In Fiduciary, When the Music’s Over, Turn off the Lights

If you asked a thousand people whether it’s permissible for the buyer’s agent to contact a Sacramento listing agent after closing, expecting her to further question the seller on the buyer’s behalf, I bet 999 of those people would respond: why not? It seems innocent enough. The buyer forgot to ask about something or discovered some new fact and would like more information, right? I mean, who else would the buyer ask? Buyers don’t always understand fiduciary, and neither do agents.

Buyers and sellers also don’t typically trade phone numbers or email addresses prior to closing in Sacramento. It’s not unusual for a buyer to ask his agent for help under those circumstances. The problem with it, though, is the buyer’s agent is no longer the buyer’s agent. Once the transaction closes, the fiduciary relationship that exists between the buyer and the buyer’s agent is over. When the music’s over, turn off the lights.

Now, of course this doesn’t mean an agent can’t remain friends with her client, but she can no longer work in an agent capacity. Moreover, to do so might be considered to be an unauthorized practice of law, depending on what the former buyer’s agent says and does.

This also means the fiduciary relationship that once existed between the listing agent and her seller is over. The most anybody can really expect is for the listing agent to pass along the buyer’s phone number to the seller. Yet, there are agents for whom that line is often blurred. What they hear is a former client needs help and they want to help. It’s a natural reaction.

When the music’s over, turn off the lights. Fiduciary no longer exists. Let’s say a buyer asks the listing agent to quiz the seller about pest work in the basement that was completed years ago. Escrow is already closed. That’s a can o’ worms that should have been answered during escrow. Jumping into the middle of that situation is like asking for trouble.

That’s like asking a seller to sign a disclosure after closing. It’s not a disclosure if escrow is already closed and it can’t be signed.

When the music’s over, turn off the lights.

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