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Even though home sales are starting to decline, it’s still a challenging real estate market for buyers in many areas. Asking prices have remained relatively high and interest rates have also been on the rise — meaning that many home shoppers have had to adjust their budget to find a home with a manageable mortgage payment. And inventory remains scarce in many parts of the country.
In short, affordable homes can be tough to acquire, especially if you’re up against real estate investors or other individuals paying with cash. Should you enlist more than one real estate agent to help ensure you see all the available properties out there and make the most competitive offer on a home?
Can you work with more than one real estate agent?
First off, you may not have the option to work with more than one real estate agent. It depends on your contract and situation.
Many agents will have you sign a contract that includes an exclusivity clause — essentially indicating you’ll work solely with them for a designated period of time in a specific area. Exclusivity contract usage and duration varies around the country. “The typical exclusive agreement in both New York City and Miami lasts 180 days or six months,” says Sarah Williams, Founder of Societe Real Estate, a luxury real estate brokerage based in both 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’re looking for properties in different parts of the country. An agent from New York City may 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 may still span multiple states. For example, if you’re house-hunting in Washington, D.C., you could consider a home in the District of Columbia itself, Virginia or Maryland.
While many realtors in that area could be licensed in several neighboring states, it’s not a guarantee. “It makes sense to work with multiple realtors when your realtor of choice isn’t licensed in one of the areas you’re looking to purchase,” says Williams.
Although there are valid reasons why it may be beneficial to work with multiple agents, ethical considerations should be taken into account. Buyer’s agents only receive their commission when they close on a deal. Working with multiple agents means that whichever one doesn’t close on a house with you misses out on their compensation. “Simply put, you’re asking one of the agents to work for free, and that is wrong,” says Capozzolo.
Beyond ethical issues, if you do work with more than one agent without being transparent with each of them, you could gain a bad reputation in your area and find it challenging to hire an excellent agent in the future. In any one market, “there is a fairly small brokerage community, and word [will spread],” adds Williams.
Should you work with multiple agents?
Working with multiple agents can have several pros and cons, depending on the situation.
- The more, the merrier: In competitive markets, when inventory is scarce, you can’t have too many people looking for you.
- Multiple agents provide diverse perspectives and different areas of expertise in neighborhoods, types of homes, etc.
- Multiple agents will have their own methods of determining which homes to show a buyer, leading to more diverse listing options to review.
- Nowadays, most agents have access to the same info and the same MLS. So working with multiple agents may not give you any competitive edge. You may even end up with duplicate listings, creating more work for you and the agents overall.
- You may find communication challenging if you have to deal with several people, keeping everyone on the same page. You forget who you told what to. It may be harder to coordinate schedules for showings between multiple agents.
- Service quality may be diminished if your agent doesn’t think they’ll earn any commission by working with you.
Alternatives to working with multiple agents
Consider a real estate team if you’re looking for multiple people to help you with your home purchase. You will get the benefit of having more hands on deck — but all rowing together — and everyone involved is compensated fairly.
Ensure you’re working with the best real estate agent possible by interviewing several before signing up, whether you are looking for an individual or team. Review their online presence, ask for referrals or read their online reviews to get a sense of their service quality and expertise. During your interview, ask them how long they’ve been an agent, what states they’re licensed in (if your shopping area spans multiple states), the terms of their exclusivity contract (if they have one) and how many buyers they typically represent at a given time. These questions can give you an idea of how good a fit a single agent (or their team) may be for your needs.
If you’re dissatisfied with the agent you have, ask to be reassigned to another agent within the same firm. “Most agents won’t want to work with someone who’s really unhappy with them since it’s an interpersonal business,” says Williams. Or, ask if you can be released from your contract with them early. (More on breakups, below.)
How hard is it to break up with a real estate agent?
If your agent isn’t working out and you don’t have an exclusivity contract signed, just let them know you won’t be working with them any longer. If you have signed a contract with them, breaking off the contract may require additional steps or incur consequences.
Your contract may expire on its own after a specific time period, or it will describe the steps you need to take to get out of the contract, such as paying a fee. In this situation, talking directly with your real estate agent or the broker they work with can be very helpful in coming to a mutual resolution with the agent in question.
Final word on multiple real estate agents
“While it is possible to work with multiple real estate agents, the key is to maintain transparency,” says Alex Capozzolo. In other words, if you are able to enlist more than one person, don’t hide the fact — let everyone know. Odds are, they’ll find out anyway.