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Dual-agent realtors owe fiduciary duties to buyers and sellers

When some buyers look for homes, they use the same realtors who are representing the sellers in order to complete their deals. A November ruling by the California Supreme Court says that realtors who fill dual roles in real estate transactions owe fiduciary duties to both the buyers and sellers who are involved in the deals.

It is legally permissible for realtors to have dual agency, representing both buyers and sellers in the same transaction. When they do, however, they must disclose all relevant information about the properties to the buyers in order to fulfill their fiduciary duties to them.

In the case that went before the California Supreme Court, a buyer purchased a home that was advertised as having 15,000 square feet in its listing. The realtor handling the deal did not have the square footage verified. Later, the buyer discovered that the home had substantially less square feet than what he was told, and he sued Coldwell Banker and the realtor for breaching their fiduciary duties to him. The Supreme Court ruled that dual agents owe fiduciary duties to buyers and sellers alike.

Disputes sometimes arise between different parties in real estate transactions or with property uses. Homes are often the largest purchase that people may make in their lives, and the stakes can be high when they are not told accurate information or when they are told that they cannot complete certain renovations by a homeowners' association. A real estate attorney might help to resolve disputes between homeowners' associations and property owners. In the case that a seller or realtor failed to disclose important information about a property before a real estate transaction closed, an attorney may file a civil lawsuit in order to seek damages for on behalf of the client.

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