When it comes to just about any kind of contract, the words “sign here” tend to make us all a little nervous from time to time. When selling a home, the typical procedure is to meet with an agent and sign a Listing Agreement outlining the terms of the selling process. However, there is also an agreement that is to be signed when using an agent to help you through the buying process, and that is called a Buyer Representation Agreement, or a “B.R.A.”. Signing this agreement with the right agent is a critical step in having a very pleasant and successful home buying experience.
When considering Buying or Selling, sitting down with a local Real Estate Professional is an excellent starting point. Meeting with an agent will allow you to get an idea of how much your current home is worth, how likely you are to find something to buy that fits your purchasing criteria, and when the best time is to make these very important decisions.
When looking to sell your home and purchase another, many agents can assist in setting you up on an auto-email system. The auto-email system will take all of your Buying criteria, such as price, type of home, # of beds/baths, age etc., and use it to filter the new listings and in turn forward you the ones that best suit what you’re looking for. When asking, or being offered to be added to an auto-emailing system, REALTORS® are encouraged (for our own protection and for the protection of the client) to have a Buyer Representation Agreement (B.R.A.) in place to make sure that our relationship and duties are clearly understood.
According to the Toronto Real Estate Board:
“The Buyer Representation Agreement signifies that for a designated period of time, the buyer has engaged a specific REALTOR® firm to work exclusively on his or her behalf at finding a property. The agreement confirms the REALTOR®’s commitment to make his or her best efforts for the buyer.”
Signing a B.R.A. will ensure that your agent is dedicated to finding you the right property, and negotiating the best price on your behalf. It will also ensure that you are protected, and that the right conditions and clauses are included in any offer on your behalf.
However, it is extremely important to understand how signing a B.R.A. can affect you as a Buyer. In a nutshell, the signing of a Buyer Representation Agreement holds the client liable to working with that particular Brokerage/agent, in their search for a home. Be very careful of how the B.R.A. is explained to you. It takes us no less than 15 minutes to thoroughly explain a B.R.A. to our Buyers. If your agent is done explaining it in 2 minutes, you can be sure that he/she did not explain it in its entirety. It is NOT just consent to receive emails from a REALTOR or consent to further discuss your buying criteria. It is a legal and binding document that holds the client liable to pay a commission to that Brokerage in the case that they break it, and purchase a home with someone else during the duration of the contract.
As bad as it sounds, some agents may not thoroughly explain to you the importance of a Buyer Representation Agreement, and what can happen if you were to break it. For example, let’s say you meet an agent and are pondering the idea of buying a home. He/she gets you to sign a B.R.A. You think it’s just a consent form to start receiving some auto-emails or something that will allow the agent to show you some houses in the case that something comes up that looks interesting. Either way, the document is not fully explained to you in great detail. You start getting some emails from this agent and you see a house in one of the emails (or anywhere else for that matter), it looks good so you head over to the open house. You love the house, and you talk to the agent who is doing the open house and decide to put in an offer. Everything works out, you get the house and couldn’t be happier!
Since you technically signed a B.R.A. with the other agent, you can now be held liable to pay, out of your own pocket, the required commission (as outlined in your B.R.A.) to the agent/brokerage you are under contract with. The Agent can take legal action against you to collect the commission money he/she was due to receive. It can become a very messy situation due to the agent’s negligence or carelessness in explaining the true meaning of the B.R.A. to you at the time of signing.
A B.R.A. should be signed, but it needs to be done at the right time and under the right circumstance. A good client/agent relationship is something that takes a bit of time, it needs to be properly explained and considered before entering into something binding. Be careful what you are signing, ask it to be explained to you in detail, take some time to read it over yourself, and make sure you understand the pros and cons of what you are signing. Choosing the right agent should be an interview process, it is a serious decision and you should never feel pressured. Take your time, and make an educated real estate decision.