Author Topic: What to expect of a real estate agent  (Read 1852 times)

Case

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What to expect of a real estate agent
« on: July 01, 2018, 09:26:56 AM »
Nowadays I feel real estate agents are mostly vestigial organs, having little useful function but often difficult to avoid in the home buy/sell process.  If I were on my own, id likely use redfin for whatever similar service that minimizes the middle man cost.  However, I am being relocated by work, and so my relocation costs are covered, including real estate agent fees.  Therefore I have a local real estate agent.

I more or less randomly chose one, because I am new to the area and have no connections.  The agent is ok in that he is friendly and will line up house viewings for us.  But on the other hand, he has given us no useful suggestions and just does automated searches for us with his companies website.  He is not personally looking up houses for us, sending ideas, etc... He wants to help us, but has also been unavailable a few times.

So my questions are:
1.  Are there real estate agents that are actually useful?  In my past experiences, my wife and i have done all of the legwork via searching online, and the agents mostly just collect a fat pay check for nothing other than showing up to our house visits.
2.  What is a good bar to set for the agent?  Eg what are reasonable expectations?
3.  We havent signed any contracts with this guy yet (nor will I at tthis point)?  Would you bother trying to find another or is it a waste of time?

Bracken_Joy

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2018, 09:36:24 AM »
Nowadays I feel real estate agents are mostly vestigial organs, having little useful function but often difficult to avoid in the home buy/sell process.  If I were on my own, id likely use redfin for whatever similar service that minimizes the middle man cost.  However, I am being relocated by work, and so my relocation costs are covered, including real estate agent fees.  Therefore I have a local real estate agent.

I more or less randomly chose one, because I am new to the area and have no connections.  The agent is ok in that he is friendly and will line up house viewings for us.  But on the other hand, he has given us no useful suggestions and just does automated searches for us with his companies website.  He is not personally looking up houses for us, sending ideas, etc... He wants to help us, but has also been unavailable a few times.

So my questions are:
1.  Are there real estate agents that are actually useful?  In my past experiences, my wife and i have done all of the legwork via searching online, and the agents mostly just collect a fat pay check for nothing other than showing up to our house visits.
2.  What is a good bar to set for the agent?  Eg what are reasonable expectations?
3.  We havent signed any contracts with this guy yet (nor will I at tthis point)?  Would you bother trying to find another or is it a waste of time?

1. Yes. My real estate agent somehow had a ton of homes I hadn't found on my own- I used zillow, redfin, and trulia, and somehow still missed some of them he pulled up. He also sent the full listings via email with a breakdown of which of our important factors the home had or didn't have. Including things like the distance to the nearest grocery store.
2. I have no idea on reasonable. I've only had the one buying experience, just thought I'd weigh in that it sounds like your guy isn't doing much/enough.
3. I'd personally look for another. A good agent should also have some good market insights, if something is priced too high/too low and why. (In our case, it wasn't apparent that one neighborhood would have substantial "mill smell", because the mill was actually further than another neighborhood, but prevailing wind direction matters). If you're not getting additional insights to your own, then IMO they're not doing an adequate job. Because at that point, you're right, why bother with one?

Fishindude

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2018, 11:20:31 AM »
Most of my experiences with realtors have been ho hum, but I just recently found a real good agent and purchased a property, so there are some good ones out there.
Keep looking if you're not happy.

lifeinhd

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2018, 11:31:21 AM »
I'm in the process of buying my first house and have had basically the same experience with two agents. The first I had a pending contract on a house, submitted a counteroffer in light of some repairs that needed to be made, but the seller wanted to make the repairs which I did not want. So I asked my agent to submit another counteroffer, and I'm not entirely sure she did, because the next thing I heard was "these are the repairs they're making, they're already underway." So I terminated the contract and fired the agent. (There was more to firing the agent than just that; it seemed she was more interested in finishing the sale than looking out for my interests, and after I terminated the contract she basically did not want anything to do with me.)

