We're entering our third season of trying to buy a house in a very hot real estate market, and just lost another one. Our agent is a really nice person, but we feel like she's just not doing that much for us. I'd appreciate some thoughts on if our expectations are realistic.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is anon due to a lot of personal info. Trying to add a lot of details so that follow up is not necessary. I really just need some thoughts on our situation and some third-party perspective. I'm leery of dumping our agent if the main issues here are really our circumstances and requirements. Also, we have a professional relationship with her husband that we are wary about making awkward.
Husband and I are in our third year of trying to buy in the San Francisco Bay Area, having lived here for nine years. We have probably bid on close to 20 properties in the last three years. We're specifically looking on the peninsula, and even more specifically looking in a fairly small area in one city - it's probably roughly 20 blocks long, hits all our walkability/lifestyle criteria and has excellent public schools (the last point is the most critical for us). We are well-qualified buyers with ample reserves for a 20% downpayment, plus extra for emergencies/remodel/etc - but we are not "all cash" or even "mostly cash" buyers. We are looking to spend up to $1.3/1.4M. I realize that sounds like a lot, but this is likely to get us a dated property that needs a lot of updates/expansion over the years.
We are not at all in the least picky in the sense of "I must have granite and stainless steel!!" or "I don't like this carpeting and have no imagination about repainting walls." We are comfortable living with very dated/sub-par surroundings for as much time as needed for DYI updates or to save for a big overhaul. Our biggest criteria are location (see my note above about being really limited) and a house with either a great layout or the potential to get there (eg not a corner lot with no yard to speak of to bump out in to). We also really don't want to pay for someone else's flip, so prefer not to buy a house that was bought last year and had a bunch of quick cosmetic stuff done.
Our agent was a referral and is the wife of someone we do other business with (he provides a service to us). We like her husband and his work a lot, which is one reason why this is awkward. Wife is super nice, friendly, responsive, but it has been three years and we are getting really frustrated with the whole thing.
Stuff we have going against us that is not her fault:
- can't pay all-cash, although we are well-qualified, 20% down, and make offers with no contingencies (this is standard in the bay area)
- small search area. A lot of this is gated for us with public schools - we want to get into a strong district, and that's something I'm unwilling to compromise on as we have one kid hitting kindergarten soon. But realistically, I am aware this is really hampering our search and that she is not to blame for that.
- Finding a property in a cheaper area (where our cash has more clout, or where there might not be as much demand for limited supply) isn't palatable to us. First, this tends to push us into lesser school districts (really are opposed to paying for private school for two kids for 12 years). It also moves us into locations that, to be honest, we just don't like very much. We are looking for a home where we can stay until the kids leave high school, not for a place we will regret for the location or need to leave within 5 years.
We've been seemingly close on a few properties, including having gotten feedback that we are top 2, 3, etc., and have been given the chance to bring up our bid (although none of these were written counters to pay $X and get the house, they were rather invitations to remain in the bidding war). We walked away from that at least three times, and did it once without success. Throughout this process I don't have a strong feeling that she's fighting/advocating for us. She's never indicated that she knows any of the list agents or has any networking connections to give us any kind of edge in the process. I don't really get from her that that she is in there trying to get our offer accepted (other than presenting it/emailing it by the deadline). For some reason I have in my head that there is some kind of "schmooze" factor to all of this, that somehow deals are getting done not just based on the bottom line of how much money is being offered. Is that a realistic expectation?
During the search, another big concern I have is just that she's not adding much value. For our last bid we asked her about her thoughts on pricing. She gave back this very generic, general answer that didn't help at all - basically gave us about a $100k+ range without saying what she thought or giving any useful advice, all of it was positioned with "of course, some buyer could come in and really want it and go with $Y or even more." Of course, she's not a fortune teller and doesn't know what's going to happen, but it feels like we're going in without having any useful guidance. She ran comps and provided them, but didn't give us any interpretation - like "based on these comps I think..."
For our last bid we also raised a question about some details that affected square footage. She basically said "good question, you should call the city and ask." I realize there's some liability here and that she is probably cautious about not telling us one thing and then having it not be true, but I felt like it was kind of a blow-off response. If nothing else, from a customer service point of view, what about confirming for us the number to call, or putting in the call but then disclaiming that we should follow up and make sure her interpretation of the response was correct? For a $1.3M sale it seems like it's worth a little more effort on her part.
We're basically at the point of deciding to shop around and talk to some other people to get their thoughts on our situation and sort of interview them (which we should have done in the first place with her, and by the way I wouldn't take a referral like this again). I don't think there's any harm in that...but can anyone give me some thoughts on whether our agent is doing a good job? Average job? Are our expectations too high? I basically am leery about dumping her if our specific constraints would make this a difficult job for any reasonable person, in large part due to the professional relationship we have with her husband and not wanting to rock the boat there.
Along those lines, has anyone bought a house in a similar market and felt like their agent did some kind of exceptional job in getting their offer accepted, or that their agent made the difference in getting it or not getting it done? Should the agent make that much of a difference?
Thanks for the thoughts/advice/reality check. This has been incredibly frustrating.