What is a General Agent in Real Estate?

What is a General Agent in Real Estate?

When it comes to the real estate industry, there are various terms and roles that can seem confusing to the uninitiated.

From brokers to salespeople, inspectors to appraisers, the myriad of professionals involved in the buying and selling process can be overwhelming.

One such role, which is crucial yet often misunderstood, is that of the general agent.

In this blog, we will delve deep into the concept of a general agent, shedding light on their duties, how they differ from other types of agents, and the implications of their role in real estate transactions.

The Basics of Agency Relationships in Real Estate

Before diving into the specifics of what a general agent is, it’s important to grasp the foundational concept of agency in real estate.

An agency relationship arises when one person, called the “principal”, authorizes another person, called the “agent”, to act on their behalf in dealings with third parties.

In the context of real estate, the principal could be a buyer, seller, landlord, or tenant, while the agent is typically a real estate broker or salesperson.

The agent has a fiduciary duty to represent the best interests of the principal, ensuring honesty, loyalty, confidentiality, and full disclosure throughout the transaction.

Defining the General Agent

A general agent in real estate is a professional who has ongoing duties to represent a principal in multiple transactions over an extended period.

This means that unlike a special agent who is appointed for a single, specific task or transaction, a general agent has broader authority and responsibility.

For example, property managers are often considered general agents.

When property owners hire a management company or a property manager, they grant them the authority to handle multiple aspects of the property on an ongoing basis.

This might include collecting rent, handling repairs and maintenance, addressing tenant concerns, and even entering into lease agreements on behalf of the owner.

Duties and Responsibilities of a General Agent

Given their expansive role, general agents carry a range of responsibilities, including:

Continuous Representation

Since their association with the principal is not limited to a single transaction, they provide continuous services, ensuring that the principal’s interests are protected over time.

Contractual Obligations

General agents often enter into contracts on behalf of the principal. In our property manager example, this might mean signing lease agreements with tenants.

Handling Finances

Depending on their agreement with the principal, they might be tasked with handling financial aspects, such as collecting rents, paying bills, and managing budgets.

Regular Reporting

Given their ongoing relationship, general agents often provide regular updates and reports to the principal about the status of their tasks or the assets they manage.

General Agent vs. Special Agent

The distinction between a general agent and a special agent lies in the scope and duration of their responsibilities.

A special agent is appointed for a specific task or a particular transaction. Once the task is completed or the transaction concludes, the agency relationship typically ends.

For instance, in real estate, a broker who represents a seller in the sale of a property is often acting as a special agent. Once the property is sold, the broker’s obligation to the seller typically ends.

In contrast, a general agent’s relationship with the principal is continuous and encompasses multiple transactions or tasks over time.

Implications of Working with a General Agent

When you enter into an agreement with a general agent:

Know Your Agreement

It’s crucial to understand the terms of your agreement, as the agent will have broader authority to act on your behalf. Ensure that the terms are clear, and the responsibilities and boundaries are well-defined.

Ongoing Communication is Key

Since the relationship is continuous, maintaining open and regular communication with your general agent is essential. This ensures that your interests are continuously aligned and any issues are promptly addressed.

Review and Adjust

Periodically review the performance and services provided by the general agent. As your needs change, the terms of the agreement or the scope of their responsibilities might need adjustments.


Understanding the role and responsibilities of a general agent in real estate is essential for anyone looking to engage in long-term real estate ventures or transactions.

By grasping the difference between general and special agents and being aware of the implications of working with a general agent, principals can make informed decisions that best serve their interests.

Whether you are an investor, property owner, or someone looking to delve into the real estate world, knowledge about these agency relationships will undoubtedly benefit your journey.