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Find out why working with an agent representing both the buyer and seller is generally not a good idea. (Image of estate sale listing at Ritz Tower, #10CD via Douglas Elliman) Find out why working with an agent representing both the buyer and seller is generally not a good idea. (Image of estate sale listing at Ritz Tower, #10CD via Douglas Elliman)
Conventional wisdom tells buyers and sellers to avoid working with a dual agent, and the reason is simple. Since dual agents work for both parties, it is impossible for them to represent the best interest of both parties. Dual agency is so controversial that it is even illegal in some U.S. states, including Florida and Vermont.

In New York State, dual agency is legal but with several restrictions. Most notably, New York State law requires agents representing the buyer and seller to inform both parties of their “agency relationship and the rights and obligations it creates” and obtain written consent. This article summarizes the pros and many cons of working with dual agents.

Reasons to Avoid Working with a Dual Agent

First and foremost, a dual agent can’t offer the full range of services offered by an agent who only represents one side of a transaction. If you’re a seller, this essentially means you’ll end up paying an agent’s full fee (usually 6%) for partial or incomplete services. But the risks may be even higher for buyers.

Although buyers don’t pay agents’ fees (the seller typically covers both the buyer and seller agents’ fees), buyers have even more to lose when they choose to work with a dual agent. Since the agent also represents the seller, they are highly unlikely to help the buyer get the best deal possible. In addition, a dual agent is also unlikely to encourage the buyer to carry out a full inspection—one that might reveal flaws that could put them in a better position to bargain or even dissuade them from buying the property.
Read New York State’s “Be Wary of Dual Agency” memorandum to learn more about the potential risks of working with a dual agent.
NYC Estate sales dual agency illegal

Potential Exceptions

While most sellers are looking to make as much as possible from a sale and may be willing to wait to get the highest possible bid, for some sellers, the speed of the sale is a top concern (e.g., when settling an estate). In this case, a dual agent can be helpful. Well-positioned to mediate between the buyer and seller, a dual agent may be able to accelerate a closing. In some cases, dual agents may also be willing to close a deal for a lower fee (e.g., 4.5% or 5% rather than the standard 6%), which can save the seller tens of thousands of dollars at closing.

Even if there are a few potential advantages for sellers looking to close a deal quickly, working with a dual agent is still rarely the best or only option. For example, in estate sale situations when sellers often want to close quickly and avoid the cost and time of staging a property, finding an investor willing to buy the property “as-is” in a cash-only deal is nearly always a better option.

Rights and Expectations When Working with Dual Agent

As per New York State law, in a dual agency situation, “the agent will not be able to provide the full range of fiduciary duties to the buyer and seller.” For this reason, the law further stipulates, “A buyer or seller should carefully consider the possible consequences of a dual agency relationship before agreeing to such representation.” Still, despite this reality, dual agency is legal in New York State. If you end up working with a dual agent, this is what you need to know.
First, if you’re working with a dual agent as a buyer or seller, they must a.) informed you upfront and b.) obtain your written consent to proceed. Second, as already noted, when working with a dual agent, it is important to have realistic expectations. A dual agent is more likely to play the role of a mediator than a coach. Finally, buyers, in particular, need to be prepared to do a lot more leg work. A buyer’s agent will generally do whatever they can to discover information relevant to drive the negotiations, including digging deep to find information to help the negotiations tip in the buyer’s favor. A dual agent is very limited in what they can reveal, which naturally disadvantages buyers.
As a rule of thumb, one should avoid working with a dual agent whenever possible. If you do find yourself in this situation, know your rights. If you were coerced or tricked into working with a dual agent or never gave your consent, report the violation to New York’s Department of State.

Active NYC Estate Sales

303 West 122nd Street
From the Listing: Offered is a sunny and spacious south-east facing, 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment having 9-foot ceilings, lots of closets, a windowed kitchen, a windowed living/dining room, and windowed bathroom. Washer/dryer and dishwasher allowed with board approval. $617 monthly maintenance includes heat and hot water. HDFC cooperative. 120% area median income (AMI) applies. See floor plan and full details here.

