6 Signs of a Bad Agent: Home Sellers Beware

Posted on Mar 19, 2021


Did you know that there are over 2 million active real estate agents in the U.S., according to data from Homelight? This means that no matter which market you’re trying to sell a home in, you likely have multiple agents to choose from. 

All too many people looking to sell their home will go with the first agent they find through typing “Realtor near me”, or will follow the recommendation of a family member or friend - without doing any vetting or research to make sure the agent is a good fit for their needs.

Before you sign a listing agreement that locks you into working with a single agent, make sure you understand the signs of a bad agent - and how to move forward.

Issue #1: Your Agent Is Okay With Pricing Your Home Too High

Typically what happens when you find a potential listing agent is that you will set up a time to meet, and for them to tour your house. They’ll walk you through what they think your home is worth based on local comps, and give you general information about the housing market so you know what to expect. Then you’ll sign the listing agreement contract. 

One common sign of a bad agent is that they agree to sell your home for a price that’s too high for the market - in order to get you to list with them. This creates several problems:

  • If your home is listed too high, it’s not going to be seen by as many buyers.
  • Sellers may hope that someone pays the asking price anyway - especially in a competitive market - but the opposite is usually true. Buyers often don’t want to even bother seeing if you’ll come down on a home they believe is over-valued.
  • Once the home has been on the market for several weeks and you need to start discounting the price, this sends a signal to buyers that you’re getting desperate to offload the home - and, sensing weakness, they may come in with even lower bids than they would have originally. 
  • Most buyers will need a mortgage to pay for the home, and to receive a mortgage the home has to be appraised. If the home is appraised for lower than the sell price, you may find yourself having to discount the price anyway in order to make up the difference.
  • Keep in mind that good, experienced listing agents aren’t afraid of listing homes slightly under their market value - knowing that this can quickly drive up the price through a bidding war.

You can combat this by interviewing several agents before deciding on who to sign with, to get a feel for who is telling you what you want to hear, versus who is telling you what you need to hear. 

You can also look at the price of recently sold homes in your area via sites like Redfin or Houwzer. See how their amenities and features compare to yours to figure out whether your asking price is truly reasonable. 

Issue #2: Your Agent Tries to Impress You With Glossy Brochures - Instead of Tech Savvy

Twenty years ago, the real estate market was a different place. People still relied on their real estate agents, first and foremost, to find homes for them. Today, almost all homebuyers begin their journey of looking at homes online - cutting down the distance between you and them. Glossy, expensive 3-panel brochures of your home and newspaper ads that used to dominate real estate are no longer the way buyers find homes. 

A good real estate agent knows that the key to getting the most eyes on your home - especially in the first month, when it’s fresh on the market - is professional photography, an accurate listing description, and a competitive price. 

In other words: be wary of agents who push exclusively old-school methods like brochures, ads, and finding buyers in their existing rolodex. These methods can help, but if your agent is taking low-quality photography with their camera phone or leaving off important details (newly installed hardwood floors!) in your listing, your home sale could be in trouble. 

  • According to RisMedia, Homes with high quality photography sell 32% faster.
  • Redfin’s data indicates that homes listed between $200,000 and $1 million sold for $3,400 to $11,200 more relative to their list prices when photographed professionally, rather than listed with amateur photographs.

Issue #3: Your Agent is Inexperienced With Selling

In our “Essential Questions to ask a Realtor” piece, we detailed 15 important questions you should be asking. When it comes to ensuring you’re working with an experienced agent, three of these questions are especially important:

"Are you a full time agent?"

Make sure the person is a full time agent – not only will they have more up-to-date knowledge of the market, but they’re also more likely to respond to you in a timely manner and without distractions. If an agent has another career and helps you on the side, you’ll have to fit your viewings and questions in around their schedule – not yours. 

"Do you work with buyers or sellers?"

Many people don’t realize that “listing agent” and “buyer's agent” are two distinct jobs. Though many agents do both, you might find that your potential agent has very little experience on the sell side despite being a full time agent. Real estate transactions are complex, and there’s a lot on the line if something goes wrong. Making sure your agent is a specialist - or at least highly experienced in listing homes - is a way to protect yourself.

"How long have you been an agent?"

Real estate agents vary widely in depth of experience, and you should consider whether you want someone just starting out in the field to help you navigate one of the largest financial transactions of your life – especially if it’s your first time and you’re not sure what to expect.

Issue #4: Poor Communication

Fast and clear communication is essential when you’re trying to sell a home, and being too busy to take your call is a clear sign of a bad agent. This happens for a variety of reasons: some people do real estate as a side gig, which means that their primary job often comes first. Other times, agents overextend themselves and are too busy helping other clients to speak to you.

Slow and/or inconsistent communication can be extremely stressful when you’re trying to sell a home - especially when the listing agent is the intermediary between you and the buyer’s agent.

If you find your real estate agent responding back days later to your messages when you initially contact them, be wary - because this is probably the way they’ll communicate with you after you sign the listing contract, too. 

Issue #5: Your Agent is Not a Realtor

Did you know that a “Realtor” is a licensed real estate salesperson who belongs to the National Association of REALTORS®? While all Realtors are agents, not all agents are Realtors. There are clear benefits to working with licensed Realtors: they’re held to a higher ethical standard than other agents and must promise to uphold their clients’ best interests in all transactions. This doesn’t mean other agents are bad, necessarily - it just means that you’re increasing the likelihood of having a smooth, professional transaction when you work with a Realtor.

Issue #6: Your Agent Charges an Exorbitant Commission

The real estate industry as a whole has benefited from new technologies and the internet, which has made it easier and more efficient than ever before to buy and sell a home. Despite the internet putting homes directly in front of buyers, though, many real estate agents are still charging the same commission fees they did 20 years ago. The typical home seller pays 3% to the listing agent at closing, and 3% to the buyer’s agent - but some agents charge even more.

Houwzer, by contrast, opts to charge a flat rate fee of $5,000 for full service listings and focuses on buyer goals, rather than commissions. While Houwzer may not be available in your market, it’s worth keeping in mind that outrageously high fees are a sign that you’re being taken advantage of. 

Don’t Settle for Less Than a Top Realtor

It’s important to know the signs of a bad Realtor because selling or buying a home is a major financial transaction, and can significantly impact your life. 

If you find yourself putting more thought into selecting unbruised fruit at the grocery store than finding a qualified real estate agent, stop and think for a minute about how taking the time to find a top agent today can pay off in the form of a smooth, successful and profitable home selling experience tomorrow.

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