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In most real estate sales, there’s a buyer’s agent and an agent who represents the seller. While there are circumstances in East Hawai`i when a single agent represents both parties, such situations are not the norm.

Our Code

REALTORS® subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics. Our REALTOR® Code of Ethics is the value proposition that sets us apart from non-REALTOR® agents. In fact, the public may not realize that agents who do not subscribe to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics cannot even be called REALTORs®. Our code is a document upon which we pledge to abide by the highest ethical standards.

Clear Representation

One provision of our Code of Ethics requires us to work under “written agreement” with those we represent. While we’re conditioned to obtain a written listing agreement with the seller, we often forget to do the same with our buyer clients. None-the-less, we assume an agency relationship and head out to show property without so much as an initial interview with a prospective buyer.

It’s especially disconcerting when a buyer’s “agent” requests a seller’s agent to show “their” buyer a listing. It’s rather like asking a defendant to show up to court without their attorney. Even as a dual agent (representing both buyer and seller), I’m strictly limited regarding the functions I can perform for buyer and seller, but at least I’m working under specific guidelines.

Standing By Our Buyers

Trying to determine duties with an unrepresented buyer is virtually impossible. While I’m very happy to meet a buyer and their agent at my listing, a seller’s agent should never be asked to meet another agent’s buyer. After all, how is an agent who isn’t there to represent their buyer going to write a contract without ever seeing the property? And who is to say that we haven’t become an “accidental dual agent.” COVID has certainly complicated this process, but it’s still vitally important that representation is clear from the get-go.

So, whether buying or selling, it is simple to see the problem when the issue of representation is added to the showing mix! Inventory is extremely tight for buyers, so if you’re serious about seeing a listing, your agent should accompany you on a showing today. Because, depending where it is, it could be gone tomorrow.

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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