Are you a customer or a client? Do you know the difference?


This is a well written post for everyone who is interested in buying a property to read.  There are agents who work as dual agents; there are buyer agents and listing agents.  The safest decision to make is for a buyer to sign a buyer agency agreement with a buyers agent and become a client to that buyers agent.

Via Janna Rankin Scharf Coeur d’Alene and North Idaho Homes (Keller Williams Realty Coeur d’Alene):

Janna Rankin Scharf, GRI, CLHMS, SFR – Coeur d’Alene Idaho Real Estate Agent

As a Realtor, I work with both customers and clientsDo you know the difference? 

Customer or ClientI am a real estate agent when I’m working for my clients.  I am a non-agent when working with my customers.  The difference is whether or not you and I have entered into a written agreement for agency representation.

Typically, sellers enter into a written agency agreement with the signing of the listing agreement.  There are exceptions, but not often.  Almost always, a listing agent is actually that, an agent of the seller.

On the other hand, buyers tend to be more inclined to remain customers as they work with a Realtor to buy a house.  A buyer agency agreement will transform you from customer to client status.  I don’t believe any buyer who understood agency would proceed without it.

The biggest difference to you, between being my client or my customer, are some very important obligations I am held accountable to, under state law.  When I am your agent and you are my client, we have a fiduciary relationship and I am legally held to a higher standard of conduct. 

State license law defines the terms of our customer and client relationships – 

When you are my customer I am required to:

  • Perform necessary and customary acts to assist you in the purchase or sale of real estate
  • Perform these acts in good faith and with honest and reasonable care
  • Properly account for money or other property you place in the licensee’s care
  • Disclose adverse material facts which are, or should be, within the licensee’s knowledge

    As a customer, your brokerage will not act as your agent and is not required to promote your best interests or keep your bargaining information confidential.  If you use the services of a brokerage without a written agreement, you will remain a customer.

When you are my client, the points above apply, along with these addition obligations:

If you choose to sign a representation agreement, you will become a Client.  The brokerage and its licensees must act as your Agent.  They will owe you the following duties in addition to the basic Customer level services required of all licensees:

  • Perform the terms of your agency agreement with skill and care
  • Promote your best interests in good faith, honesty, and fair dealing
  • Maintain the confidentiality of some client information, including bargaining information, even after the representation has ended.

In a nutshell, as your agent, I am required to work for you with skill and care.  I like to think that I operate that way with everyone, but I’m not required to by law!  If you are my customer, I only need to exercise reasonable care, not skill.  This always makes me smile.

I am also no required to promote your best interest.  This means I am obligated to seek the best possible outcome for YOU, no matter what.  I am not the referee of the transaction, I am your coach, trying to win the toss, get the home team advantage, point out fouls of the other team, get the extra seconds added back to the clock.  I am legally bound to promote YOUR best interest! 

What the confidentiality of the bargaining information means to you is that I cannot tell the other side of the transaction that you would pay more than our offer, or take less than you’re asking.  Or anything else that has to do with your motivation.  On the other hand, if I know anything about the motivation of the other party which would be in your best interest to know, I am obligated to pass that information to you.

(Now having explained this, you can clearly see the disadvantage to a buyer who is working with the seller’s listing agent to purchase a property.)

Specific duties owed by a real estate brokerage and its licensees to Idaho consumers are defined by the “Idaho Real Estate Brokerage Representation Act.” Idaho Code Section 54-2082, et seq. 

Janna Scharf Sells Real Estate in Coeur d'alene IdahoJanna Rankin Scharf  provides a superior level of real estate services to home buyers and sellers in Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County, Idaho. Visit to search for homes in the Coeur d’Alene MLS for anywhere in spectacular North Idaho.

No matter how grand or modest your real estate dreams may be, you can turn to me in confidence.  Give me a call today and let me know what I can do to be of service to you!

Janna Rankin Scharf AB, GRI, CSP, CNS, CLHMS  208.651.9700


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About susanmorrison

After living in Walpole, MA for many years, our family was transferred to the west coast when I was a senior in high school. In 1983, I graduated from Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, California. I am also a 1987 graduate of Providence College with a major in liberal arts and a minor in business administration. I bring to the table many years of sales experience beginning with thirteen years in Corporate Sales at Delta Air Lines. I'm the mother of three children and I'm very active within the Franklin, MA community. I am also a cancer survivor and support the American Cancer Society Charities.

My husband and I have built five homes and I've lived in a variety of other locations including Toronto Canada, Irving Texas and my current home in Franklin, MA. As a result of all my moving around, I came to the conclusion that I was an expert at moving...why not become an expert on the other side of the table? I earned my real estate license in 2004 and believe that I have found my true niche'. I can empathize with my clients on a variety of levels; whether they are buying or selling. And, like so many other good realtors out there, I believe that possessing good communication skills is one of the many keys to success.

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