Real Estate Heartbreak: Do we break up with our real estate agent?
April 8, 2016 8:48 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I chose an agent we liked and trusted, but several months into the process, we're reevaluating whether we made the right choice. Key issues: neighborhood expertise, pavement-pounding, and more. We feel loyal, yet conflicted.

My partner and I started looking for a house several months ago. We chose from a number of agents and finally went with one who we both trusted-- he'd been recommended by friends and had an expertise in the era of home we're looking for. He seemed to get our budget and goals. We were nervous because a) he is not a full-time agent and has other ventures going and b) he's independent and not with a large brokerage. But we liked him so much personally that we signed a 3-month contract with him to represent us.

We kicked off the search, and it turns out the inventory was ZILCH. My partner and I flyered our target neighborhoods and turned up half a dozen leads that way. We asked everyone we knew. We constantly monitored real estate sites, and our agent happily showed us the homes.

We found two homes we LOVED and put in bids-- our agent advised us on our bids in both cases and we lost in both cases. We were devastated. A third house became a nightmare-- our first bid was rejected, we ended up getting caught up in a frenzy and put in a big much higher than our target budget, then had to withdraw it.

We both felt exhausted and defeated. We've also heard that in this market, an unprecedented number of homes are changing hands without getting listed-- through word of mouth, pocket listings, etc. So I've been pounding the pavement to dig up other homes, posting on neighborhood forums, asking friends, etc. I've turned up a handful of potential homes this way and we're seeing some shortly.

We asked our agent if he knew of any "pre-lists" and he doesn't. He also opposes these "pocket listings" (homes where the agent finds a buyer for the seller) on ethical grounds because he thinks they don't result in the best deals. But this seems to be the way things are going in our market.

This is all very difficult. We really like him, and he is working hard for us in terms of being always ready to show us the homes we request, offer his advice on remodels and value, etc.

On the other hand, I feel like I'm doing all the work to find our homes. I was hoping our agent would be the one to dig up homes for us, but that hasn't happened. He doesn't have agents he works with, so he doesn't have access to inside information about homes about to go on the market. In the end, I may find the home, but he'll get commission. Also, his expertise is in neighborhoods outside of our target. And the fact that he isn't doing this full-time makes me think that is perhaps why he didn't advise us correctly on the two homes we lost.

On the third (!) hand, the market is really tough right now, and maybe even with the best, savviest, neighborhood-expert, full-time agent we'd still be having a hard time. And his expertise has definitely helped us understand homes and what we're looking for.

The other agents we interviewed were part of large brokerages with access to networking and pre-lists, and also had more expertise in our neighborhood. In this tough market, those details might count.

Our contract is up in a few weeks. Our agent has definitely put in a ton of work showing us and advising us-- and we really, really like him. But it hasn't yielded any results. Do we stick with our kind, sweet, thoughtful agent who has shown us 15 or 20 houses? Or do we cut bait and go with someone else?
posted by airguitar2 to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Networking makes a HUGE difference in how your search may go. We worked with an agent who was a friend (daughter of my husband's co-worker). She was nice, kind and wanted to help, but we found ourselves in a very similar position where we were doing all of the work to find our place. We ended up working with an agent who was part of a larger agency and who had been at it longer. The difference was night and day. Suddenly we were finding all kinds of things in our price range that weren't visible to us before, and she was calling us as things appeared. I would absolutely recommend going with someone else. It is what they are paid for.
posted by goggie at 8:54 AM on April 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

Go with a large brokerage on a non exclusive basis. Let your nice guy know you're no longer willing to work with him on an exclusive basis but are happy to hear about anything he might find from here out.

Good luck.
posted by slateyness at 8:55 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you feel exhausted and defeated after just three months of searching, then, yes, absolutely change agents. He sounds like he's a perfectly nice dude but maybe not the best at his job and if you're in a tough market you need someone who has better hustle than a part-time guy who seemingly has no connections and is probably just showing you stuff he pulls up in the local MLS (which you may be able to do yourself if it is online.)

Also I sold my co-op as a pocket listing and because i was a Motivated Seller I can guarantee you the person who bought it got a good deal, so maybe his opposition to them on ethical grounds is something normal in your area, but around here it's business as usual.
posted by griphus at 8:56 AM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

This person is providing a service to you, they're not your friend. Find someone else that will do their job.
posted by shesbenevolent at 8:56 AM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

We "broke up" while selling our house, and had to wait for the 90-day agreement to run out. We found a new house to buy by ourselves, and bought it without an agent; the new listing agent took care of our sale (and threw in some advice on the other transaction just to keep her own deal moving along).

*shrug* It happens. You'll never really know if it was the market or their network or luck or weather or cosmic rays -- but it's worth considering. Maybe before your contact is over you can meet with a couple of new agents (without signing anything) to get to know them, and then have one picked for Day 91.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:07 AM on April 8, 2016

Definitely cut this guy loose. I don't think I had to sign a contract with my real estate agent until we were ready to make an offer, but I'm in Washington state maybe things are different here.

