How do I break up with my real estate agent?
January 20, 2010 8:15 PM   Subscribe

How do I break up with my real estate agent?

My wife and I, first-time homebuyers, have been with our current real-estate agent for almost six months. In that timeframe, we have put in offers on four houses, and nothing has gone through. In 3 of the 4 cases, other offers beat ours.

Is this the agent's fault? I am looking for a good reason to cut the cord, because to me, 0-4 is unacceptable. Granted, we aren't bringing a boatload of money to the table, which has hurt us, but we have reasonable expectations and are looking in metro Detroit...where the supply is overwhelming. I also work in the mortgage industry, so I tend to understand the realities of the housing market and don't have stars in my eyes.

I get the feeling our agent is not in tune with the particular area of the market we're looking in...that she does not have an ear to the ground, so to speak, and doesn't get the inside information and gossip that other, more-connected agents who explicitly deal in our area might. How important is this?

And if the consensus from the hive mind supports my gut, which is to migrate to another agent, how does one do that? We have given her nothing, and she has given us listings, ideas, and most importantly, her time. To break it off seems cold. Rational, perhaps, but cold.
posted by st starseed to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Break it off. Ask people you know and trust for referrals for a new agent. You might have signed a contract for her to represent you exclusively. I doubt the period was for longer than a few months, but you should check first.

Don't feel bad about getting a new real estate agent - if you had kept her, she would have earned a few grand off you, which is probably a bit more than she deserved to make - one reason for those costs is taking into account that not all her prospective clients stick with her all the way through a final offer.

(Personal experience: My wife and I had a decent real estate agent 14 months ago, but we failed to find anything. 4 months ago, we started looking again, with a new agent. The experience was vastly different ... not that the other agent was bad, but the new one was such a better fit for us and helped us get the exact price on an offer to get the house we wanted.)
posted by Happydaz at 8:23 PM on January 20, 2010

Give her one more chance, after telling her you're considering changing agents after this one more chance.

She may give you a break on her commission just to get a deal done.
posted by rokusan at 8:25 PM on January 20, 2010

Well, you're leaving out some pretty important piecee of the puzzle: What is she telling you about the offers that you are making? What kinds of properties are you making offers on and how far off are they from the actual sale price? Are you bidding on short sales? Why did your fourth offer not go through if it wasn't price?

You say that 3 of the 4 of them have been beaten by other offers - has she been telling you what she thinks is competitive and what she thinks is lowballing? Has she been close?

It's hard for me to imagine that there are bidding wars in metro Detroit for anything except properties which are priced below market or for properties that are intentionally accepting many offers over an extended period of time.

But, after all that, yeah, if she's not familiar with your area, why are you even using her? You say you "get the feeling" she's not in tune. What does that mean?
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 8:39 PM on January 20, 2010

Do you just think she's inexperienced, or does she usually deal with other areas or more expensive houses or something like that?
posted by rhizome at 9:04 PM on January 20, 2010

To avoid headaches down the road send a written letter to your current agent, explaining that you no longer wish to use her services. Keep a paper trail. If there are any homes that you saw with that Realtor that are of interest, make a list of them and let your new agent know. Just because an agent shows you a home, they are not entitled to a commission or referral fee. Perhaps this is common practice in some areas, but it is by no means what the Realtor Code of Ethics dictates.

Don't be afraid of hurting her feelings. She's a realtor--she has a thick skin.
posted by naplesyellow at 12:38 AM on January 21, 2010

In 3 of the 4 cases, other offers beat ours.

I guess I'm not seeing the part where this could realistically be pegged to the realtor. My fiancée and I had a similar experience, with a string of consecutive failures where we were outbid, but it wasn't anyone's fault... it's all game theory, where you weigh the possibility of overpaying for a property against the possibility that you'll be outbid by someone else (who might himself be overpaying). If you're concerned that your realtor is trying to sway you into being too conservative, then yes, move on, but I don't get the impression from your question that she's encouraging you to act in ways that you otherwise wouldn't. In the absence of that, you're proposing breaking off the relationship for something that isn't really her fault, and creating more of a hassle for yourself with the time and effort it will take you to find another realtor and explain all the minutiae that you care about in properties.

First-time homebuying is insanely stressful, and parts of it seem totally opaque when you're going through it for the first time, but really: things just happen, deals just fall through, and people are just flakey, and lots of things are outside of your control. As long as you're not losing more than the time it took you to put the bid together, though, you're doing OK.
posted by Mayor West at 4:39 AM on January 21, 2010

Hi, everyone. Thanks for your thoughts. If it helps others to answer, here are some follow-up notes: Mayor West is correct...our realtor is not swaying us into doing anything we wouldn't want her to do, particularly when it comes to offers.

Our offers have been the asking price with seller concessions included. We've lost on all of them because we want seller concessions, which, given the market, I think is weird. Other offers are not asking for concessions. Again, is this my realtor's fault, or is it ours because we don't have the money and willingness to pay for the closing costs?

She's not inexperienced; she's been a realtor for 10+ years and handles buyers and sellers in our price range. But it's finally dawned on me that she doesn't really seem to have any inside information or, again, that ear to the ground, particularly in our area of the market (a good 25 miles from her home base).