My new agent showed me two houses, and I asked for comps on one of them. She gave me comps on the wrong one, so I asked for comps on the right one, saying I felt it was overpriced but I'd be curious to see and possibly submit an offer more in line with the low side of market value. She said "This is not how it will work. I will not run CMA for every single house I show you. I help you with comp market analysis of the house you are interested to make the offer only." Lady, believe you me, if there weren't a real estate oligopoly creating barriers to entry to prevent the layman from running comps himself, you best believe I wouldn't be asking you or even using you! Same with showing the houses: if I could get access to the lock box, you'd best believe I'd be doing that myself.

So yeah, I'm not too keen on realtors either. Seems about the best you can expect is for them to unlock doors for you, and not be too helpful otherwise. Keep in mind especially as a buyer, their incentives are not aligned with yours. (Quick sale at high price vs good deal regardless of how long it takes.)

Case

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2018, 11:38:56 AM »
I'm in the process of buying my first house and have had basically the same experience with two agents. The first I had a pending contract on a house, submitted a counteroffer in light of some repairs that needed to be made, but the seller wanted to make the repairs which I did not want. So I asked my agent to submit another counteroffer, and I'm not entirely sure she did, because the next thing I heard was "these are the repairs they're making, they're already underway." So I terminated the contract and fired the agent. (There was more to firing the agent than just that; it seemed she was more interested in finishing the sale than looking out for my interests, and after I terminated the contract she basically did not want anything to do with me.)

My new agent showed me two houses, and I asked for comps on one of them. She gave me comps on the wrong one, so I asked for comps on the right one, saying I felt it was overpriced but I'd be curious to see and possibly submit an offer more in line with the low side of market value. She said "This is not how it will work. I will not run CMA for every single house I show you. I help you with comp market analysis of the house you are interested to make the offer only." Lady, believe you me, if there weren't a real estate oligopoly creating barriers to entry to prevent the layman from running comps himself, you best believe I wouldn't be asking you or even using you! Same with showing the houses: if I could get access to the lock box, you'd best believe I'd be doing that myself.

So yeah, I'm not too keen on realtors either. Seems about the best you can expect is for them to unlock doors for you, and not be too helpful otherwise. Keep in mind especially as a buyer, their incentives are not aligned with yours. (Quick sale at high price vs good deal regardless of how long it takes.)

Good for you for firing the fuckers.  That's the best way to fight back; they end up with their time wasted (though they likely invested little time) and you don't waste more of your time with them.

Case

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2018, 11:40:40 AM »
Nowadays I feel real estate agents are mostly vestigial organs, having little useful function but often difficult to avoid in the home buy/sell process.  If I were on my own, id likely use redfin for whatever similar service that minimizes the middle man cost.  However, I am being relocated by work, and so my relocation costs are covered, including real estate agent fees.  Therefore I have a local real estate agent.

I more or less randomly chose one, because I am new to the area and have no connections.  The agent is ok in that he is friendly and will line up house viewings for us.  But on the other hand, he has given us no useful suggestions and just does automated searches for us with his companies website.  He is not personally looking up houses for us, sending ideas, etc... He wants to help us, but has also been unavailable a few times.

So my questions are:
1.  Are there real estate agents that are actually useful?  In my past experiences, my wife and i have done all of the legwork via searching online, and the agents mostly just collect a fat pay check for nothing other than showing up to our house visits.
2.  What is a good bar to set for the agent?  Eg what are reasonable expectations?
3.  We havent signed any contracts with this guy yet (nor will I at tthis point)?  Would you bother trying to find another or is it a waste of time?

1. Yes. My real estate agent somehow had a ton of homes I hadn't found on my own- I used zillow, redfin, and trulia, and somehow still missed some of them he pulled up. He also sent the full listings via email with a breakdown of which of our important factors the home had or didn't have. Including things like the distance to the nearest grocery store.
2. I have no idea on reasonable. I've only had the one buying experience, just thought I'd weigh in that it sounds like your guy isn't doing much/enough.
3. I'd personally look for another. A good agent should also have some good market insights, if something is priced too high/too low and why. (In our case, it wasn't apparent that one neighborhood would have substantial "mill smell", because the mill was actually further than another neighborhood, but prevailing wind direction matters). If you're not getting additional insights to your own, then IMO they're not doing an adequate job. Because at that point, you're right, why bother with one?

Good to hear there are good ones out there!  Yea, we have received very few insights from ours.  Instead, he's fed us a few used-cars-salesman sounding advice, or sad self-brags.

