We’ve previously written about the red flags that tell us that a particular buyer or seller is likely to cause a problem but today we wanted to share some hints that the agent on the other side might not be showing up at their best.
After all, it can be easy to say a buyer or seller isn’t going to make the deal process smooth, but this isn’t something they do all the time. When the problems come from the agent on the other side of the transaction, whose job is to facilitate these transactions, it becomes a lot harder to stay positive.
Here are three red flags when dealing with a real estate agent that tell us it might not be the best experience. We’re including a bonus real-life story that illustrates this point after each red flag, so let’s get into it.
It’s their job to know things and they don’t know things.
It was Sir Francis Bacon who first said, “Knowledge is power.” Our first red flag is when an agent doesn’t know the things that they must know in order to do their jobs properly. This shows up in different ways depending on if they are a listing agent or a purchasing agent.
For a listing agent selling a home, it’s when we see gaps or missing information in the listing.
- No square footage or room dimensions or floorplans.
- No pictures of the home, or only limited pictures that only show exteriors or non-relevant parts of the property. We do appreciate the artistic merit of that close up of the vase on the table but given neither are coming with the property, we would have preferred a picture of the basement.
- No Schedules attached to the listing that will be required for an agent to submit an offer.
- No information on how the seller wants showings booked or offers submitted.
For a buyer agent, it’s when they ask us questions they should either know or where we have already provided the answer.
- Asking for square footage when the listing says square footage and has a detailed floorplan.
- Asking for information we both have access to through our membership with the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, such as assessed value, seller’s purchase date and building particulars.
- Ignoring instructions for showings or offers that are clearly stated.
If an agent doesn’t care enough to gather the information that their client needs to properly sell or buy, then it is likely that this transaction is going to be challenging. After all, a lazy agent who doesn’t care is not likely to suddenly become a diligent professional during the offer process.
Our favourite story illustrating this point is the agent who listed a condo for sale with an owned parking spot.
When we did up the offer, we couldn’t find any reference on the land registry to an owned parking spot. After multiple questions and him suggesting we would figure it out before closing, he told us he must have made a mistake and there in fact wasn’t a parking spot. No deal.
Taking their sweet time getting back to us.
One of the basic rules with real estate transactions is that time is of the essence. There are multiple parties involved (buyer, seller, agents on both sides, lawyers, mortgage brokers, lenders, home inspectors, insurance brokers and so on) and delays can, and do, cause deals to fail.
The second red flag that tells us an agent is going to be a problem is when they don’t respond to us in a timely fashion.
We do understand that Realtors are first and foremost people, and as such they have their own lives with demands on their time from family and other obligations. While we may understand that agents can’t be on call and ready to respond 24/7, 365 days a year, we do feel that 2/3, 16 days a year is not really acceptable. For the record, we’re saying if you make yourself available about two hours every three days, working about 16 days a year, you may not to reconsider whether being a real estate agent is the job for you.
That may sound harsh, but we believe that if you aren’t organized and prepared to respond quickly to the needs of your client, you shouldn’t be hired.
It’s one of the peculiarities of real estate that people will hire agents who don’t make doing the job a priority. If you took your car in to have your winter tires installed and they ignored your calls for a few days and then finally responded, you’d likely be very annoyed. If they told you that a bad cold is going through their house, so things got delayed, but your car will be ready in a day or so, you’d probably be furious.
In real estate, the covenant is simple. You hire a Realtor to be your agent in buying or selling real estate. If situations in their life make it impossible for them to do that on a timely basis, they don’t deserve to be your Realtor.
Whenever we have significant gaps in hearing back from an agent about their listing or their client’s interest in our property, I know that it is not going to be a smooth process. An agent who doesn’t understand the urgency in real estate often has a client who doesn’t understand it either. In both cases, it translates into a low chance of a deal taking place.
Our favourite story illustrating this red flag happened just recently.
An agent who had shown one of our listings was super interested, then disappeared for a few days, only to suddenly reappear and announce he had an offer for us. After some negotiations, we signed back an offer that expired at 10:00 p.m. The deadline came and passed, and he stopped responding to calls for an hour before finally saying his clients had their dinner out go late. As of 10:00 p.m. the deal was dead as it legally expired. We had to explain he would need to now resubmit an offer and see if our clients still wanted to deal with him. He’s lucky because they agreed to it, but he almost lost the deal because he and his client didn’t understand that deadlines in real estate have consequences.
They work for a discount brokerage.
By law, all real estate agents must work as independent sales representatives within a real estate brokerage, but not all brokerages are created equal. It isn’t always the case, but over the years we have noticed that the agents that we have trouble with have chosen to work for what we would call a discount brokerage.
Broadly speaking, there are two options for Realtors when they are choosing a brokerage.
They can choose a full-service brokerage like Keller Williams. These brokerages take a significant percentage of the agent’s commissions, but provide support, training and are focused on helping their agents grow their business through good work and satisfied clients.
The other option is choosing a discount brokerage. There are numerous real estate companies that follow this model (Right at Home is a prominent one) and these brokerages take a flat fee for each deal the agent does and provide back office services to process the transaction. They are focused on having as many agents as possible within the brokerage and keeping the cost the agent pays very low.
There are of, of course, bad agents at full-service brokerages and good agents at discount brokerages. That is, however, the exception that proves the rule.
Whenever we see a listing is with an agent who choose to work with a reputable, full-service brokerage, it is likely they are concerned with more than just how much money they take home from one particular deal. They want to be professionals and as such they chose a professional brokerage. They have colleagues who set expectations for how an agent acts and what they do for their clients.
When we see a listing with a discount brokerage, we know they chose the cheapest possible option to legally satisfy the framework of having to work within a brokerage. They made the choice to focus on saving as much of their commission as possible and they work with like-minded people. Almost without fail, the listings where the marketing is abysmal comes from agents with discount brokerages.
Our favourite story illustrating this was a listing we sold a few years back.
The agent who represented the buyers was pushy and tried to submit a pre-emptive, bully offer before the date we’d set for reviewing offers. When we refused to review it as per my client’s instructions, she did not understand, and we had to explain the process and how we had written instructions from our client saying they would not review an offer until the set date. She resubmitted on our offer date and ended up purchasing the home for her clients. It was a firm deal, and we were surprised a few days later when she called saying there was a problem.
Her clients had decided that since there wasn’t a third full washroom in the basement, they overpaid and now they wanted a lower price. We told her that we had a firm, legally binding deal and the number of washrooms in the house was on the listing and known to her clients beforehand. It’s frankly astounding that we had to explain to a licensed Realtor that the seller was not willing, nor obligated in any way, to reduce the agreed upon sale price to a lower price after the fact. The agent worked for a discount brokerage and she clearly didn’t have experienced colleagues who could have told her that’s not how things work.