Real Estate Agency Law in Virginia
On July 1, 2012, HB 1907 went into effect in Virginia. The law significantly amended real estate agency in the Commonwealth.
Agency law reflects the relationship a licensee has with a consumer in a real estate transaction. There are two basic types of an agency relationship: standard (or, “full service”) and limited service.
In the past, real estate agents were only required to disclose whom they represented; they didn’t necessarily specify to the consumer what services would be provided. Also, real estate agents were only required to disclose the law of agency, verbally or in writing, at the first significant conversation about real estate.
The law now cleans this up quite a bit and aims to protect the consumer. First, agency must be disclosed, in writing. Second, the services the real estate agent will provide to the consumer must be fully disclosed, in writing. Third, agents must disclose their fees and when they are to be paid. Fourth, if a real estate agent is a dual agent (represents both the buyer and seller), a stronger disclosure must be signed by both parties which thoroughly outlines the limitations of dual agency.
The law specifies that a real estate licensee must have the consumer sign a agency disclosure form prior to engaging in any type of “licensed activity”. For example, you notice a house down the street just came on the market for sale. You call the Brokerage who is listed on the sign and make an appointment to see the house. The real estate agent cannot offer advice, negotiate, write an offer, or any other license-required task for a consumer unless the agency relationship is fully disclosed and accepted, in writing.
Don’t panic when you are asked to sign a form when “just asking questions” about a house. In fact, be proactive! Ask to see the required forms at the beginning of your appointment, review them, ask any questions and be a more informed consumer from the beginning.