Looks like we're probably gonna shop around for a new person.

lifeinhd

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2018, 12:07:19 PM »
Good for you for firing the fuckers.  That's the best way to fight back; they end up with their time wasted (though they likely invested little time) and you don't waste more of your time with them.

Haven't fired the second one yet, and unfortunately it will be harder if I choose to because I made a dumb mistake: I used a friend's wife. Don't mix business and pleasure!

The problem is it's hard to find a good realtor, much the same way it's hard to find a good lawyer. You can search for reviews and such but you don't really know how favorable the outcome of your specific case will be until everything is settled. For all you know the realtor's other clients who rated her highly bought a house the way my friend did: liked the granite, liked the nearby park, and signed on the dotted line. Never mind that he's in the middle of nowhere, and he paid more for his small house than some of the new construction I've been eyeing closer to town. If a realtor gets a lot of clients like my friend, and the clients who are more Mustachian fire her, she'll still get almost entirely positive reviews. There's virtually no way to discern the good ones from the bad ones beforehand.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2018, 12:10:13 PM by lifeinhd »

Case

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2018, 12:24:44 PM »
Good for you for firing the fuckers.  That's the best way to fight back; they end up with their time wasted (though they likely invested little time) and you don't waste more of your time with them.

Haven't fired the second one yet, and unfortunately it will be harder if I choose to because I made a dumb mistake: I used a friend's wife. Don't mix business and pleasure!

The problem is it's hard to find a good realtor, much the same way it's hard to find a good lawyer. You can search for reviews and such but you don't really know how favorable the outcome of your specific case will be until everything is settled. For all you know the realtor's other clients who rated her highly bought a house the way my friend did: liked the granite, liked the nearby park, and signed on the dotted line. Never mind that he's in the middle of nowhere, and he paid more for his small house than some of the new construction I've been eyeing closer to town. If a realtor gets a lot of clients like my friend, and the clients who are more Mustachian fire her, she'll still get almost entirely positive reviews. There's virtually no way to discern the good ones from the bad ones beforehand.

That was a dumb mistake (no offense intended), but you'll learn from it! 
I had a sleazy 'friend' that starting doing real estate as a side job, and he kept trying to get involved in 'helping out' his friends.  Fortunately I knew many times over that this particular guy was a slime ball.

With your situation, you might consider cutting your losses and tell them you really appreciate the help but that it wasn't a great match.  The longer you continue working with her, the harder it will be to break away, and the messier it will be.  "Hey Friend and Wife, I really appreciate your help, but it seems like I'm looking for a different style agent and I wanted to let you know soon so that I don't waste your time.  I'd love to take you guys out to dinner to say 'thanks' for the help".
If she is immediately acting non-accommodating to you, it's a red flag, and maybe even she regrets getting involved with you.

Your point on the reviews/etc... is very accurate.  It reminds me of Amazon.com reviews, which are near worthless.  The public is really stupid. 
It seems the best you can do is get recommendations from trusted friends, or wade through a bunch of agents until you find a good match.  I've also been wondering if it's better to go for a younger or mid-career agent that still needs to prove themselves.  Our current guy is older (50s), and frequently out on vacation at his beach house.

civil4life

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2018, 12:53:21 PM »
The city I live in is large and has many small neighborhoods with a lot of variation in character and amenities.  There is a business like a chamber of commerce that provided a ton of material for me about all the different areas.  They actually did tours of the communities for new home buyers.  I was moving from another state pretty much site unseen.  Maybe looking around for a similar service.

fattest_foot

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2018, 11:41:29 AM »
I think real estate agents could be valuable, but I think in most cases they're not. They're a relic of the pre-internet age. Most of what they offer can be accomplished better by a real estate lawyer.

My real complaint with them is that they all still abide by a percentage of the cost as their fee. My coworker is in escrow and each agent is looking at about $11k as their take away (3% of $365k). Even being optimistic for the agent's effort and saying it'll take 40 hours of her time, that's $275 an hour. More likely it'll be less than 10 hours and then you're talking about $1k/hr.

mozar

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2018, 04:07:35 PM »
I went with a buyers agent. And it was a little cheaper than the standard realtor in my market. http://naeba.org/

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2018, 09:21:28 AM »
Of the three realtors I've dealt with, two were fantastic and one sounds like yours.

