8 ways to tick off your real-estate agent
Being a thorn in your agent’s side could undermine your house hunt. If you want a friendly relationship with your agent, here’s what you shouldn’t do
Your real-estate agent may stand to make a nice commission off you, but that’s no reason to take him for granted. After all, the agent is working for you — as in, on your behalf. If inspired, he can think creatively and act quickly — for you. He can negotiate wisely and fiercely — for you.
Or not. Your choice.
Yes, agents are professionals. Yes, they should do the best job, regardless. But remember: We’re all human. For best results, treat kindly.
So what should house hunters avoid doing to keep agents from clenching their clipboards in frustration? We asked a few, and put together a list of “don’ts.”
1. Please don’t turn into an all-knowing insta-expert just because you have an Internet connection.
This is the most common complaint we heard.
These days, buyers can see everything online, and everything can look pretty good online. But those online listings can leave a lot out, including whether the home is still for sale.
“To the extreme, I’ve had multiple clients who will email me list after list of (multiple listing service) numbers, saying, ‘We’d like to see 50 homes,’ and only three of them are available and I’ve already sent those listings to them,” says Kristen Gil, a manager with Intero Real Estate in Reno, Nev. “It prevents me from being out there finding them the right home because I’m checking every MLS number known to man.”
There’s nothing wrong with looking, agents say. But try to understand how your agent’s job works. She has access to the same MLS listings, but with updated and additional information that has been filtered to weed out your duds.
Agent after agent told us of spending hours looking up MLS numbers provided by clients only to have those same buyers abandon each and every one after being let in on key details. It’s a time waster.
The advice from agents: Go ahead and look online, but don’t bombard your agent. Instead, put that effort into hiring someone you trust, then be comfortable relinquishing some control to the expert you’ve hired. No one likes to be told how to do his/her work.
In short, Gil says: “Get out of my way and let me do my job.”
2. Please don’t eat up your agent’s time with unresolved personal arguments.
Let’s just say that even a minor dispute, if unresolved, can throw a major wrench in the works.
It happens all the time, agents say: A couple provides a detailed list of wants and needs, but in reality they still disagree on some seemingly small matters. The problem is that once the tour of homes begins, tiny disagreements morph into giant hurdles.
Such was the case with the husband bent on finding a house with a living room ample enough to display his 6-foot replica of a game fish. The wife, it turned out, felt otherwise. “Every house that we looked at had to have a wall that would fit this fish. And the wife had no intention of letting that in the house,” Gil says. “There was yelling and screaming in the car about whether the fish would go in the house.”
Needless to say, this did not make for effective house-hunting: “Everything that she loved wouldn’t fit the fish, and vice versa,” she says.
Gil’s response: She let them air it out for the day, then sat them down for a serious discussion about where compromises could be made. In the end, she found a house with a “man cave” for the husband and his fish. And she placated him with a large yard and a view.
How to avoid this: Write up a detailed list and take a few open-house test runs to tease out any lingering disagreements. Real-estate agents accept their role as pseudo marriage counselor, but wouldn’t you rather reserve their time for finding you a nice house?
3. Please don’t accuse the agent of sabotage.
On one level, it’s natural to be suspicious of someone who will profit off your purchase. Won’t the agent be eager to make a sale regardless of problems? But let’s pause right here. Why would you continue to work with someone you don’t trust?
A little understanding about the agent’s job can help. First, know that real-estate agents are not clairvoyant. They have the seller’s disclosures, but have no way of knowing what’s hiding behind the walls or underground.
Katya Dennis, an agent with David Lyng Real Estate in northern California, says buyers will say, angrily, “Oh, you didn’t tell me that this house had a problem.” She tells them, “We didn’t know until the inspection came in.”
Some buyers will mistake legal or technical problems for subterfuge. “They don’t realize that this industry is so varied, you can’t 100% predict what’s going to happen,” Dennis says. “Then the first-time homebuyer gets frustrated with their Realtor. They get offended … they stop communicating, which is a very bad mistake.”
The upshot: Trust your agent, or find another whom you are willing to trust.
4. Please don’t mistake the agent for your parent.
Real-estate agents often find themselves in the role of counselor. After all, buying a house is a big and scary move. Just don’t take it too far.
