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Real Estate

Should I Sign an Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement?

Should you sign an exclusive buyer agency agreement with that real estate agent you just met? Not before you read this. Beware sneaky real estate agents!

Buyer Agency Agreements in Washington State

Washington State requires real estate agents to have their buyers sign a buyer agency agreement. If they don’t, the agent won’t get paid when the buyer purchases a home. The Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) has provided agents with a standard form buyer agency agreement called the “Buyer Brokerage Services Agreement”.

What Is a Buyer Brokerage Services Agreement?

A buyer brokerage services agreement refers to the standardized form buyer agency agreement promulgated by the NWMLS. This form serves several purposes. It ensures that the buyer knows the agent represents them, and not any other party in the transaction. It establishes what the agent will be paid when the transaction closes. And, it describes what happens if the buyer decides to go and work with another agent. The last part is the one you really need to watch out for.

Sneaky Real Estate Agents

Far be it from me to denigrate my comrade realtors. But, it has to be said… Some real estate agents lie, sometimes. Shocking, I know. But it’s important to trust the person you’re working with. Even more so when you’re just deciding whether to work with them or not in the first place. After all, if you knew ahead of time that a real estate agent didn’t have your best interest at heart, you wouldn’t work with them, would you.

Here’s one way you can tell if the realtor you’re talking to is a sneaky real estate agent or an honest real estate agent.

Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive Representation Agreements

Scenario: your aunt’s mom’s cousin’s second-wife just told you her son, John, is a local Seattle real estate agent. You, nice person that you are, feel obligated to sit down and speak with them about helping you buy a house. After all, aren’t all real estate agents basically the same? So, you set a meeting to talk with Agent John. He sounds like a nice enough guy on the phone, very excited and eager to help you on your “home buying journey”.

You show up at Agent John’s office and talk with him for 10, 15, 30 minutes or so. He seems to know a good deal about the market, and he claims he has sold hundreds of homes in the past. That may all well be true. But then, just as things are wrapping up, Agent John says, “oh, and one more thing. You’ll need to sign an agency agreement with me. There’s a new law that says they’re required. So, my hands are tied. It’s ok though–any agent you speak to would have you sign an exclusive agreement with them.”

STOP. Hold everything. Agent John just lied.

Real Estate Agent Lie #4,579: You HAVE to Sign an Exclusive Agreement to Work with Me

You do not have to sign an exclusive agreement with anyone. It’s simply not true.

Yes, real estate agents ARE REQUIRED to have you sign a buyer agency agreement/buyer brokerage services agreement in order for them to get paid. BUT, there is no rule anywhere stating that this must be an exclusive agreement.

The NWMLS Buyer Brokerage Services Agreement makes this perfectly clear. (Smaller image below for smartphone users).

washington state buyer brokerage services agreement; standard form buyer agency agreement washington state; exclusive versus non-exclusive agreement

large washington state buyer brokerage services agreement; standard form buyer agency agreement washington state; exclusive versus non-exclusive agreement

You, potential home buyer, have the option to select “non-exclusive” when signing a brokerage services agreement with your real estate agent. Here’s what that means.

Non-Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement, Defined

If you work with Agent John, and you signed his “Exclusive” agreement, because you felt you had to, you’re stuck with him. Even if you fire him, Agent John has a right to sue you for commission money if you later go on to purchase with another agent. All he needs to do is prove that he told you about the property first. This could be as simple as him having set up an automated email search for you–you don’t even need to have actually checked it.

If you sign a non-exclusive agency agreement, the agent you work with will still get paid when your transaction closes. However, if you fire that agent, you aren’t going to be stuck in legal limbo. A non-exclusive agreement merely states that you agree not to put an offer in on a house with that agent and then later go back and buy the same house by yourself or with another agent. It doesn’t significantly limit your ability to work with another agent if it makes sense for you, or if you just feel like things aren’t working out with your existing agent.

Why We Don’t Like When Realtors Lie About Agency Agreements

Sure, some realtors who say they require an exclusive representation agreement simply don’t know the law. I buy that. But some do, and those who do sometimes claim otherwise. We don’t like this deceitful high pressure sales tactic.

The upshot of all this? If an agent tells you that you MUST sign an exclusive agreement, tell them no. Say you’re willing to sign a NON-EXCLUSIVE agreement with them, if you decide they are a good fit. But, if you run into an agent who refuses to even talk to you with you signing an exclusive representation agreement, take our advice and find someone else. That realtor just ain’t for you.


If you have questions about buyer representation agreements, or anything else having to do with Seattle real estate, do not hesitate to reach out to me and the team directly! For more of our thoughts on Buyer Agency Agreements, check out our “Lawyer Hat” blog on the topic, here!


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About Ryan

Ryan attended law school at the University of Washington. He obtained his WSBA bar license in 2018 and practiced law in Washington for three years prior to joining Get Happy at Home.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this blog post is for general informational purposes only. We do not intend this blog as legal advice and it should not be relied upon as a substitute for consulting with a qualified legal professional. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, the law is constantly evolving, and the content of this post may not reflect the most current legal standards or interpretations. Always consult with a licensed attorney or legal expert for advice specific to your situation. Any reliance you place on the information from this blog post is strictly at your own risk. We do not accept any responsibility for any loss, injury, claim, liability, or damage of any kind resulting from the use of, reference to, or reliance on the information provided in this blog post.

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Ryan Palardy