The History of Single Agency Brokerage

While attending my first California state Realtor convention in 1961, I met a broker named George Hoover, from Glendale. George indicated that the real estate industry was flawed from an agency standpoint. He felt that a licensee should represent only one party in a real estate transaction. I didn’t disagree with George’s conclusion but I had noticed a considerable lack of technical competence among agents that I felt should be improved first and then we could worry about who represented whom.

In 1969, Jack Lee, a commercial/investment broker from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, introduced me to the idea of buyer representation. Jack pointed out that the system was biased in favor of sellers. Buyers were paying the fees (they were built into the price they paid for the property) but sellers were getting the representation. No one in my area had tackled the problems unique to buyer representation.

Our firm, Arnett and Broadbent, Inc., began experimenting with the concept. Public acceptance exceeded expectations. By the late ’70s as consumers became more knowledgeable, the flaws in traditional brokerage in terms of agency and client representation were becoming more apparent. A name was necessary to identify the new client representation ideas. I coined the term, Single Agency. A short definition is: We represent only one party in a real estate transaction and are employed and paid by the party we represent.

After perfecting the system, I taught Buyer Representation nationally from the mid ’70’s to 1989 and co-authored the book, “What is Single Agency?” along with brochures and several tapes on Agency Issues.


I wrote the FIRST draft of a comprehensive definition in 1980, it took about 10 drafts and almost a year to finish. We produced the FIRST Agency Disclosure Document for the RE industry which incorporated the Single Agency Alternative. This was years before the FIRST state required agency disclosure.

In the summer of ’83 we launched the AGENCY ADVOCATE, the voice of Single Agency and client representation to focus on agency issues. Time, money and the marketplace dictated that we drop it after a couple of years. We found it necessary to use the carrot of Buyer Representation to get agent attention so we could explain Single Agency to them.

We produced numerous articles and brochures to get the attention of consumers and agents to inform them of their representation alternatives. John W. Reilly, one of America’s foremost attorneys on the subject of agency, in his first book (1985) The Real Estate Agent: WHO’S ON FIRST?, said “a special thanks to William R. Broadbent of San Luis Obispo, California, a pioneer in the drive to recognize “single agency” as a significant method of real estate brokerage. I had the pleasure of attending one of Bill’s seminars. That experience set in motion my efforts to try to encourage various industry members to eliminate the confusion about special agency relationships, which effort has culminated in this book.” In a subsequent book AGENCY Relationships in Real Estate he wrote, “Many thanks for your help. You are the architect of “Single Agency.”

In 1988 I finished our book “WHAT IS SINGLE AGENCY?” On page 1, I acknowledged those pioneers who contributed something to the concept. Some did a lot, some very little…Chuck Chatham was a great contributor in the 70’s and early 80’s until his retirement. George Rosenberg, Editor of the Buyers Broker Registry was the workhorse of the 80’s and early 90’s in promoting Single Agency and reaching out to consumers and agents nationwide. George retired as editor in 1995 but proved that there are more consumers looking for representation than there are agents who are properly trained to handle the business.

The answer to client representation is not Seller Only brokerage firms or Buyer Only Brokerage firms, but Single Agency real estate practice. The Agent represents only one party in a transaction, is employed (in writing) and paid by the party being represented.

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