Why The Consumer Distrusts The Real Estate Agent

TrueGotham was born from a desire to raise the bar in the real estate industry and although I have seen quite a shift in those who enter the profession (higher caliber education and professionalism) and the way that most of my colleagues do business, there remains considerable room for improvement.  An example:

Last May, a couple whom I have been working with for quite some time viewed a property with me that we deemed overpriced at the time.  I must mention that this couple and I have an incredibly open and honest relationship as I continue to work with them in procuring the "right" home.  In this particular instance, I nor my buyers were the problem.  The property that we viewed was comprised of 2 units to be combined and owned by 2 separate owners.  Both were being represented by one of the top real estate agents in the COUNTRY!  One of his assistants met me and my buyers at the building and took us into one of the units.  He then lambasted the owner of the second unit for being a "bitch" and for not letting us see her unit "claiming she was sick." He also claimed that the unit owner of the "unseen property" wasn’t a "real seller" and that the owner of the unit that we were standing in "hated her neighbor."  (Please excuse all of the quotation marks but I’m actually quoting this agent from memory.)  Giving the combined price of the 2 units and this additional information, my buyers and I decided it made no sense to proceed.

Fast forward to 2 weeks ago…The property came back on the market with another large firm listing the combination at a slightly reduced price (very slightly but my buyers thought perhaps the seller’s had become more realistic with their expectations).  The listing online showed a combined floor plan and made no mention that it was still 2 units.  Both I and my buyers thought that it seemed as though the sellers had combined the units to re-market them.  My assistant attempted to schedule an appointment to view both units, this time inquiring with the agent duo representing the property as to whether the units had been combined.  NEITHER agent for the sellers could answer this question when first asked and called us back to inform us that the units had indeed been combined.  Great!!!  We scheduled an appointment to see how the combination turned out and assumed that we would make an offer based on a much more reasonable asking price post combo. 

We arrived at our scheduled noon appointment to discover that we were meeting the owner of the unit we had already seen and not their agent representative (perhaps they were too busy misrepresenting other property?)  The owner was absolutely as gracious as could be and quite informed about how the combination could be done based on her experience combining units in other nearby, similar buildings.  That’s right…the combo HAD NOT been completed.  The good news was, this owner was "very friendly" with her neighbor and in fact they were business partners in a variety of real estate investments (remember what the agent said back in May?).  So we entered the mystery unit that we had not yet viewed and to our delight met the "bitch" who was even more gracious, friendly and informed that her lovely neighbor. 

After about an hour conversation with both owners and my buyers, we exited the units and entered the elevator to the leave the building.  My buyer turned to me and said, "No offense to you at all Doug but that is precisely why everyone thinks that the people in your industry suck."  And all I could say was, "I completely understand where you’re coming from and wish that there was a way to eliminate agents who are obstacles to transactions from the industry."  The only way that is going to happen is if sellers and buyers alike are more diligent in their hiring of real estate professionals.  Simply hiring anyone with a real estate license isn’t going to do the trick. 

Here are some simple things that sellers or buyers can do to insure they aren’t working with these types of agents:

  • Ask for more than one reference.
  • Google your prospective agent (you may be surprised at what you learn about them)
  • When working with a selling agent, have a friend call them and ask questions about the building and report back to you as to whether or not responses were sufficient.
  • If choosing a family member or friend to represent you, don’t take for granted that they have your best interest in mind and demand the professional service you would ask of a stranger.
  • Ask your agent "why you?" And listen carefully to their response being certain that they bring something of value to the table that another agent or working alone doesn’t.
  • Ask your co-workers about their experiences with agents and consider a referral based on their responses.

Despite what many people think, a professional and experienced real estate agent can indeed bring considerable value to the buying or selling process.  They better if they want to continue to earn their commission.

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6 Responses to Why The Consumer Distrusts The Real Estate Agent

  1. avatar Brenda says:

    Hi Doug,
    I have been with my agent for 7 years. I will be with him as long as he is in business and I have any buying/selling needs. I recommend him to everyone. He is not my “friend” per se, but he is a great person who has a great sense of humor and balances his duty to the seller with his knowledge of my circumstances and wants. He is also at Elliman (if I didn’t already have the relationship, I’d be giving you or Noah a call).
    There are a lot of great agents out there, there are also a ton of not so great. I’ve been looking off and on for almost twenty years (bought twice, and sold twice and looked many more times) and some things could just turn your stomach.

  2. WOW! Thanks for that comment Brenda. What a nice change to have someone praising their real estate agent. Most seem to enjoy bashing us and our profession.

  3. avatar JC says:

    Myself and Noah were talking about this recently.
    The brokers I have interacted with are, for the large part, worse than used car salesmen.
    One of the local newspapers did a poll a while back about the ‘most disrespected professions’ and real estate brokers came in the top few.
    I also found that many of the brokers who are actually honest don’t know enough to be useful.
    Like I said to Noah, you and he and a few others are the exception, not the rule. Without even having met you, the fact that you have a real estate blog tells me you are orders of magnitude more interested in the business of real estate than most of your competitors.
    They are only interested in the business of commission.
    But a lot of responsibility lies with consumers for working with crap brokers. You wouldn’t believe the simple questions that I ask which selling brokers can’t answer.
    * Is there a financing contingency in the offering plan?
    * Is this dryer vented to the outside?
    * Are a percentage of common areas included in this square footage?
    * And The Least Frequently Correctly Answered Question: HOW BIG IS THIS APARTMENT ?
    Why would someone hire a broker, as either a buying or selling broker, if he is trying to sell a place for someone else and can’t tell you how big it is?
    I don’t care what the estimate is and I don’t want to hear excuses – go and get a tape measure and sheet of paper and stop wasting everybody’s time. At $1,400/sqft I don’t care if you have to measure it by covering it in pennies. Incredible.

  4. I here ya JC and unfortunately your opinion of agents seems to be the prevalent one. In fairness to many of my colleagues, there are more than a handful of good ones out there. I think in fact that the few bad apples spoil the bunch. I have seen quite a shift in the level of professionalism from agents over the past several years and expect that only to improve as consumers demand more from the industry.
    In the meantime, I wish there was an efficient way to remove the dead weight from the ranks.
    Also, I love the idea of measuring in pennies 😀

  5. I just wanted to note that I am very impressed with your blogs! I came across your website after reading an article about the recent open-house thefts by the two females (one cannot call them ladies, now can they?).
    I only hope that when my boyfriend and I finally start talking to an agent next year about moving our entire lives across the country (from South Carolina to California) that we will get someone as serious and involved as yourself.
    I’ve only purchased ONE home in my life, and never had to sell yet. I sit on an amazing piece of property which I managed to get for a fantastic value, and had no problems with my real estate agent. He was incredibly new to the industry, probably about 24 years old, and very personable. He seemed to do a very good job, and so I feel good that I had a good “first” experience.

  6. Thank you Jennifer. When you get ready to make that move, give me a call and I will help you find someone with your best interest in mind.

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