Universal vs. General Agent in Real Estate

Instructor: Tisha Collins Batis

Tisha is a licensed real estate agent in Texas. She holds bachelor's in legal studies and a master's degree in criminal justice.

This lesson will define universal and general agents in real estate. Further, it will compare these types of agencies to give the reader a strong grasp of the differences between the two.

What are Universal and General Agents in Real Estate?

There are different kinds of agents in real estate, including (but not limited to) universal and general agents. Anyone who doesn't work in the real estate field or deal much with this sort of business may not be familiar with these terms. Agents perform tasks and act on behalf of their principals (i.e. clients), but the reach of their power depends upon what kind of agent they've been hired to be. Read below for an explanation that will help you grasp the differences between the two.

Definitions

A universal agent in real estate is an agent who can act on behalf of a principal, with full power. Many times, the universal agent has power of attorney to act on their principal's behalf. One important thing to know about a universal agent is that there aren't many. The universal agent is kind of like the unicorn of agents; they are rare. In fact, each principal can only have one universal agent. The universal agent can, in a sense, act like they are the principal. They can even sign legal documents for the principal and purchase and/or sell property for them.

Power of Attorney Can Be Important
attorney sign

A general agent in real estate is an agent who can perform any and all acts that are associated with the ongoing business that the principal has appointed the general agent to act in. The general agent is not the unicorn of the business, but more like just another horse in the corral. There's nothing amazingly different about a general agent, who might find himself working as a property manager for his principal. A principal can have more than one general agent, with each general agent handling a particular part of the principal's business.

Small Apartment Building
apartments

Examples

Briana has been a real estate agent for over twenty years and knows a lot about the business. She would like to do something different from just helping clients buy and/or sell homes. One of her good friends is an investor and owns several properties. He would like to spend more time with his family, and wants someone in the real estate business to take over operation of his business. He doesn't want to let it go completely, but he no longer wants all of the responsibility. He and Briana sit down and sign a written agreement. Briana can run his business, and can even sign legal documents for him. In a sense, she will act like she is him for important business matters and make decisions that are binding upon him. She has agreed to be his universal agent, and she is the only person with so much power in his business.

Zach has been in the property management field for many years. He loves helping people find rental property to live in, and there are several agents just like him in his town. There's a property management company close by that is well-known, and he hears from a friend that they're hiring. Zach interviews with the main boss at the business and gets hired on to manage some single-family homes and a few small apartment buildings. He has been hired on as a general agent. His boss is responsible for anything Zach does while acting on behalf of his new boss.

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