When we were relocated to a different city, we found a realtor who gave us lots of advice about the new town.  She told us which areas she didn't recommend we look in (one was mosquito hell), and really listened to our wants and needs as she tailored our search to find those.

The next time we moved to a different suburb, we chose a realtor team - with the two of them working together, there was always someone available.  They were also fantastic at giving information about the different neighborhoods/parts of town.  These realtors earned every penny of their commission, because there were issues with the purchase of both of the properties I used them for.  In one, we bought from a builder that was being a jerk about our preferred mortgage broker (I think they got a kickback from theirs) and in the other, I was getting divorced and there were all kinds of delays.  They kept both sales from falling through.

Do you know anyone in the new city to ask for recommendations?

MustacheAnxiety

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2018, 01:55:12 PM »
I expect a buyer's agent to be a "professional door unlocker."  The qualifications are, being available when I want to tour a house.  To that end I would not sign a contract with a realtor.  If they are available to show you houses when you want great, use them to put in a contract on any house they show you.  If the realtor is busy, no big, just use someone else.  That said, I have always used an agent because it is a huge pain to line up a day of viewings without one.  I would definitely switch realtors if the current one is unreliable or unhelpful, there are always loads of people interested in doing a few days work for a big check.

I would not trust any advice or insight from my professional door unlocker and generally prefer not to get any. They are financially motivated to get a sale, not act in your best interest.  I am sure there are occasional exceptions (https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/11/11/get-rich-with-the-position-of-strength/), but it is a pretty rare gem that acts counter to their own financial best interest. 

Are you sure that your company will reimburse for realtor costs?  Realtors love to refer to the buyer's agent as "free" since they split the 6% commission with the listing agent.  You are a smart enough buyer to understand that you are paying that 6% one way or another, but is the new employer?

Even if you are getting reimbursed, try to avoid the extra document retention fee. Every realtor I have worked with has snuck that into a contract and every one has caved when we said no.  It is just a practice that the world of consumers should unequivocally reject because no one needs an extra $250 on top of 3% to store 50 sheets of paper for a few years.

Also why not use Redfin, even if it is not your nickle?  I like to reward the best value provider no matter who is paying.  And if you do find out that you don't get reimbursed for your "free" buyer's agent you will be happy to have gone with Redfin.


affordablehousing

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2018, 02:07:49 PM »
We used an agent like what you described, and it was a mediocre experience. We ended up finding a house we liked on our own and just represented ourselves. I think with Redfin, you get what you "have the seller pay for" pay for. i.e. they pretty much suck and will submit offers for you, and do little else.

A good agent knows the neighborhood, pricing trends and has a good gut instinct on what to offer. They also are dogged about pursuing a house you're interested in, sizing the competition, and gauging what terms you need to offer. In a lot of markets where things are less competitive, almost anyone can do the job. In hot markets or hot times where you're competing with 15 offers, you'd want someone with finesse.

As for finding an unusually good deal or something off-market, any self-respecting agent would buy that for themselves and not tell you about it. It might be unethical, but I wouldn't respect an agent who couldn't recognize and act on value if they saw it. I therefore expect an agent to show me something that is 5-10% undervalued, and don't assume I'll do better. I've found the best agents to sniff these out are the slimy guys and gals who also do RE investing, and got a brokers' license to help with some consistent side income. They can be hard to talk to, but usually know reno numbers well on fixers, can find you affordable labor, and can help you anticipate resale or after-rehab values.

dcozad999

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2018, 02:33:52 PM »
I'm surprised by the responses. I had a great experience with my agent. She and her husband were a team and they did pretty much everything for us:

1. Gave us tips on what to do (and what not to do) to get the house ready for sale.
2. Scheduled all of the inspections and were present for all of them as well.
3. Showed us about 40-50 houses over a 30-60 day period
4. Scheduled the garage roof replacement on our old house, as well as some other appointments.
5. Kept two extremely picky and nervous homebuyers from going nuts in an extremely hot market.
6. Probably a hundred other things that I didn't even know about.

WalkaboutStache

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #15 on: July 04, 2018, 01:28:21 AM »

Quote

Haven't fired the second one yet, and unfortunately it will be harder if I choose to because I made a dumb mistake: I used a friend's wife. Don't mix business and pleasure!


