How to not be a jerk to some realtors
October 30, 2019 8:16 PM   Subscribe

We've started thinking about buying a house. A few different realtors have been in touch with us. When do we need to pick one?

We went to a few open houses this past weekend, trying to get an idea for what the market is like. We had conversations with a few different realtors who have all sent some listings our way, generally with the idea of getting a sense of what our style/price point/willingness to renovate is.

It feels kind of crappy to reply to everyone "We like this, but not this," thus giving everyone work to do when in the end we're only going to be able to work with one person. Do we need to pick one person ASAP? We're not anticipating looking in earnest for a few months (something we mentioned to everyone), so it it seems a little early. But again, don't want to be a jerk getting free work from a bunch of people.
posted by ghost phoneme to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would tell them “hey, we’re not ready to choose a realtor yet and just doing some looking ourselves, a few other realtors are emailing with us also.” If it were me, I wouldn’t go back and forth with them on “this but not that” until you’re ready to select a realtor.

One thing to watch out for is if you’re corresponding with multiple realtors from the same agency. That can get uncomfortable for them.
posted by sallybrown at 9:07 PM on October 30, 2019 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Do we need to pick one person ASAP?

Every one of those realtors knows what they are getting themselves into. They know that they have a small chance of being selected as a realtor for any given person they talk to, but when selected, they are compensated handsomely. If they want you to select, they will let you know. Until then, let them decide whether or not they're interested in doing work for you.

My reaction to my first home purchase was something along the lines of "my realtor was paid $15,000 (or so) just to take me to a couple houses?!". They do that not for my work, but for all the other people they work for that don't end up paying them.
posted by saeculorum at 10:10 PM on October 30, 2019 [11 favorites]

Best answer: This probably varies by location, but when we bought a house, we had no legal obligation to our realtor until we signed a buyer representation agreement. With our realtor, she did not ask us to sign that agreement until we decided to make an offer on a house. That means she spent several weekends showing us properties before we made a commitment to her. In reality we had already interviewed a few realtors and she was recommended by a coworker so we were comfortable with her as our realtor very quickly.

I would recommend having an actual sit-down conversation with realtors before picking one, not just looking at listings. This gave us a chance to talk about our situation and get a feel for the realtor's typical strategy for house hunting. Then after that, when they sent us listings, we could look at whether the listings they sent us actually reflected what we had discussed in person.
posted by muddgirl at 10:25 PM on October 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The first question you should ask a realtor is "how many deals have you personally closed in the last year" and if the answer isn't at least 12 (and ideally rather higher), move on.

Also, the earlier in the process they want you to sign a representation agreement, the shittier they are. You're there to buy a house, not have a short-term exclusive relationship with someone. The ideal time is, as noted above, when you make an offer.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:33 AM on October 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Two things:

1: no, you don't have to pick someone right away. As others have mentioned, that business relationship isn't formalized basically until you are in making an offer territory, when you sign an agency agreement.

2) You will probably have an easier time narrowing your agent options down if you also decide for yourselves what your needs/preferences/budget/willingness to renovate is. Our specific expectations evolved a bit after looking at umpty zillion houses in our chosen neighborhood, but we came in with a pretty clear list of needs, nice to haves, and deal breakers, and I think that helped us focus on whether we felt our agent was able to help us be savvy consumers and be a good negotiator on our behalf.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 4:47 AM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We occasionally went to showings for a few years until we happened to find our dream house, and made an offer the next day. We weren't planning on "looking" hardcore for another few months. But we'd chatted with several realtors over that time period, gone to free workshops for first-time home buyers, had coffee, and had MLS listings. In the end, we went with the realtor we were most comfortable with. He actually never even showed us a house, but had met with us over coffee to go over the process and what to expect, he worked with a lot of first-time homebuyers, and he worked in a small group with an experienced team. What he got paid essentially covered the costs of all the other people who he'd worked with and not bought a home with him. The realtors who I met with along the way were compensated when they sold a house to someone else. And if they didn't sell a house, that's them being bad at their job in a competitive market and not my responsibility to worry about. Buying a home is a huge purchase and your responsibility is to yourself, only.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:20 AM on October 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: We went to a few open houses this past weekend, .... We had conversations with a few different realtors who have all sent some listings our way ....