I think where the real estate market is hot and inventory is low, you may still end up doing a lot of the searching for homes because you have to move on them so fast. However, an agent with a network will really help for finding those sales that aren't listed. Pocket listings don't have to be dual agent sales either (I'm guessing that was some of your agent's real objection?). If you're the buyer in a pocket listing, probably you might get a good deal, but I don't see how an agent who is working for you should object too much to that. (Sure his commission will be smaller but ultimately he should be looking out for your best interests.)
posted by purple_bird at 9:08 AM on April 8, 2016

he is not a full-time agent and has other ventures going

nope nope nope, nope. Not in a market like you're describing. You need to work with someone who lives and breathes this stuff. Because you are competing with buyers who ARE represented by folks who live and breathe it and will get the hot leads before he will.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:32 AM on April 8, 2016 [11 favorites]

Having just gone through this with my own partner, I can tell you that finding a good real estate agent will change your world. Talking to them and basically interviewing them to ensure that they can devote the right amount of time and effort to your cause is major. We started with one agent who rubbed us completely the wrong way and actually ended up leveraging our insurance company/bank who had a service to provide us with agents they had vetted and she turned out to be a pretty good agent (not the best, but oh well, she got the job done). Might be worth seeing if you have access to recommendations (make sure they're bank agnostic though - ours were, which was fantastic).

Depending on the market you're in (we're in PDX, it's INSANE), you're going to want to find someone who is an agent as their full-time job - things come up and are on the market for very short periods of time, and disappear. If your agent can't jump on it, and get the paperwork done quickly because of other projects going on, that's not going to benefit you. The part-time agent should understand this and not fault you for going with someone else. Also, the agents who work for big groups (Coldwell Banker, Remax, etc.) will be able to ensure that while you go through this process, if something happens to your agent (illness, death in the family - our agent had this) that you will still be taken care of. Independent agents can't necessarily make the same claim, unless they have a partner they work with. I also found being able to reference the principal broker on questions our agent couldn't answer to be quite helpful - like how to potentially handle a rent-back situation!

We did end up doing a lot of hunting around on Redfin and Zillow and the like, however our agent was instrumental in helping us schedule viewings of homes, and getting paperwork drawn up super quick. I also liked being able to look and send her listings and let her know that up front, whereas other people who've used her have asked her to just send them listings which she's done. Doing level-setting up front on expectations is a big key in making sure the relationship will be what you're looking for.
posted by bleachandink at 9:32 AM on April 8, 2016

Ignoring your relational questions, your agent just doesnt seem to understand how the business works:

We asked our agent if he knew of any "pre-lists" and he doesn't. He also opposes these "pocket listings" (homes where the agent finds a buyer for the seller) on ethical grounds because he thinks they don't result in the best deals.

Of course they result in the best deals because the deals happen FAST and with fewer costs. Maybe the homes could sell for higher prices (a big maybe) and maybe the marginal difference would cover the added time and cost associated with a traditional listing, but from the sellers perspective its not clear at all how "best deal" = highest price, irrespective of time and other associated costs.

If you dont agree with this principled position from your agent (and i certainly wouldnt) then you are totally justified in dropping him.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:04 AM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

People forget that real estate transactions are often the largest and most impactful financial transaction they will ever make in their lives. You owe nothing to this person outside of what is contractually obligated, and that includes friendship.

Look out for yourself. Your pocketbook deserves it.
posted by lstanley at 10:12 AM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thank him for his time and find a full-time shark of a real estate agent. You want someone working for a large brokerage who will have lots of ins and who is moving heaven and earth to get you into a home within your budget.

In crazy markets, you can't afford an agent who isn't full-time, devoted to getting the deal done. A good agent will be realistic with you about what will and won't fly with your offers. Twice you've discovered that the guy you're with doesn't know that.

I wouldn't navigate this alone if this is the first time you've done it, especially in a market where all reason has gone out the window.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:18 AM on April 8, 2016

This is a very clear-cut situation in my eyes. You say thank you and goodbye to your current agent (make it a clean cut) and you find someone with great connections, insider resources, and ability to at least match your efforts. Your current agent hasn't really earned the payday he stands to get if you continue to do 90% of his legwork in a hot market. Not to mention that his bidding advice didn't get you any of the properties you made offers on. You've given him a real chance to shine and he hasn't. Cut your losses and don't spend any time feeling bad about it.
posted by quince at 11:28 AM on April 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Ditch him. We fired our 1st realtor because we were unhappy with her approach...2nd realtor was much, much better and helped us find the perfect house in a hot market.
posted by The Toad at 8:13 PM on April 8, 2016

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