Giggle...

Warden95

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #16 on: July 09, 2018, 01:51:58 PM »
Ive been a realtor now for five years. Ive seen all kinds out there and understand the negative feelings towards many in this profession. Ive always approached this at a relationship level and would rather someone walk away from a deal than get in over their head or make a poor choice. When I walk through a house with a client Im pointing out possible issues or major future expenses. After a twenty year career in law enforcement there are days I would pick being a cop over real estate any day. It isnt easy. Im averaging 30 deals a year split between listings and buyers. I am always conscious of commission and usually stay very competitive with that. With the changes in the industry you have to be. With that said I am genuinely curious what this community values when it comes to service. What should I be doing better? What are some recommendations you have? If Im not already doing it you can be sure that Ill make the effort.

affordablehousing

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2018, 02:26:49 PM »
@Warden, Thanks for the response, and your approach sounds like how it ought to be. 30 deals a year seems like good production to me so you're clearly doing something right!

I think a lot of us on the forum are casual real estate investors, and by that I mean good number crunchers, handy folks who can repair anything, and can manage small properties. There is a value in my mind to an agent who can smell value, and can negotiate situations like probate, divorce, disrepair, extreme pest situations and help someone grow into the next ring of their comfort zone.

Raymond Reddington

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2018, 02:35:42 PM »
Are you buying or selling?

Real estate agents for a buyer definitely do have value. They can represent your interests (good ones contract as fiduciaries to you), whereas a seller's agent acting as a double agent owes loyalty to no one and actually benefits from a higher commission if the sale price goes up.

Also, a good agent has connections with mortgage banks, which can help grease the wheels if you're financing gets bogged down in back office hell. Once the offer is accepted, they will also smooth things over with the sellers if the mortgage app takes longer than desired, which is common since some banks suck at processing the paperwork correctly and often ask for things that were already submitted over and over.

A good agent can also recommend a good home inspector for you, and typically has recommendations for contractors if you are getting a great bargain on the house knowing there is important work that needs to be done. All of this is a lot easier than trying to find your own lawyer to handle closing, your own home inspector, etc. Additionally, a good real estate agent has their finger on the pulse of the neighborhood in the sense that they can make an informed recommendation when you are submitting your offer, if the asking price is reasonable or likely to come down, or if something better is likely to come along. They also may be privy to information on unlisted sales in your area, and be able to get you in to to see these properties, which typically go for less than listed properties because the seller desires to sell to someone that will actually live in the home, for example, rather than a flipper/speculator/future landlord.

You'll have to do your homework to find someone like this, of course, as there are plenty of R/E agents out there who just want to make a quick buck. It's sort of like when you are 18 everyone wants to be a DJ. Now in your 20s and 30s, everybody wants to be a R/E agent. So you have to choose carefully.

Lulee

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #19 on: July 10, 2018, 05:44:43 PM »
My mom, after 50+ years in her home, is looking to sell out and been struggling with this same issue.  What she wants isn't likely to ever be found but she's trying any way.

First agent was a friend of my brothers and is a nice lady outside of work.  But she didn't listen to what was being looked for and the limited resources my mom has to put into it.  My brother & SIL were the ones finding most of the listings Mom ever actually looked at.  The agent even got frustrated with Mom for not snapping up one or another piece of crap building she'd found and snapped at my SIL (apologizing for it later).  So they let the contract lapse and Mom was just about to give up the crazy dream when ...

The neighbor up the street turned out to be an agent who not only listens intently but also likes a challenge.  Ruth has shown Mom a few near misses and is happy to keep working to help out even without an official contract yet, just because she's a neighbor.  Her agency, a smaller one that her dad started decades ago, charges a percentage point less in commissions than most others around which helps out people like Mom.  Even if nothing works out, the whole family appreciates her time and attention to detail and willingness to do more than just search through online listings for something vaguely like what's being looked for.

If you could find a similar agent in your new area, s/he would be worth every penny the company pays and more.

Warden95

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Re: What to expect of a real estate agent
« Reply #20 on: July 10, 2018, 06:19:28 PM »
I appreciate the feedback. A lot of the behaviors you described are what I strive for.