There is no legal requirement to hire a real estate agent in the search for a home in Vermont. In fact, buyers have the right to refuse to be represented by an agent.
• While buyers are not required to hire an agent, many do to help with the process. Agents can be very useful in guiding a buyer and helping to avoid the pitfalls in the process.
• If you are going to hire an agent, you should first determine what they are going to charge you. If they tell you not to worry about it because the seller pays the commission then you should worry. Technically the seller hands your agent the check but it is your money the seller is using to pay your agent. Thus, you as the buyer are really paying for your agent.
• You are legally allowed to engage the services of a buyer agent at any time. The real issue of the timing of the decision is that it may affect the ability of your agent to get paid by the seller.
• Many listing (i.e. seller) agents will argue that if you see the property with the listing agent then if you subsequently hire a buyer's agent that the buyer's agent would not be eligible for a commission from the seller.
• The legal standard is whether the buyer's agent is the "procuring cause." While there is not much law in Vermont on this subject, in many other States simply showing a buyer a property once does not make a listing (i.e. seller) agent the procuring cause of the sale. The listing agent must be the agent who secured the offer from the buyer.
• If you are going to hire a buyer's agent, we recommend hiring the agent prior to seeing any property to avoid any arguments.
• In the event you have already seen a property with a listing agent and now want to hire a buyer's agent, you may want to consult an attorney to determine which agent will be the procuring cause under Vermont law.
• Buyers should also note that there are limitations in Vermont on agents from the same firm representing both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction. Vermont law requires that the agents make disclosures when this is the case. When looking for an agent we recommend that buyers ask firms in advance how they deal with cases where the buyer and seller are represented by different agents in the firm.