When & How to Break Up with Your Realtor
“Everyone always blames the broker.” That’s a common phrase thrown around real estate offices, where stressed-out Realtors commiserate with each other over everything from stalled sales to bad home inspections.
Real property often represents the largest asset a person will possess in their lifetime, so when things go sideways during a sale or purchase, many people will understandably channel their frustrations to the agent standing nearest to them.
This can be rough on the Realtor, as effective agents can sink a lot of time and money (in the thousands) working for you, with no payout until you buy or sell something in a process that can sometimes take upwards of a year or more.
Most Realtors will work extremely hard for you, but occasionally, a few may deserve your displeasure.
If you’ve “had it” with your Realtor and can’t wait to send them packing, then take a deep breath. You and I need to talk.
Getting Real: Are Your Expectations Too High?
Whether it’s a young couple trying to buy their first perfect home on a shoestring budget, or a recently retired bachelor hoping for a record-shattering price on a 1970s-era party pad, this business has a way of making otherwise logical human beings abandon reason in favor of chasing unicorns and rainbows.
To make sure you’re not doing the same, take a moment to ask yourself a simple question: are your expectations too high?
You can test that theory by explaining to your Realtor that you want him or her to produce a list of “clones” of homes or land that either match what you’re attempting to sell, or that fit the price range you’re shopping in. Tell them you want to know “for real” what you’re dealing with.
They may have already done so early in your relationship, but there’s nothing wrong with reassessing things if you’re feeling frustrated.
If you’re selling a home or land, an even better option would be to hire a professional appraiser to come up with an independent opinion of value, for a fee, which you can use to compare or complement your agent’s own estimates.
If it turns out that your expectations were unrealistic to begin with, the next question is, who put them there? There is a chance of course that you did. Adjust your outlook, shake hands with your agent and go back to working as a team.
But, if your agent really did hook you with a silly song and dance just to win your business, then it may be time to part ways.
Realtor Roulette: Losing Patience and Interest
Even when you and your agent start out on the same page in terms of prices and expectations, things can get rough along the way.
Buyers can walk out on you during the sale of your home, or conversely, beat you to the punch on a house purchase.
Some buyers and sellers will reflexively blame their broker when things go sour, ditching them too quickly in hopes that a newer, shinier agent will take all the pain away.
In the business, we call this type of behavior “Realtor Roulette.”
We see it most commonly with sellers. When a home first hits the market, it gets lots of attention and generates excitement. If a home doesn’t sell during this “fresh and new” period, activity will typically level off or decline until the right buyer comes along and makes an offer.
Sellers sometimes get impatient during this phase of a listing, and seek out a savior to “get the job done.” A new Realtor will come along, ask for a price reduction on the home, then proceed to re-list it (sometimes in much the same fashion as the previous Realtor) and wait for a buyer. This process may repeat itself two or three times before the homeowner finds the “right” agent for the job, often at a much lower price than they originally started with.
In reality, this routine can be a waste of sellers’ time as their home goes off the market while each successive Realtor prepares their listing all over again with new photographs, new signage and marketing materials.
It may also weaken the home’s image in the eyes of potential buyers as they see two or three failed home sales, becoming skeptical of a home’s quality and pricing (I often have buyers ask me, “so what’s wrong with that place?” if they see multiple listing attempts).
For buyers’ agents, clients sometimes lose interest in an agent if an offer of theirs fails to get accepted on a home they love. Or they may simply cycle through Realtors, again, “roulette-style” for each home they’re interested in. This can lead to poor representation, as each new agent will have to re-learn their preferences and needs.
In small towns, buyers can earn a bad reputation in much the same fashion a Realtor can. Many agents have a mental list of toxic buyers they won’t touch.
Whatever your circumstance, before you abandon your Realtor, hit the pause button on your emotions and review whether they’ve performed well on the following four points. Some of these apply only to people selling their homes, which are marked with an asterisk.
1) Response time Does the agent return your calls or emails within 24 hours on weekdays? If you’re selling your home, is he/she doing this for buyers? To test them, have a friend call or email an inquiry on your home to see how long it takes for a response. If there’s no callback at all or it takes days to hear from your agent, that’s a bad sign.
2) * Photography Are the images clear and crisp, taken during good weather? Bad photos can tank a listing’s chances of success from the start. Make sure you’re not part of the problem, though. If your home is a continuous mess of clutter, hire a cleaner for both photography and showings.
3) * Descriptions Does your listing seem appealing upon reading it? Does it have errors?
4) Feedback If you’re a buyer, does the agent follow up on questions you have about the homes you visited? If selling a home, does the agent provide you feedback when people visit the home if you ask for it? (Bonus points if they provide it to you without you asking. That is a great sign you have a winner).
Saying Goodbye: Parting on Good Terms is Best
Prior to ending any Realtor relationship, please think about re-kindling it. Have a meeting, express your frustrations and concerns, and set some goals with your agent as to how you’ll get back on track.
Changing Realtors can be a drag for the reasons listed above, and the best of them aren’t as easy to find as you might think.
But if you’re intent on going your separate ways—by selling a house yourself or by seeking new representation—be sure of one incredibly important detail: that your contracts (if you’ve signed any) allow you to do so, and that you provide any necessary written or verbal notices to the appropriate parties.
Although our most common client contracts involve representing sellers, more and more agents are relying on buyer representation contracts to protect their investments of time and money.
Review your paperwork, ask your agent and their principal broker what your contract options are, and remember that with any written agreement involving property or representation, seeking the advice of a qualified attorney who is licensed in your state is always a good idea.
Once you’re in the clear from a legal standpoint, part ways on terms that are as pleasant as possible. We’re in Hawai‘i, and chances are, we’ll all be seeing each other again…