Just reading what you wrote, it sounds like the brokers you've heard from are representing the sellers of the houses you've visited, and also represent the other houses they're sending you the listings of.

There's no obligation or even a procedure for picking one of them. If and when you close on a house, the broker representing that house will be paid by the seller. The other brokers you've met will similarly be paid by their seller clients if and when they make a sale.

Are you instead considering engaging a broker to go out and look for houses for you? If so, the previous posters have given you good answers.
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:22 AM on October 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: As a counterpoint to what others have said, in my state a real estate agent by default represents the interests of the seller. When the buyer signs a buyer agency agreement, then the real estate agent's legal obligations switch, and the agent now represents the interests of the buyer.

In practical terms, the agent always had to give us truthful information, but we could only (legally!) get candid advice about whether an issue was worth walking away from the house after we had signed buyer agency. Until that point, the real estate agent was legally obligated to represent the seller's interests, even though they were working with us (the buyers) and the sellers had their own agent.

So, for us it made sense to sign a buyer agency agreement early in the process. We interviewed a couple of agents and then spent a day looking at a few listings with the leading candidate. We asked a lot of questions during that day to see how we would work together, and after the day it was clear that this was a person whom we were comfortable with so we signed the buyer agency. It didn't dramatically change the relationship--this agent was very professional and wanted to treat us well regardless--but he was able to give more candid advice about things to watch out for or potential red flags as we went to more homes.
posted by philosophygeek at 7:24 AM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: First, emailing some listings isn't a whole lot of work.

Second, doing a little work to get a client is how the system workers. The recent article How to Get a Better Deal From a Real Estate Agent is worth reading to understand how realtors work. With the standard 3 percent fee, an agent gets $12,000 selling a $400,000, for example. But the median agent made less than $50,000. That's not because it takes a huge amount of time to help someone buy or sell a house: Rather, most agents don't buy or sell many houses and instead spend most of their time chasing clients, because signing a client is so lucrative. To save money, the author hired an agent at an hourly fee; another approach is to use a low-fee realtor like Redfin.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:53 AM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Several years ago I wrote and supported software for a real estate franchise company with franchises in 30-ish markets. Agents in a particular market could list service areas (for example, in the DC area they could say they worked in Fairfax and Arlington counties only) and they could also filter by price range. This meant that agents who really only wanted to work on big leads for big houses could limit their service area and price range, and they'd really only get the leads that matched all those criteria. The lead assignment tool would assign each incoming lead in a particular area to the next agent in the queue who listed that area and didn't have any filters set that would exclude that potential lead. We then tracked how often the agents followed up with new leads, and whether they were just using automated tools we built, or if they used the system to email their leads manually (with each contact tracked) or logged phone calls and other out-of-band contact.

All of that is just preface to say: we found that the agents who made the most money were the ones who never turned away any client looking in their advertised service area, regardless of price range. If this were the Parks & Rec universe, agents who served both Pawnee and Eagleton would have made more money than the ones who only wanted to serve Eagleton. The ones who tried to cherry pick based on smaller service areas or higher price ranges actually made less money overall, even though their average completed transaction price was higher. This was consistent across every franchise. Further, the agents who engaged actively with their leads, sending emails or logging calls, made more money than the ones who relied only on the automated tools.

How does this help you? Try to figure out if the agents who are contacting you are actually doing legwork themselves or if they just dumped you into an automated tool that sends you emails of new listings in "your area," however they have defined it in their system. The agents who actually seem to be paying attention are the ones worthy of your time.
posted by fedward at 8:28 AM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Having had a few real estate agent friends---and doing business with one of them---experienced agents know that the state you're in about the purchase is normal. Agents know they spend time educating the buyer and seller about what houses are available, what neighborhoods are like, what prices are, etc., often for a long time before the transaction happens. Real estate agents are fishing in a pond, hoping for a nibble, but enjoying the sun and air in the meantime.
posted by tmdonahue at 10:11 AM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

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