And I think that's the crux of it all: The last house we just got outbid on (a house we saw ourselves in for 30+ years) was on the market for 6 months with zero offers, and then the same weekend we put in an offer, so did someone else. And it's not like there was a price drop to encourage more lookers; it was just a terrible coincidence. But I feel like our realtor, knowing what we want, if she had at least more knowledge of the market than what the MLS listings say, she would have known about that property and shown it to us long ago. Isn't the job of a realtor to seek out properties, and not just call to schedule showings and get the codes for the little door locks?
posted by st starseed at 5:41 AM on January 21, 2010

But it's finally dawned on me that she doesn't really seem to have any inside information or, again, that ear to the ground, particularly in our area of the market (a good 25 miles from her home base).

Isn't the job of a realtor to seek out properties, and not just call to schedule showings and get the codes for the little door locks?


It is most definitely her job to look for properties fitting your parameters, and this is definitely easier when they live closer to what you are looking for.

My advice is to pay attention to which realtors/real estate companies are LISTING in the areas you are interested in, and when you do dump your present agent (and yes, please do) call one of them.

Talk to your present agent, and if she is being difficult, contact her broker in charge. But people can and do change agents, and even if your contract with her is not up, if you talk to the broker, generally they will release you. Just make sure the paperwork is square as you don't want to get another agent till you formally break ties with the old one, for legal reasons.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:54 AM on January 21, 2010

I've got no love for real estate agents, but it sounds like you may be making some first time buyer mistakes and misunderstanding how the real estate market works. If you are looking at lots of properties, changing a real estate agent can be quite a hassle. (But I have no idea why you would stay with an agent who is 25 miles away from the area you are looking at - that itself would be enough to drive me to find a new agent, simply because of the logistics of going to places on short notice, etc.)

"Again, is this my realtor's fault, or is it ours because we don't have the money and willingness to pay for the closing costs?"

It's not your fault, but the fact that you won't or can't make offers without seller concessions sounds like that is what is hurting you. It sounds like these properties were priced such that they were going to sell for the first offer at asking price that didn't include any concessions. How much in concessions are you asking for?

"We've lost on all of them because we want seller concessions, which, given the market, I think is weird. Other offers are not asking for concessions."

Another way of putting this is to say "others were willing to pay more than we were." No seller cares about what you want - they care about what is the best for them. I don't know if your real estate agent is familiar with the market, but it sounds like you are not expecting that you are going to be outbid. Is she?

Sounds like the situation where a house was on the market for 6 months is unfortunate, but it doesn't mean that they would have accepted your offer anyway. 6 months also doesn't sound like a long time for Detroit area these days - around where I am that is a relatively fresh listing.

"...inside information or, again, that ear to the ground..."

When real estate agents say that they have inside information, or have their ear to the ground, they are mostly full of shit. As a buyer, you want an agent who knows pricing in the area and knows the little things about how to transact effectively. In many cases, experience in an area is more important than who they know to give them some little piece of information. Is your agent telling you that the properties you are making offers on are likely to sell at asking price without concessions (as it sounds like has happened several times)? If not, that would be another reason to drop her.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 6:36 AM on January 21, 2010

iknowizbirfmark, I tend to agree with you. But we also "fired" a realtor the last time we looked because she consistently ignored our parameters. Yes, the houses she showed us were lovely, but they were also $50k to $100k more than our firm price limit. And they were falling apart. (The fact that a couple eventually sold, months later, at the price *we* suggested for them only made us feel worse.)

Wonderful lady, too. Perhaps she was hobbled by our preferences and ability to pay, but why then did she continue to show us stuff we didn't want?
posted by wenestvedt at 8:50 AM on January 21, 2010

Unless you've signed a contract, please don't feel any misguided loyalty to your current realtor.
Find someone with lots of listings in the neighborhood you want to live in - preferably someone who lives there (or very nearby). The best agents often know lots of locals and DO know when a house is about to go on the market - which can give you a jump on others potential buyers. That said, finding such an agent is not easy, so don't make it easy on anyone you work with. Give them 90 days to prove themselves (by whatever reasonable criteria you set), and then move on. Find new realtors by asking/networking with anyone/everyone in the neighborhood - even (especially?) the mailman/woman!
Good luck.
posted by dbmcd at 8:58 AM on January 21, 2010

Or skip realtors entirely. You can find the same property information that they use online on a variety of sites including, Zillow, and Hotpads. Do your own research and you can cut the buying realtor out of the deal entirely.

Even better, find a for sale by owner and cut out the selling realtor out as well.
posted by fremen at 9:16 AM on January 21, 2010

Find a good fit for you. The first time I bought a house, my realtor was nice but inexperienced and it was painful. This time, my realtor was highly experienced, and (reasonable assertion that many realtors bullshit a lot notwithstanding) he did take me by several properties that were not on the market. The house I bought, he showed me despite the fact that it was out of my price range, because he believed it to be overpriced and thought given their circumstances, the seller might be willing to accept a lower offer from someone they thought would care for the house. A good realtor is worth everything you pay them, a bad realtor is always overpaid because you've done a lot of the work yourself. I will say, though, that people are right that first-time homebuying is rough and confusing, so people's assertions that it may be you, not her, could be correct.
posted by donnagirl at 10:56 AM on January 21, 2010

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