Newsletter February 13, 2024

New Year, New Laws! What This Means for Consumers Moving Forward.

Effective January 1, 2024, the statute in Washington that governs real estate brokerage relationships (RCW 18.86) otherwise known as the “Agency Law” – was significantly revised. The revisions modernize the 25-year-old law, provide additional transparency and consumer protections, and acknowledge the importance of buyer representation.

For decades, real estate brokerage firms were only required to enter into written agency agreements with sellers, not buyers. The Agency Law now requires firms to enter into a written “brokerage services agreement” (agency agreements) with any party the firm represents, both sellers and buyers.

This change is to ensure that buyers (in addition to sellers) clearly understand the terms of the firm’s representation and compensation, much like a listing agreement. The new agreements are called Buyer Brokerage Service Agreements (BBSA) and they are to be initiated in writing prior to or upon rendering real estate brokerage services, such as showing homes.

The services agreement with buyers must include:

  • The term of the agreement (with a default term of 60 days and an option for a longer term);
  • The name of the broker appointed to be the buyer’s agent;
  • Whether the agency relationship is exclusive or non-exclusive;
  • Whether the buyer consents to the individual broker representing both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction (referred to as “limited dual agency”);
  • Whether the buyer consents to the broker’s designated broker/managing broker’s limited dual agency;
  • The amount the firm will be compensated and who will pay the compensation; and
  • Any other agreements between the parties.

Clearly communicated expectations between the buyer and their broker are an advantage to the buyer. Every party deserves representation and it has been a long time coming for the law to pay as much attention to buyers as it has to sellers. Having competent representation on both sides of a transaction makes the process go smoother and reduces liability during and after the transaction. After all, everyone deserves competent representation during one of the biggest transactions they will partake in.

These changes are intended to elevate transparency in agency relationships for the consumer and encourage more detailed conversations about representation, compensation, and the overall home buying process with the broker they chose to align with. This will also cause sellers to gain a better understanding of how buyer brokers are compensated.

What a seller chooses to offer a buyer broker could have a positive effect on their return. The only way a buyer can compensate their broker is with liquid cash or negotiating with the seller within the purchase and sale agreement when their BBSA doesn’t match the seller-offered compensation for the buyer broker. If their BBSA matches what the seller is offering in the listing for the buyer broker compensation, then the buyer does not have to rely on the prior.

Compensation offered in a listing that mirrors the BBSA will allow a buyer to solely focus on the offer price of the home as they will not have to calculate the math of the compensation against their down-payment funds, as lending regulations do not allow for broker compensation to be financed. If a buyer has to set aside funds for compensation it would likely reduce their down payment amount which would increase their monthly payment and make them more price sensitive. It will also eliminate the compounding effect of compensation and the offer price being simultaneously negotiated.

I have always run my business in a very detailed fashion and pride myself on having a deep knowledge of the laws and the forms, and these changes are paramount. As an independent contractor affiliated with Windermere Real Estate, the leading company in our region, it is up to me to dig into the research and gain understanding to help guide my clients through these advancements in a compliant and service-oriented fashion. There are even aspects of these new laws that I have been practicing before the changes, as transparency is a cornerstone of my value to my clients.

These are the biggest changes we have seen in our industry in over two decades. Be aware that not all brokers will adapt as quickly or accurately. We are already seeing a gross difference between the informed and not informed; who one chooses to work with matters! If you have any further questions about how these new laws affect you, please reach out. If you are considering a move, I am committed to navigating the process with the utmost compliance and my client’s success at the forefront.

REVISED PAMPHLET: The pamphlet entitled “Real Estate Brokerage in Washington” provides an overview of the revised Agency Law.
REVISED AGENCY LAW: Substitute Senate Bill 5191 sets forth the revised Agency Law in its entirety.