Disclosure a Prime Concern in Real Estate
Murray, Deanna M., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Disclosure in real estate is an issue that Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia take seriously. Disclosure laws in all three jurisdictions, even though they vary slightly, are in place to protect all parties involved - the real estate agent, the buyer and the seller, Realtors say.
A prospective buyer encounters a disclosure form almost immediately upon choosing an agent. Agency disclosure law requires a real estate agent to lay out all real estate representation options to a prospective buyer.
"Virginia requires an agent go over agency disclosure in the first meeting with a client," says Valerie Huffman of Weichert Realty in Bethesda. "Maryland law demands [that] disclosure be discussed before an agent shows a potential buyer a listing."
Mrs. Huffman, vice president of education in Weichert's headquarters, says 's agency disclosure laws are similar to those in Virginia.
"Agency disclosure is one of those things that protect everyone," says Dale Gabardy, an agent in Long & Foster's Burke office. "It informs people of their rights to have an agent working for them and serving their best interests."
In the District and Virginia, the law specifies four types of agency representation: a buyer's agent, designated agent, dual agent and seller's agent.
A buyer's agent can show other agencies' listings and works in the best interest of the buyer.
In designated agency, a single brokerage firm can represent both the seller and the buyer by using two agents.
In dual agency, one agent represents both the buyer and the seller as long as this arrangement is agreeable to both parties.
A seller's agent works solely for the seller.
Maryland also has buyer agency, dual agency and seller's agency. But Maryland law allows for a presumed buyer's agent, a sort of "acting agent" who can show listings to a potential buyer. However, this presumed buyer's agent cannot write contracts or negotiate.
Maryland also allows intrabrokerage agency (similar to, but different from, designated agency) between buyers and sellers, but an agent can't sell his own listing to a buyer he represents.
"This type of disclosure is so important," says Mrs. Huffman, who has been in real estate for 26 years. "So many people do not understand what they are walking into when they enter an agent's office. Potential clients need to make sure they are choosing agents who will walk them through the entire disclosure process until they are extremely comfortable with it."
Most potential buyers in this area sign contracts that provide sole representation by an agent. The buyer's agent disclosure guarantees confidentiality between an agent and the buyer and also ensures the agent is working in the best interests of the buyer.
"There are so many things that fall under this type of disclosure," says Mr. Gabardy, who has been an agent for 28 years. "You will find agent and client are more at ease in the buying process."
For example, Mrs. Huffman says, "If a buyer says to me, `Gosh, I love that house and I would really love to get it for $175,000, but if I have to, I will pay $200,000,' I can't go in and tell the seller we are going to offer you this but will go as high as this. I have to keep that information confidential."
Mrs. Huffman and Mr. Gabardy agree that agency disclosure is extremely important because it allows agents to do their best work for their clients.
"And it just ensures that we are all on the same page whenever it comes time to start making offers on a house," Mr. …