Brett Stomps | Windermere

Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreements

There is a new step for buyers who want to utilize the services of a real estate broker. It's called a buyer agency agreement, and there are two types that you should know the differences of.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

About Buyer Agency Agreements

Buyer agreements define the relationship between the buyer and the agent. It’s like a listing agreement, whereas both agreements outline the location, term, compensation, and services to be provided.

Here is a preview of the Oregon and Washington buyer agency agreements.

Washington Buyer Agency Agreement
Oregon Agency Agreement

Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive

So, if you are contemplating working with me or another agent, or multiple agents, perhaps in multiple areas, it’s important to know what you are signing, so you do not have conflicting buyer agency agreements.

You don’t want to owe two commissions do you?

In this article, I am going to explain how to prevent these conflicts, by explaining the difference between exclusive & non-exclusive agreements. Then, while I’m at it, I’ll explain the pros and cons of each option and how these are generally used in the real estate industry (as of today).

Exclusive Agreements

Exclusive, in context of a buyer’s agency agreement for representation means that you only work with that agent in the area defined of that agreement. They are generally 6 months to 1 year in length.

Be warned though, if you sign a exclusive agreement with someone else, your exclusive agreement will not overwrite the other. If you have a non-exclusive agreement however, and you sign a exclusive agreement with someone else, it will overwrite the non-exclusive agreement.

However, depending on the work rendered by the non-exclusive agent before signing the exclusive agreement, the non-exclusive agent may be owed commission if you write an offer using the exclusive agent, even though you toured it with the non-exclusive agent.

See how this can get tricky?

Don’t Overlap Exclusive Agreements in the Same Area

As mentioned above regarding conflicts, you are allowed to have more than one exclusive buyer agency agreement, you just need to watch out and not overlap exclusive agreements in the same area.

Be careful of agents who use broad terms like, “Portland metro & surrounding areas”. Personally, I would not sign with these agents, as writing vague language like this demonstrates they do not understand their own paperwork and show little care for your interests.

Negotiate a Comfortable Term

When hiring a buyer broker to assist you, exclusive agreements are great if you really want to commit yourself to that agent. For the term you both sign, you two are married (essentially). Now, you can both terminate the agreement, but this may not release your obligations to pay commission if you buy a property with another agent that the previous agent (now terminated) showed you.

I usually suggest signing an exclusive agreement once you’ve had a chance to get to know the agent.

Buyers who sign an exclusive agreement with an agent (who you hopefully vetted) will receive their upmost attention. So long as you buy in the area defined in the agency relationship with that agent, your agent will get paid. They like that, and therefore, your agent is incentivized to give you their best.


This means, you can work with other agents using a non-exclusive agreement. However, be warned, if you sign an exclusive agreement with another agent in the same area, this will void your non-exclusive agency relationship.

Be careful though, as you may have legal obligations to the non-exclusive agent. The most common being, the non-exclusive agent showed you property, that you then purchased using your exclusive agent within the expiration clause of the agreement.

Term Length

These terms are usually shorter by agent preference (at least from my perspective as an agent in the Columbia Gorge). Though, there isn’t a rule that prevents you from agreeing to a 1 year term (or more) with your agent.

I use non-exclusive agreements in my business as a way to give clients a trial of my services, while also giving me the chance to get to know them. I usually offer this for 1 month, after which point, if we make a good team, I will ask them to become exclusive with me for maybe 6 months to 1 year.

The Commitment Isn’t as Strong

Though, in my business, I owe my alliance to those who are committed to me and who choose exclusive agreements. So, take it for what it’s worth, the less you commit your time to an agent, the less they’re going to commit their time to you.

Sign as Many as You’d Like

Truly, for those of you who don’t want to stick to any one real estate agent, non-exclusive agreements are the way to go. You may not make any friends with the local agents and you may never get one to help you find anything worthwhile, but if you just need someone to do the paperwork when you find the right one yourself, this is a fine route to take.

Options are great, aren’t they?

In Summary

The big key here is to not overlap your exclusive agency commitments in the same areas.

Knowing the differences between exclusive and non-exclusive agreements can allow you to control your real estate journey. Want to only work with one agent per area? Great! You can do that. Want to work with only agent in the whole state? Great, you can do that too.

Heck, if you want, you can sign dozens of non-exclusive agency agreements and have an army of buyer brokers by your side. Now, will that render the highest level of service from each of those agents? Probably not, but hey, it’s your journey.

That’s the beauty of buyer agency agreements. They’re here to stay, and by having taken the time to read this article to find out the differences of between exclusive and non-exclusive agreements, you now are that much closer to controlling and completing your real estate journey.


The information provided on is intended to be educational and accurate. However, information on does not substitute as buyer and seller due diligence when transacting real estate. Buyers and sellers are advised to work directly with a licensed real estate professional, seek additional professional services when applicable, and to inquire at the state, county, and city offices for their due diligence.