Agency Relationships in South Carolina
The SC Real Estate License Law, in Section 40-57-139 (A) (1) and (2), requires a real estate licensee to provide you this brochure and a meaningful explanation of agency relationships offered by the licensee’s Company. This must be done at the first practical opportunity when you and the licensee have substantive contact.
Before you begin to work with a real estate licensee, it is important for you to know the difference between a broker-inc-charge and associated licensee. The broker-in-charge is the person in charge of a real estate Company. Associated licensees may work only through a broker-in-charge. In other words, when you choose to work with any real estate licensee, your business relationship is legally with the Company and not with the associated licensee.
A real estate Company and its associated licensees can provide buyers and sellers valuable real estate services, whether in the form of basic customer services, or though client-level agency representation. The services you can expect will depend upon the legal relationship you establish with the Company. It is important for you to discuss the following information with the real estate licensee and agree on whether in your business relationship you will be a customer or a client.
Now You Are a Customer of the Company
South Carolina license law defines customers as buyers or sellers who choose NOT to establish an agency relationship. The law requires real estate licensees to perform the following basic duties when dealing with any real estate buyer or seller as customers.
Present all offers in a timely manner
Account for money or other property received on your behalf
Provide an explanation of the scope of services to be provided
Be fair and honest and provide accurate information
Disclose “adverse material facts” about the property or the transaction which are within the licensee’s knowledge
Unless or until you enter into a written agreement with the Company for agency representation, you are considered a “Customer” of the Company and the Company will not act as your agent. As a Customer, you should not expect the Company or its licensees to promote your best interest, or to keep your bargaining information confidential.
Customer service does not require a written agreement; therefore, you are not committed to the Company in any way.
You Can Become a Client
Clients receive more sensitive that customers. If client status is offered be the real estate Company, you can become a client by entering into a written agency agreement requiring the Company and its associated licensees to act as an n agent on your behalf and promote your best interests. If you choose to become a client, you will be asked to confirm in your written representation agreement that you received this brochure in a timely manner.
A seller becomes a client of a real estate company by signing a formal listing agreement with the Company. For a seller to become a client, this agreement must be in writing and must clearly establish the terms of the agreement and the obligations of both the seller and the Company, which becomes the agent for the seller.
A buyer becomes a client of a real estate Company by signing a formal buyer agency agreement with the Company. For a buyer to become a client, this agreement must be in writing and must clearly establish the terms of the agreement and the obligations of both the buyer and the Company, which becomes the agent for the buyer.
If you enter into a written agency agreement, as a Client, you can expect the real estate Company to provide the following client-level services:
Reasonable care and skill
Client-level services also include advice, counsel and assistance in negotiations.
When the Company represents only one client in the same transaction (the seller or the buyer), it is called a single agency.
Dual Agency exists when the real estate Company has two clients in one transaction – a seller client and a buyer client.
At the time you sign an agency agreement, you may be asked to acknowledge whether you would consider giving written consent allowing the Company to represent both you and the other client in a disclosed dual agency relationship.
Disclosed Dual Agency
In a disclosed dual agency, the Company’s representation duties are limited because a buyer and seller have recognized conflicts of interest. Both clients’ interests are represented by the Company. As a disclosed dual agent, the Company and its associated licensees cannot advocate on behalf of one client over the other, and cannot disclose confidential client information concerning the price negotiations, terms, or factors motivating the buyer/client to sell. Each Dual Agency Agreement contains the names of both the seller client(s) and the buyer client(s) and identifies the property.
In designated agency, a broker-in-charge may designate individual associated licensees to act solely on behalf of each client. Designated agents are not limited by the Company’s agency relationship with the other client, but instead have a duty to promote the best interest of their clients, including negotiating a price. The broker-in-charge remains a disclosed dual agent for both clients, and ensures the assigned agents fulfill their duties to their respective clients.
At the time you sign an agency agreement, you may be asked to acknowledge whether you would consider giving written consent allowing the Company to designate a representative for you and one for the other client in a designated agency.
Each Designated Agency Agreement contains the named of both the seller client(s) and the buyer client(s) and identifies the property.
What to Look For in Any Agreement
When you choose client-level service, your written Agency Agreement or your agent should answer these questions:
Can I work with other Companies during the time of the Agreement?
What will happen if I buy or sell on my own without the agent?
When will this agreement expire?
How will the Company be paid for its services?
Does this Company represent both buyers and sellers as clients?
If so, what are the choices if two clients become involved in one transaction
What duties will the Company continue to provide me after the transaction is completed?
If you plan to become a client of a Company, the licensee will explain the agreement to you fully and will not answer questions you may have about the agreement. Remember, however, that until you enter into a representation agreement with the Company, you are considered a customer and the Company cannot be your advocate, cannot advise you on price terms, and cannot keep your confidences.
It’s Your Choice
As a real estate consumer in South Carolina, it is your choice as to the type and nature of services you receive.
You can choose to remain a consumer and represent yourself while the Company represents the other party.
You can choose to hire the Company for representation through a written agreement.
If represented by the Company, you can decide whether to go forward under the shared services of dual agency or designated agency or to remain in single agency.
The choice of services belongs to you – the South Carolina real estate consumer.
This brochure has been approved by the S.C. Real Estate Commission for use in explaining representation Issues in real estate transactions and consumers rights as a buyer or seller. Reprinting without permission is permitted provided no changes or modifications are made.