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The Cons of Single-Agent Dual Agency Far Outweigh the Pros

By Bill Gassett | April 5, 2023

In most real estate transactions, a real estate agent represents a buyer, and another represents a seller. This arrangement is ideal for consumers because each party has an advocate in their corner fighting hard for their best interests.

If you have questions as a buyer or seller, you can lean on your real estate agent for advice. Isn't this why most people hire experts?

Certainly, it's why most people hire real estate agents. They want someone they can trust to provide the information needed to make sound financial decisions.

Unfortunately, when buyers and sellers use a single real estate agent in what's likely the biggest transaction of their lives, they give up these benefits.

Having a dual agent means you have entered into a dual-agency agreement. Dual agency in real estate is a conflict of interest. It is bait and switch.

Dual agency is so bad for consumers that some states have outlawed the practice. Dual agency has been made illegal in some states. Eight places have realized that having a single agent trying to "represent" two parties with conflicting goals is impossible.

The word represents should not even be used. The agent doesn't genuinely represent either.

Dual Agent is Bad
Why is Having a Dual Agent Bad?

What is Dual Agency in Real Estate?

There are two types of dual agency in real estate. One is considered acceptable for most people, and the other is not.

Dual agency can be defined as when two agents working for the same company each represent a buyer and seller. It is called a designated agency.

Most consider this form of dual agency acceptable because each party has a fiduciary in their corner. If you need advice, your agent can give it to you.

For example, if you find a house you love and want to make an offer on, your buyer's agent can give you a competitive market analysis and tell you exactly what you should offer. You will understand the comparable sales and offer accordingly.

When the home inspection takes place, and you need counseling on what, if anything, to have the seller remedy or provide a seller concession, you can get that advice.

It is no different than if the agents worked at two different companies.

Single-Agent Dual Agency is Bad For Consumers

The second dual-agency type is when one single agent represents both parties. In this situation, the agent essentially works for both the buyer and the seller. This is a conflict of interest and is not recommended.

This form of dual agency is a conflict of interest for buyers and sellers.

What buyers and sellers need to understand about this form of dual agency is that the real estate agent cannot give advice.

The agent MUST remain completely neutral by law. What does this mean in the real world?

The expertise you would rely on when working with a seller's or buyer's agent is unavailable.

For sellers, when an offer is presented to you, the agent who used to work for you can no longer provide you with ANY advice. Doing so would conflict with the buyer.

Buyers cannot expect the agent to reveal anything negative about the property. They are not allowed to perform any research or due diligence.

Revealing anything negative would be a detriment to the seller. Further, the agent cannot advise you on what to offer for the property. You are on your own.

Real Estate Agents Who Practice Dual Agency Make it Smell Like Roses

Real Estate agents who practice dual agency rarely do what they are supposed to regarding being a dual agent.

For some agents, placing a dual agency disclosure form in front of the client and asking them to sign is perfectly acceptable.

After all, the party that benefits from dual agency is the real estate agent. Why would they want to explain the downsides? They are salespeople and want you to accept dual agency.

Any sane individual who is explained how dual agency works properly would never agree to it.

Is this the type of agent you want? Someone who's looking out for their best interests. Dual agents care about one thing - making sure the transaction closes.

A double-commission pot of gold is waiting at the end of the rainbow.

Don't Fall For The Agent Commission Reduction Excuse

Most real estate agents who try to drum up the pros for dual agency will explain they offer a commission discount. Zippidy Do Da Zippidy Day.

Is it worth getting a few thousand dollars off the commission and making a $20,000 mistake?

This is exactly what can happen. If you are a buyer overpaying for a property is a reality. You don't have someone in your corner guiding you on what you should offer. It is easy peasy to make a big mistake.

You also don't know if something will be built down the street from the property you will loathe.

If you're buying where a homeowners association exists, you won't know if it's beloved or considered unruly. Do you think the dual agent is going to tell you? Fat chance.

The same can be said for sellers. When you signed up, you had an agent who was gung ho for getting you the best terms and conditions. Now they care about ensuring their double banger gets to the closing table at all costs.

Suddenly you won't have an agent looking for you to get the best terms, but what's "fair." It makes me laugh when agents who practice dual agency say that. We have to ensure it's fair so I can get my big fat commission check.

Single-Agent Dual Agency Pros and Cons


  • You may get a commission discount
  • Direct communication with the listing agent


  • You get no advice or counseling as a seller or buyer
  • No research on the property is done on a buyer's behalf
  • There is no fiduciary fighting for your best interests
  • The odds of making a significant financial mistake increase dramatically
  • One real estate agent is incentivized to close the sale at all costs

Final Thoughts on Dual Agency

Regarding dual agency in real estate, it’s important to be aware of the inherent conflict of interest. Single-agent dual agency is never a good idea when buying or selling a home.

The practice should be banned in more than eight states. It should be all of them. When something doesn't benefit consumers, it shouldn't be practiced.

Some real estate agents have a backbone and understand this. The almighty dollar still rules others. Don't tell them otherwise. It's legal, you know.

The bottom line: The cons of single-agent dual agency far outweigh the pros.

Bill Gassett is an authority in the real estate industry with 38 years of experience. Bill is well respected for his informative articles for buyers, sellers, and fellow real estate agents to make sound decisions. His work has been featured on RIS Media, the National Association of Realtors, Inman News, Newsbreak, Credit Sesame, Realty Biz News, and his own authoritative resource, Maximum Real Estate Exposure. He has been on of the top RE/MAX agents in New England over the last two decades.
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