Day 309

Ocean Grove is one of the prettiest beach towns I’ve ever visited. In fact, after little San Juan del Sur on the Pacific Ocean in Nicaragua, it might be my favorite beach town of all time.  Restful and close to home; clean and friendly. It’s got everything: ocean, rock jetties, truly quaint historic cottages, trees, ocean breezes, front porches, Nagle’s Ice Cream Parlor, and for those nights when OG is not enough, there’s the Asbury Park boardwalk, music wailing from the Stone Pony, great new restaurants, and lovely ocean-front cafes open from breakfast, straight on till morning.

Given all that, it’s little wonder that Leslie fell in love with an amazing little cottage that just hit the market at $299K. The place was charming and just right for a single mom looking for a new, cozy adventure in her life. We passed it on our big walk, and sat on the porch for twenty minutes. Then we called the number on the For Sale sign.

The next afternoon we met the real estate agent. He had a crew cut and a double-parked silver sports car. He was as big as an ex-marine, and he didn’t stand up or take his sunglasses off when we climbed onto the porch. What he did, was greet Leslie with a dual-agency agreement

“Just sign this before you go into the house,” he said. “It’s a formality.”

He said that he was obligated by law to have Leslie sign an agreement stating that she understood that should she make an offer on the house, he would be a dual agent on the place, representing both the seller and Leslie, the buyer.

“If you don’t sign that, I can get in a lot of trouble,” he said. “I can get a fine, and I can lose my license.”

The thing is, the guy was lying. The only way he could get in trouble is if, later on, he acted as a dual agent to Leslie without ever having her sign the dual agency disclosure agreement.  But it was not necessary for Leslie to agree to dual agency before walking through the house. It wasn’t necessarily in her best interest. And it certainly was not in the home seller’s best interest.

My word of caution isn’t against dual agency — that’s your choice and prerogative when buying or selling a home.  My cautionary tale is do not sign anything a real estate agent hands you without knowing what it is you’re signing. And why.

For more information on dual agency, check out MyBigWalker Toni’s article in the New York Times.