What is a Sub-Agent in Real Estate?

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By: Joe Stephenson


  1. What is a Sub-Agent?
  2. Roles and Responsibilities
  3. Examples
  4. What Does a Sub-Agent Do?
  5. Limitations
  6. FAQs
  7. How to Get Started
  8. Join Our Newsletter


An agent might use the assistance of other agents, who are called subagents. They assist a real estate agent. The subagent is also an agent of the principal. Certain agency relationships are considered fiduciary, meaning they are relationships involving great trust and confidence between the principal and the agent, and the agent must act with high standards of care.

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Role and Responsibilities of a Sub-Agent

A sub-agent's primary duty is to find potential buyers and negotiate on behalf of the seller.

They must adhere to all legal and ethical standards of the real estate industry, including fiduciary duties to the seller.

  • The sub-agent finds prospective buyers for the property.
  • They negotiate offers to ensure the best price for the seller.
  • Sub-agents owe fiduciary duties to the seller, such as reasonable care and confidentiality

Examples of a Sub-Agent

Sub-agents are often found in larger brokerage firms or in situations where the listing broker needs assistance in managing multiple listings.

They work closely with other real estate agents to ensure a smooth real estate transaction.

  • Sub-agents can be found in large brokerage firms, assisting with multiple listings.
  • They work closely with listing agents and other real estate agents.
  • They help facilitate smooth real estate transactions.
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What Does a Subagent Do?

Sub-agents play a critical role in the home buying process.

They help market the property, arrange viewings for interested buyers, and handle negotiations with prospective buyers.

  • Sub-agents market the property to attract potential buyers.
  • They arrange property viewings for interested buyers.
  • They negotiate with prospective buyers to secure the best deal for the seller.
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Differences Between Sub-agents, Buyer's Agents, and a Listing Broker

A sub-agent represents the seller's interest, while a buyer's agent represents the buyer.

The listing broker is the agent representing the seller and has the authority to designate sub-agents.

  • Sub-agents represent the seller.
  • Buyer's agents represent the buyer.
  • The listing broker represents the seller and can designate sub-agents.

Sub-Agent Limitations

Sub-agents cannot represent the buyer's best interests as their fiduciary duty is to the seller.

They are also limited by state laws and regulations governing agency relationships in real estate.

  • Sub-agents cannot represent the buyer's best interests.
  • They are bound by state laws and regulations.
  • Their fiduciary duties are to the seller.
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Potential Disadvantages for Buyers in the Sub-Agency Model

In the sub-agency model, the buyer does not have an agent advocating for their best interests.

This could lead to issues in negotiating offers or understanding the home buying process.

  • The buyer does not have a dedicated representative in the sub-agency model.
  • Buyers may face challenges in negotiation and understanding the real estate proces
  • There may be potential conflicts of interest in this model.


Are sub-agents different from real estate agents?

Yes, sub-agents are real estate agents who represent the seller's interests, not the buyer's.

How is a sub-agent different from a buyer's agent?

A sub-agent represents the seller, while a buyer's agent represents the buyer's interests.

What is the most significant disadvantage of sub-agency in real estate?

The most significant disadvantage of sub-agency is that the buyer does not have a dedicated agent advocating for their best interests.

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Important Facts About Sub-Agents in Real Estate Transactions

In the realm of real estate transactions, understanding the roles of different agents is crucial. A sub-agent is essentially a seller's agent who works under a listing agent or a real estate broker.

They assist in selling properties by finding interested buyers and owe fiduciary duties to the seller.

This means they must act in the best interest of the seller, not the buyer.

However, they must equally respect confidential information from both the buyer and the seller.

The agency relationship between a sub-agent and the seller is typically established through the listing agent or broker called upon by the seller.

In some cases, a brokerage firm may have both seller's agents and buyer's agents.

When a buyer's agent agrees to show a property listed by the seller's agent, a designated agency relationship is formed.

Most buyers prefer having their own buyer's representative to protect their own interests.

This representative, also known as a buyer's agent, helps prospective buyers navigate home buying transactions.

These agents owe fiduciary duties to the buyers and must always act in their best interest, unlike sub-agents or seller's agents.

Some regions have abolished sub-agency due to issues of vicarious liability and potential legal trouble.

In such a case, exclusive agreements between buyers and their agents or sellers and their agents are encouraged.

These exclusive agreements ensure that the interests of each party are protected, and there is clear representation in each transaction.

Remember, it's essential for all parties involved in a real estate transaction to understand their relationships and responsibilities to avoid confusion and potential disputes.

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How to Get Setup with a Sub-Agent in Real Estate

To get started with a sub-agent in real estate, the first step is to find an experienced local agent.

This agent should understand fiduciary duties and be committed to protecting your fiduciary interests.

Be cautious of any signs of a bad agent, such as lack of responsiveness or poor knowledge of the local market.

Once you have found an agent, discuss the concept of sub-agency.

The subagent's primary duty is to the home seller, but they must also treat all parties fairly. It's essential to understand this point as it can often be overlooked.

Then, decide on how the subagent will operate.

This should be in writing to avoid any misunderstandings later. Make sure you give your written consent to the arrangement.

Remember, even though the subagent owes their primary loyalty to the seller, they are still obligated to treat you, the buyer, fairly.

Next, negotiate the commission split.

Sub-agents typically earn a portion of the commission that the selling agent receives from the home seller.

As a prospective buyer, this shouldn't affect you directly, but it's good to know how your agent is compensated.

It's important to note that the subagent can be held responsible for their actions by either the buyer or the seller.

So, if you feel your interests are not being adequately represented, you may have recourse.

A good agent will play hardball when necessary, but always in a way that respects the interests of all parties involved.

Finally, remember that the subagent owes fiduciary duties to the seller, but must treat the interested buyer honestly and fairly.

This balance can be tricky to maintain, so choose your sub-agent carefully to ensure a smooth and successful real estate transaction.

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