321 East 54th Street-02
From the Listing: This quiet, very bright pre-war studio has nine-foot ceilings and the original hardwood floors and moldings. With two windows in the main room and windows in both the kitchen and bathroom, all that is missing is the creative mind that can see the potential in doing a renovation. The kitchen can be completely opened to the main room. The building does allow dishwashers. See floor plan and full details here.

2940 coney Island real estate
From the Listing: **Please be advised this is an estate sale and price is firm. Make this 1000 Sq Ft spacious 2 bedroom/1 bathroom apartment your new home in Coney Island! Unit 10F features a generous layout that includes a separate kitchen fitted with appliances and custom wooden cabinetry, a massive living area with enough space for both your living and dining room furniture, and two sundrenched king-sized bedrooms, one of which is the master that comes with a deep walk-in closet. Additional features include a full bath fitted with a tub, double pane insulated windows, abundant storage space, and original detailing. Low maintenance of $824 per month, with electricity and gas included. 2 See floor plan and full details here.

estate sales distressed nYC properties
From the Listing: You will love the potential this charming & open 2 bedroom apartment (600 SF Approx) which has a great layout including original French doors and windows in every room allowing for wonderful natural light. Windowed Eat-in-Kitchen, extra high ceiling, hardwood floors and lots of Pre-War details throughout. Easy Access as this apt is located on the ground floor. See floor plan and full details here.

Chatham Towers Park NYC downtown
From the Listing: Situated downtown between TriBeCa, Chinatown and the Financial District, 170 Park Row is directly across the street from Columbus Park and is convenient to many forms of transportation. The approximately 500 square feet studio is south facing with great light. The building has a live-in super and a 24 hour doorman. See floor plan and full details here.

75 Henry Street
From the Listing: Sun Splashed coop has Southern views to Governor's Island. This cheerful apartment features 5 side-by-side windows across the entire space. There is a welcoming foyer, a sweet dining room off the kitchen, and a good-sized living area. A bonus is the TONS of closets. See floor plan and full details here.

Sutton Manor
From the Listing: This rarely available corner one bedroom featuring treetop views, and abundant morning sunshine, is the talk of Sutton Place. The foyer with 2 large closets leads to an oversized living room perfect for entertaining or working from home. Whether cooking or simply enjoying an afternoon tea, the pass-through windowed kitchen is perfect. The dining area, complete with an east-facing bay window, provides ample room for small or large gatherings. A king bed, nightstands, and clothes dresser all fit comfortably within the primary suite. See floor plan and full details here.

The Finch
From the Listing: This move-in ready home has a double northern and eastern exposure, a completely renovated kitchen with stainless steel appliances, a self-venting hood, as well as a renovated bathroom in a clean contemporary style. There is a central full-service laundry room in the building on the second floor and a daily Doorman Monday thru Friday from Noon to 8 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 10 PM. See floor plan and full details here.

750 Park Avenue
From the Listing: Welcome to this bright, East facing, one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op on the corner of prestigious 72nd street and Park Ave on the Upper East Side. This estate sale unit is the perfect canvas for its new owners' tastes! As you step inside the generous living room you will be greeted by a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that provide access to a wrap-around private terrace with a glimpse of Central Park. See floor plan and full details here.

NYC Apartments
From the Listing: This truly sprawling split 2 bedroom is now available in the iconic Park Ten. South and East facing windows with tree-line views greet you upon entry into the oversized Great Room with a separate dining area. This is an art collector's dream as well as the perfect entertaining space. The large windowed kitchen with two entranceways provides ample storage and counter space. Two king-sized bedrooms are pin-drop quiet and there are two full baths as well. This estate sale is a rare opportunity to reimagine this giant home and make it your own. See floor plan and full details here.

Ritz Tower
Ritz Tower estate sale
Ritz Tower
From the Listing: Apartment 10CD, is a truly lovely and spacious full-time home, or the perfect pied-a-terre, and the epitome of the refinement of the Ritz Tower is known for. Although an estate sale, the apartment is in pristine move-in condition. Fully renovated and comprising six rooms, including two split bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths, this South East corner-facing gem with its high-end fixtures and finishes exudes quality at every turn See floor plan and full details here.

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Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.