Beyond ethical issues, if you work with more than one agent without being transparent with each of them, you could acquire a bad reputation in your area and find it difficult to hire a great agent in the future. In any market, “there is a fairly small brokerage community, and the word [will spread]adds Williams.
Do you need to work with multiple agents?
Working with multiple agents can have several advantages and disadvantages, depending on the situation.
- The more the better: in competitive markets, when inventory is scarce, you can’t have too many people looking for you.
- Several agents offer diverse perspectives and different areas of expertise in neighborhoods, home types, and more.
- Many agents will have their own methods of determining which homes to show a buyer, leading to more diverse listing options to consider.
- These days, most agents have access to the same information and the same MLS. So, working with multiple agents may not give you any competitive advantage. You may even end up with duplicate listings, which creates more work for you and agents in general.
- You may find communication difficult if you have to deal with multiple people, keeping everyone on the same page. You forget who you told what. It can be more difficult to coordinate visiting times between multiple agents.
- The quality of service can be diminished if your agent does not believe that he will earn a commission working with you.
Alternatives to working with multiple agents
Consider a real estate team if you are looking for several people to help you with your home purchase. You’ll have the advantage of having more hands on deck – but all rowing together – and everyone involved is compensated fairly.
Make sure you’re working with the best real estate agent possible by interviewing several before signing up, whether you’re looking for an individual or a team. Review their online presence, ask for referrals, or read their online reviews to get an idea of the quality of their service and expertise. During your interview, ask them how long they’ve been an agent, what states they’re licensed in (if your business area spans multiple states), the terms of their exclusive contract (if they have any) a) and how many buyers they typically represent at any given time. These questions can give you an idea of the ability of a single agent (or their team) to meet your needs.
If you are unhappy with the agent you have, ask to be reassigned to another agent within the same company. “Most agents won’t want to work with someone who’s really unhappy with them since it’s a people-to-people business,” Williams says. Or ask if you can be released from your contract with them sooner. (More on the breakups, below.)
Is it difficult to break up with a real estate agent?
If your agent isn’t working and you haven’t signed an exclusive contract, just let them know you won’t be working with them again. If you have signed a contract with them, breaking the contract may require additional steps or result in consequences.
Your contract may expire on its own after a specific period of time, or it will outline the steps you need to take to opt out of the contract, such as paying a fee. In this situation, speaking directly with your real estate agent or the broker they work with can be very helpful in reaching a mutual resolution with the agent in question.
Last word on several real estate agents
“Although it is possible to work with several real estate agents, the key is to maintain transparency”, explains Alex Capozzolo. In other words, if you are able to enlist more than one person, don’t hide it — let everyone know. Chances are they know anyway.