As a successful Bay Area divorce attorney, you’d never violate the State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct by trying to represent both spouses during a divorce case. It’s a decision you simply wouldn’t make.
Real estate agents, however, abide by a slightly different set of rules. The average agent can, and sometimes does, legally represent both sides of a real estate transaction, providing they disclose the dual-agency to both clients. These agents collect commissions from both the buyer and the seller, supposably maintaining fiduciary responsibility to both sides. While dual-agency isn’t illegal, it does create a massive ethical grey area for unscrupulous agents to exploit.
The Certified Divorce Real Estate Expert, on the other hand, is ethically prohibited from engaging in this behavior. Trained differently than regular agents, the CDRE abides by attorney’s ethics and has the same fiduciary duty to your clients as you do.
But they can represent your opposing council’s client—the very party you’re fighting against.
Why is that?
It’s because the job of the CDRE is to protect the value of the property and advocate for the interests of the seller. In a divorce case where both spouses hold title to the property, both spouses are the seller. Therefore, the CDRE must represent the interests of both spouses equally. For the CDRE, it’s the buyer that stands on the opposing side of the transaction.
This means that where the sale of their home is concerned, your client’s interests—and their spouse’s—will be represented equally and aggressively against potential buyers. Engaged neutrally by the CDRE, both spouses are entitled to the best marketing, preparation, and exposure available, and neither spouse will have the upper hand or receive preferential treatment because the goal is to sell the house at the highest price in the shortest time possible.
Additionally, the CDRE is prohibited from holding your divorcing clients’ property as a pocket listing. A pocket listing is designed to sell the home fast, but not necessarily for the highest price because the property isn’t marketed to the public at large. Instead, it’s offered privately to a select group of buyers, often resulting in a fast offer. This can be a great option for some sellers who enjoy the privacy of keeping their home off the open market, but that benefit can come at the expense of getting the highest price for the home.
Effectively navigating the sale of a divorcing client’s property can be complicated, especially when you’re ethically restrained from working with both titleholders. By enlisting the help of a Certified Divorce Real Estate Expert, you and your client will be better prepared to offer the home for a successful sale, find hidden paperwork issues before they become major problems, and get the best price on the home in the shortest time possible.
For help navigating your next real estate divorce transaction, give me a call.