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If you’re unhappy with your real estate agent, that doesn’t necessarily mean your agent is acting maliciously. Whether you’re in the process of buying or selling your house, sometimes your chosen real estate agent just isn’t up to the task.
A real estate agent that isn’t getting the job done may not be the right fit personality-wise, could be prioritizing other clients, or may not have access to the resources you need to stand out in a competitive housing market.
Watch out for these signs of a bad real estate agent, so you can protect your best interests during your upcoming real estate transaction.
The signs of a bad real estate agent
No one real estate agent is perfect, and chances are even the best agents will occasionally rub you the wrong way, but in general you’ll want to avoid as many of these red flags as possible.
1. They fail to communicate with you
When you hire a real estate agent to help you sell or buy a home, you’re relying on them to support you while you navigate a complex and often time-sensitive process. If you don’t get clear updates from your real estate agent and find it difficult to communicate with them, you risk missing out on good opportunities and the entire experience will be a lot more stressful than it needs to be.
Ideally, if you contact your real estate agent with a question, concern, or need, they will get back to you within 24 – 48 hours. Really, the sooner the better. You don’t want to miss the chance to put an offer on your dream home because your agent won’t return your calls in a timely manner.
When you are in touch with your real estate agent, they should demonstrate strong listening skills and allow you to ask as many questions as you need to feel confident about moving forward. This is a two-way street, and your agent should also ask you the right questions. Whether you’re buying or selling, they need to know what your time frame looks like, how you prefer to communicate (phone or email), and what your expectations of them are.
2. They aren’t ready to lead
Both buying a home and selling a home are complex processes and the whole point of working with a real estate agent is to make that process go as smoothly as possible. You need to work with a real estate agent that is confident in their abilities and ready to guide you through the process. You’re relying on their experience and expertise, so they should embrace that and take charge of the process, while still respecting your opinions and decisions.
3. They display unprofessional behavior
This goes without saying, but your real estate agent should always act professionally. If they show up late for appointments, don’t dress professionally, and ignore your efforts to communicate with them, then you should consider finding a new agent who you feel comfortable representing you.
Honesty comes into play here too. A major red flag is if your real estate agent asks you to lie about disclosures or to make a false claim on an advertisement. If your agent expects you to cross an ethical line, walk away and don’t look back.
4. They put you under pressure
As much as you want to be able to rely on your agent’s expertise, they should never pressure you into making a decision about buying or selling a home that you’re not comfortable with. No matter what their opinion is, they need to respect that your opinion is what matters most and should be ready to support your decisions. This is especially true for buyers, as the real estate agent isn’t the one who will live in your new home or pay the mortgage for the next three decades.
5. They lack negotiation skills
Being a strong negotiator is a valuable skill set and likely one of the reasons you hired a real estate agent is to get help on the negotiation front. When you work with an agent that can negotiate on your behalf, they not only make your life a whole lot easier, but ideally they should ensure you get the best deal possible. You don’t want to sell your house for less than it’s worth or give up contingencies when buying if you can avoid it.
To get a feel for if your real estate agent is a good negotiator before you’re at the negotiation table requires some work up front. Before you hire an agent, ask for references from previous clients and check out online reviews to get an idea if they’re a good negotiator or not.
6. They aren’t a marketing wiz
If you’re selling a home, you should aim to hire an agent that has strong marketing skills, which are a very valuable asset. You want to attract the right buyers and an agent who knows their way around marketing tactics can make that happen.
Do a quick Google search before you sign a contract with an agent to see what their web presence is like. If they have a great website and multiple active social media accounts, that’s a good sign that they have an audience and reach that will make selling the home easier. You should also inquire as to what their marketing plan for your home is, which is especially important in a buyer’s market.
7. They have wrong priorities
To an extent, it’s understandable why real estate agents get more excited about clients with expensive homes to sell or bigger budgets when buying. But just because a bigger commission is at stake, doesn’t mean your agent should treat you as less than if you’re in a lower pricing category. If you get the sense that your agent isn’t prioritizing your needs (shows up late to appointments, doesn’t respond to your calls quickly, etc.) then they may be prioritizing their needs over yours. You want to work with an agent who is happy to show you as many listings as you need or puts as much effort into selling your home as they would if it was worth twice the price.
How to fire a real estate agent
If you realize your real estate agent isn’t the right fit for you, you do have options for going your separate ways. This is a relationship of sorts and sadly not all relationships are the right fit. You can fire your agent tactfully and part ways amicably.
Step 1. Voice your dissatisfaction
Be honest with your real estate agent about why you think they aren’t a good fit for your needs. There’s a good chance they’ll release you from the agreement you’ve signed. They may even agree to address or fix their behavior and salvage their relationship with you. Be honest and upfront about what you need from them — they may very well rise to the occasion.
Step 2. Be prepared to compromise
Even if a real estate agent will let you out of your contract, you may need to give a little here. There will likely be conditions you have to deal with when you break your contract, such as reimbursing the agent for any marketing and advertising costs. If you are unhappy with their services, a small compromise like this may be worth the opportunity to move on.
Step 3. Hire a lawyer
If the real estate agent won’t budge and release you from your contract, you can contact a lawyer for assistance. They may be able to get you out of your contract, especially if the agent didn’t live up to their end of the bargain.
Remember, not all ‘red flags’ are deal breakers
Tensions can run high when it comes to real estate. It’s easy to read into “red flags” that don’t necessarily have to be a deal breaker. Take a moment to pause to see if these red flags are really a no-go for you.
Lack of experience
Hiring an agent with less experience may seem like a bad idea at first, but there are some upsides worth considering. While an agent with more experience can bring a lot to the table, a newer agent may have more time and energy to focus on you. They’ll also likely be eager to please as they want to build up their reputation and attract new clients.
On the flip side, if your agent is more experienced and as a result, has to balance many different clients, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If they have a super connected network and effective marketing resources, they may be able to handle a lot of clients at the same time. Some successful agents have teams working with them to provide extra support, so if you hear from an assistant instead of your agent directly from time to time, don’t read too much into it.
Want to make sure you find the right fit off the bat? Check out this guide on how to find a real estate agent!