Let's sell our house without getting screwed.
January 29, 2010 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Should my aunt also be my realtor?

We are listing our house for sale in March, and since this is the first time we've sold a house I'm not sure what to do about a realtor. I had asked for recommendations on a local message board and received the name of an experienced realtor, who I contacted and who came by in November to look over the house and tell me what needed to be done before listing in the spring. I was very impressed with his demeanor, which I felt radiated honesty and confidence, and I had had several e-mails from the message board praising his work.

On the other hand, my aunt became a realtor last year, and my family is pressing us to use her because they feel she'll take better care of us (being family and all). I'm fond of my aunt, but we're not very close, so I don't think it will cause any family problems if we don't use her. I'm just not sure which way to go - I know the other realtor has a great deal of experience and has won local real estate awards, so I'm leaning towards him. It's important to us to get this house sold quickly and for the best price. But is it, in fact, true that a family member will take better care of us during the process? Help!
posted by chihiro to Work & Money (21 answers total)
Mixing family and business can be a recipe for disaster. Or it can work out well. It really depends on the personalities and family dynamics involved. As none of us know either you or your aunt we can't really answer your question.
posted by dfriedman at 8:24 AM on January 29, 2010

Don't mix family and business.
posted by mpbx at 8:24 AM on January 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

No. You may end up hating your Realtor, so don't do it.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 8:26 AM on January 29, 2010

But is it, in fact, true that a family member will take better care of us during the process? Help!

Unless your aunt is a very real estate savvy lady, who has picked up on the ins and outs of selling real estate in your market in this last year, then I'd go with the realtor with the experience and acclaim. You've already stated that you don't think not choosing your aunt will cause any bad feelings. You've also stated you need the house sold as quickly as possible at the best price. The experienced realtor will likely have a much better grasp of how to do exactly that. Granted, he may ask for a higher commission than if your aunt would ask for (due to family), but that commission may be worth the cost for dealing with someone efficient. The only concern I'd have would be if the experienced realtor might be overloaded (what with all the great references) and may not be able to give your listing the attention you feel it needs.

As a disclaimer, my aunt, a realtor, actually worked on the behalf of my family once, but it wasn't in this type of situation (quick sell - best price) and I'm not sure if she even did more than find a listing and act as a middleman.
posted by Atreides at 8:29 AM on January 29, 2010

See if you can get her and the experienced realtor to agree to co-broke. If she's no good and can't deliver, it won't make any difference anyway. The more potential offers the better, right?
posted by aquafortis at 8:37 AM on January 29, 2010

A friend of mine once said, "Your roommate can be your best friend, but your best friend can't be your roommate." I think it applies here. There's way too much chance of something going wrong, and firing your realtor is a lot easier than firing your aunt.
posted by Etrigan at 8:41 AM on January 29, 2010

The people I bought my house from in June used their mother as a realtor. At the same time, though, she was the most experienced real estate agent in the region. And, from a buyer's perspective, it was the latter that got me through the buying, inspection, etc. process so smoothly.
posted by moviehawk at 8:43 AM on January 29, 2010

my aunt became a realtor last year

The advantage to working with family members is that you can draw on easier access to expertise (i.e., the best realtor in town might be hard to get on the phone if you're a stranger, but it she's your cousin, you're in). The disadvantage to working with family members is that if you have any professional problems, they spill over into family life (and vice versa), which can be absolutely miserable.

It sounds like there isn't really an advantage to working with your aunt, just the risks inherent in doing business with family.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:44 AM on January 29, 2010

I agree with the majority.. don't mix family/friends with business.. plus, you want someone with more than one year of experience. (and, to be honest, I've got to question anyone who thought real estate was a good idea at the time she elected to make it her profession!)
posted by HuronBob at 8:50 AM on January 29, 2010

I read one time that 90% of houses are sold by 10% of agents and that the secret to a successful sale was to use one of the 10%. I would go with the established agent and tell your family that you just didn't want to mix family with business because you valued the relationships so much.
posted by raisingsand at 8:55 AM on January 29, 2010

Yes, definitely go with the more experienced realtor, especially with the market being the way it is and time being an issue for you. Selling a house can get a little emotional anyway, without adding the pressure of a relative that's fairly new to the job being your realtor.
posted by violette at 9:02 AM on January 29, 2010

I think the experience is the deciding factor here. Even in a booming economy, the things I've seen and heard with newer agents has never been particularly thrilling.

If she works with a rock-solid firm and can do it with someone else, maybe, but adding in the family angle doesn't point towards success.
posted by Madamina at 9:07 AM on January 29, 2010

What will happen if your home doesn't sell quickly? How much family angst will it cause if you fire your aunt? How much anger will you feel if your aunt hasn't sold your home in 6 months?

Even in a hot real estate market selling a house is stressful. This is a chilly market. If you can afford the holding costs of the house and you can afford to get a lower sale price, then hire your aunt. If you can't afford that - and very few people can afford a loss on their biggest asset - then hire an experienced Realtor.
posted by 26.2 at 9:21 AM on January 29, 2010

I attempted to do this once. It did not end well. Avoid.
posted by Twicketface at 9:25 AM on January 29, 2010

Regarding an agent who has been in the business for only a year: I would let her help me buy, but I would sure-as-heck never let her help me sell.

When you buy, you are choosing from one of several houses, but when you sell, you have all your eggs in one basket. You count on your realtor to market your house and help bring in buyers. You need someone who has had their finger on the pulse of your local market for more than a year.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:33 AM on January 29, 2010

No. No no no no no.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:44 AM on January 29, 2010

One other consideration: Ethically, if your Aunt lists the house the listing should include a disclosure of the relationship. These discloures trigger an extra level of caution for myself because I believe that the related party is less likely to make as full a disclosure as an unrelated one.
posted by Crashback at 9:50 AM on January 29, 2010

It's almost certainly a mistake to go with your Aunt in this case. Another thing to be absolutely sure to avoid is having any personal relationships to your home inspector, or to let a relative hire them; remember, if you aren't the one hiring them, you're not the one they're responsible to.

If your Aunt sells you a dud house, or if the home inspector she hired misses something important, the results will be pretty acrimonious.
posted by mhoye at 10:20 AM on January 29, 2010

I'm fond of my aunt, but we're not very close, so I don't think it will cause any family problems if we don't use her.

A similar situation caused a permanent schism in my mom's side of the family. When my uncle was starting out in real estate another family member didn't use him to sell his house. They still don't speak.

I don't think you should use your aunt if you already had contact with this other Realtor, since you seem really impressed and comfortable with him. In this economy it makes sense to go with someone with more experience. But tread carefully when you tell your family - you might wind up ticking off some other family member who thinks that not only does your aunt have a duty to take care of you by selling your house, but you have a duty to take care of your aunt by giving her business.
posted by christinetheslp at 10:37 AM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

My Realtor was a longtime family friend, and she could not have taken better care of us. However, in your case, I'd want to go with the Realtor that has the most experience. You've already established a professional relationship there, so that's your excuse to your family.
posted by Ruki at 11:21 AM on January 29, 2010

The woman I bought my house from was using her mother as an agent. From what I understood, the house had been on the market almost a year because the list price was too high. My impression was that the mother was trying hard to get the most money for her daughter (and herself), but being a bit unrealistic (when I saw it, they were listing it at 15% over what it eventually appraised for). Had they lowered the price much sooner, the house would probably have brought tens of thousands more.

Whether your aunt would be too impartial is probably easier for you to guess than me, but I agree with the general response that what you really want is someone experienced in how to stage and list the house to sell.
posted by emumimic at 12:06 PM on January 29, 2010

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