About Procuring Cause and Commission Disputes

How to Prevent Procuring Cause Disputes

Female realtor using laptop and talking on cell phone in an empty house


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The "procuring cause" of a real estate transaction is the agent whose actions and efforts ultimately result in the sale of a property. It's the agent who ultimately caused the buyer to purchase the home. As such, that agent is entitled to compensation in the form of a commission.

You don't have to hop from real estate agent to real estate agent to end up causing commission disputes over who is the procuring cause if you should end up buying. You might think that it doesn't make a difference because the seller pays the commission, but buyers typically sign buyer's broker agreements, making the buyer responsible for payment of the commission.

This is the case even though that fee is paid from the seller's proceeds.

The procuring cause agent might not be the one who obtained the offer from the buyer, who presented the offer, or who successfully negotiated the seller's acceptance of that offer. It's not always that black and white. But it's often not the agent who simply showed the home first.

Realtor Association Guidelines

Every state's Realtor association has its own guidelines for establishing procuring cause, but none of them are fast and hard rules. Some facts carry more weight than others.

A buyer could sign an exclusive buyer's broker agreement with one agent, but a second agent who closes the transaction could end up earning the commission. Procuring cause is complicated and the outcome is not always predictable.

You might be opening a can of worms if you don't intend to buy a home from the agent you speak with at an open house, the agent you call for information from a newspaper ad, or an agent you ask to show you a home.

Your best bet to avoid procuring cause disputes is to be upfront with each real estate agent and hire one who's the best qualified to help you find a home.

Make It Clear That You're Working With Another Agent

Most agents will ask you right off the bat if you're working with someone else. Agents are trained to ask you this question, but sometimes they don't. Maybe they're distracted, or they just don't want to hear your answer. Set them straight immediately. Promptly volunteer the information.

Sign a Buyer's Broker Agreement

Sign a buyer's broker agreement with your agent. These agreements should clearly describe compensation and duties, and they'll cement your relationship.

Sign an Agency Disclosure

Agency disclosures describe the various capacities under which an agent can operate. The agent won't know the specific capacity until a property is located, so all capacities are described to you. Be sure to sign one all the same.

When You Want to See Property

Don't ask another agent to show you property. Part of your agent's duties is to show you homes for sale, even if they're homes that you've located yourself. Your own agent is eager to help you. Let your agent earn the commission.

Don't Call Listing Agents

Don't directly call listing agents for information. Your agent will probably get more detailed information through a phone call than you could anyway. There won't be any confusion if your agent calls the listing agent.

Follow Open House Protocol

Follow open house protocol if you attend one unescorted. Hand your agent's business card to the agent hosting the open house if you go alone. Sign guest books with your agent's name next to your own. This way, the open house agent won't try to corral you or request personal information.