Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: Our Realtor has been showing us listings for several weeks. But last week, we found a for-sale-by-owner property and made an offer to the owner without calling our agent. Since our Realtor spent so much time trying to find a house for us, are we obligated to involve him in this purchase?  Rob

Dear Rob: This type of situation is a sore spot with many real estate professionals. Your Realtor devoted many hours to your search for a home and now will receive nothing for those efforts. Unless you have a contract with him, you are under no obligation. However, most agents feel that the time and effort they spend showing property to a prospective client warrants some loyalty.

The seller in this case is clearly under no obligation to pay a real estate commission, nor is it likely that he would be willing to pay one. So there’s probably no way to involve your Realtor in the current transaction.

The most fair and respectful way to have handled this situation would have been to inform your Realtor of your interest in the property, rather than contacting the seller directly. The Realtor could then have called the seller and said, “I have clients who are interested in your home. Would you be willing to pay a reduced commission if I bring you an offer?” At that point, the seller could have accepted or declined. If he had declined, you would have been free to make your own offer, without misgivings between you and your agent.

At this point, you can choose whether or not to inform your Realtor of the decision you have made. Expressing your concern and extending your apologies would probably be more respectful than to say nothing at all.