Definition of "What is a general agent?"

Edgar Flores real estate agent

Written by

Edgar Floreselite badge icon

EXP Realty, LLC

When you hear someone referring to a real estate agent type as a “general agent”, it might seem that someone is calling that agent “basic”, common. Right? But the truth is that general agent is a term that can refer to two other different situations and classifications an agent finds himself into.

The first general agent definition basically deals with liability.

But to understand what is a general agent in the liability sphere, one must understand its counterpart: the special agent.

Here’s the thing: don’t real estate agent have a number of listing agreements they can celebrate with home sellers? An exclusive agency, exclusive rights to sell, open listing… Well,  those real estate agents also have to deal with two types of relationships with the principal broker she will go about things freely, with the principal broker having almost no authority to bind the real estate agent; that agent is referred to as a special agent. What does that mean in practical terms is that – should anything go sour – the real estate agent takes the blame and not the principal broker. The broker’s responsibility is limited to whatever it is in their contract that he or she is responsible for – like listing the home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), marketing the property etc. But, concerning the rest, the special agent is the one who replies to.

Which leads us to the question of what is a general agent in the realm of liability and misrepresentation with a client.

A general agent is the opposite of everything we’ve talked about so far. With a general agent, the broker is always responsible for anything that happens. It’s very much like the general agent is sponsored by the broker and works on his behalf: the person with not only the fiduciary responsibility but all responsibilities in connection with the client is the principal broker and not the agent.

Alright, now let’s answerwhat is a general agent under another lens.

One referring to a general agent might also be commenting on the area of work and power of attorney of that real estate agent concerning his client. To this classification of general agent, its counterpart is the universal agent, a “unicorn” who has the rare power of attorney to act on behalf of the client with full power on just about every aspect of the game. He can sign legal documents, purchase and sell land for them.

Meanwhile, the general agent is the most common type, a real estate agent that has limitations to the areas where he has freedom. The general agent must have written or clear verbal confirmation of the home seller (or home buyer) to do things like make or accept an offer on a house etc.


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