“One couple I had, they’re like, ‘We don’t know what we’re going to do. Are we going to continue in college or get a job? What do you think?'” Dennis recalls. “Well,” she told them, “I can’t advise you on your life choices. I can only advise you on whether this property is right for your current situation.”
Her ultimate response: Maybe they should rent.
“Of course as a Realtor, my interest is in making a sale, but I’m not going to put them in that situation,” she says. “My integrity is more precious to me than making this commission check.”
In the end, treating an agent like a parent makes for tension and confusion. Figure out what you want first, then let your agent find it.
5. Please don’t turn your nose up curbside and refuse to view the inside.
Every time you walk through a property, a good agent is paying close attention. He’s learning what turns you on and what turns you off. It further narrows the scope from the mass of listings.
Scott Hack, with Finish Line Realty in Louisville, Ky., once filled a day with home-viewing appointments only to have the couple refuse to go inside eight of the 10 houses. It was either the neighborhoods or the lawns or maybe even the rain. Whatever the case, they stayed in the car.
“If they’re not happy, that’s fine. But the other side of the coin is that most of the homes were occupied by sellers, who had cleaned up the home and left for a few hours,” he says.
As a courtesy to the sellers and listing agents, Hack went through the homes anyway. He says he wasn’t offended by his clients, but he lost invaluable feedback from them: Which hardwood floors, which kitchen plans, which nooks or rooms would really ignite a reaction?
“Just little things you can pick up, that would have been nice,” he says.
The lesson: Never turn down time touring a home with your agent.
6. Please don’t refuse to believe the agent might know something.
Put yourself in this agent’s shoes: The buyer, an aging woman, has said she wants to move to a small, maintenance-free property close to work. But she keeps demanding to see large, rural properties just like the one she’s selling. She wants to accommodate her cats.
This was a client of Janice Leis, a broker in Pennsylvania, Florida and New Jersey. And cases like this put her in a bind. “My business is based on referrals,” she says. “If I’m not honest with someone, they’re going to tell somebody later how miserable they are.”
This phenomenon is common, agents say. Clients will lay out their wishes, then fall in love with a house they’ve found that meets none of them but has a wicked cool kitchen and patio.
A good agent steers buyers away. A good buyer listens.
“All my other clients will laugh and say, ‘Oh, you’re right. Get me out of here. You’re 300% correct. I wasn’t thinking about this,'” Leis says.
And the cat lover? “She’s still looking, and she’s going to be a professional looker. You have people who are controlling to a point where they become detrimental to themselves.”
Best course: Be specific in your needs, then trust your agent to fulfill them.
7. Please don’t think you can get a better deal — a much, much, much, better deal.
Christian Cardamone, a broker with Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty, spent months showing a Chicago woman small beachfront homes only to have her lowball each property by $50,000 to $70,000.
The woman could buy in cash, and she liked several of the homes. With one, the seller dropped to within $10,000 of her offer. Yet, she still refused.
“She still would have been getting a great deal on it at that price, but she decided she was going to end on her terms or she wasn’t going to do it,” Cardamone says. “She assumed that she was entitled to get this deal because of all the doom and gloom she sees on the news.”
It annoyed the agent: “She felt that she knew more about this (North Carolina coastal) market from Chicago than I did, who’s been practicing real estate here for eight years,” he says.
Her hard-headed frugality ultimately hurt her. “She missed out on what she wanted,” Cardamone says.
The moral: Don’t be a cheapskate.
8. Please don’t two-time your agent.
Real-estate agents don’t get a dime until they make a sale. They put in the hours, spend weekends and evenings showing homes, all in exchange for that one-day-it-will-come commission check.
There’s nothing wrong with doing a test-run with a few agents to find one you like. In fact, the pros recommend it. Taking an afternoon of time with each of them is akin to conducting an interview. Nor is there anything wrong with firing an inadequate agent.
But asking several to show homes at once isn’t only unethical, it’s also impractical. First of all, the real pros won’t accept you as a client. Second, it’s more effective for you to work with one agent, who can note your preferences and organize listings.
What some first-time buyers may not know, agents say, is that every agent is able to view and show any listing. A buyer needn’t contact the seller’s agent. The buyer’s agent will do that.
Last lesson: You’ll get your best work from someone who knows he’s getting paid.