- Interview several agents and do your due diligence before hiring an agent
- Take the listing or representation agreement seriously – you are committing 100% to that agent
- Watch out for warning signs, and first try to work out concerns with your agent before sacking anyone
Avoid This Problem
Hiring the wrong agent can often have very serious results. A guaranteed consequence is a lot of time and money wasted as your home sits on the market or gets less than its full market potential.
Choosing a Realtor is not easy. There are over 400 in the Fort Hood area (Killeen, Harker Heights, Copperas Cove). Be sure to check out my article on How to Choose a Quality Realtor, and also 9 Red Flags When Choosing a Realtor so you don’t find yourself here in the future.
Below are some of the major signs you chose poorly.
1. Bad Communication
This one is a real estate cliche.
Especially in the Fort Hood area where it is not unusual for a home to take a few months to sell, sellers complain about not hearing from their agents in weeks. The best agents will usually set aside time once a week just to update sellers on their homes and any showings – even if there were none. That way you at least know what is going on.
Good communication in general is important. It’s one thing if your agent can’t return your phone call for a few hours. It’s another thing if you never hear back, or if your agent doesn’t think to update you ever.
2. Doesn’t Advocate for Your Interests
This is probably the second biggest complaint I hear from people I work with who had been working with an agent previously: “she kept showing us two story homes when we said we didn’t want a two story home!”
Perhaps this falls some under the communication bit. But sometimes your agent just can’t seem to get on the same page as you and your needs.
Worse is an agent who is putting their interests before yours. For example, many builders in the Fort Hood area offer buyer’s agent bonuses (some non-builder homes do, too) – some as much as twice the commission an agent might get for a non-builder home. There is nothing inherently unethical about getting a commission bonus. But if they are pushing you toward a builder that does not meet your needs, you may want to ask some questions and verify they really have your interests at heart.
3. Doesn’t Know the Market
They may be new, part-time, work primarily in a different area, or are just clueless. When you’re spending six figures, being off by even 1% is $1000s.
They don’t have to know everything. I feel market knowledge is one of my personal strengths, and yet it is not the case that I can just walk into any house and give you a home value. I spend a lot of time on the MLS researching neighborhoods and comparables, even in neighborhoods that I know well. Every house is different, and the market is always changing.
You absolutely need an agent who can do this. Someone who knows how to evaluate the market, neighborhood, and home value – as a buyer or seller. When they recommend a home value, they should have actual sales data in the same neighborhood backing up their story.
4. Bad Marketing
There are a lot of different elements that go into selling your home. The one that is entirely the responsiblity of your agent is exposure. Marketing. In hot markets like Austin at the moment, it is often as easy as slapping it on the MLS and waiting for it to fly off the shelf with multiple offers.
That doesn’t cut it in the Fort Hood market. You want to ensure your agent is doing something more than just putting it on the MLS. The information needs to be complete and accurate. Ensure they put it on Zillow and Trulia, perhaps do some paid advertising, and use great photography. I, for example, am a big believer in the value added from professional photography. These are the basic core competencies of being a real estate agent.
5. You Don’t Get Along
This may not be the agent’s fault. Maybe you just clash. Like pepperoni pizza and mint chocolate ice cream – great on their own, but not so much together. Life is too short to work with someone you don’t like on something so important as buying or selling your house. Hopefully you would have figured this out long before you started working with an agent.
Usually, if you’re not getting along, it is because of both a personality clash and also one of the other issues on this list – maybe bad communication. The personality clash just makes it worse.
6. Unethical Behavior
Yowsers. Hopefully you don’t run into this, but if you do….
There is a Realtor Code of Ethics. Agents and their brokers who fail on this count can face consequences far more serious than just losing your business. They can be publicly reprimanded, fined, or even have their license suspended.
Just off the top of my head, some of the more common unethical practices you might see:
- “Buying a listing” (Article1: Standard of Practice 1-3) in which an agent overpromises on the value of your home just to get your business.
- Intermediary abuse, where a buyer is enticed to overpay for a home represented by the same agent
- Lethargy (Article 1: Standard of Practice 1-6) or laziness – simply taking too long to submit offers and counters
- Commingling (Article 8), or mixing clients’ money (like earnest money) with their own.
How to Fire Your Agent
The Contract Expires. The listing or buyer representation agreement has a set term, the end of which you are (mostly) free to move on. Listing agreements usually last about six months, but it is 100% negotiable and depends on each Realtor’s business model. For example, I myself offer a 1 month listing term for some sellers if they qualify. Buyer Representation Agreements terms vary a little more – 3 and 6 months are probably the most common.
What about the “mostly”? Listing agreements and buyer representation agreements have a protection period in them, often 30 days (negotiable in the contract). An agent has 10 days to send you a list of buyers or homes that they helped find for you. You are still obligated to a commission if you sell to those buyers or buy that home during the protection period. The protection period is voided if you sign a listing agreement/representation agreement with another agent.
Before the Contract Expires. What if you still have months left on your contract? Are you stuck?
Often you can simply request to terminate representation early, and most agents I know will probably consent. I personally don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t want to work with me or is dissatisfied. If there is an issue that can’t be resolved, the best thing is often just to move on.
If your agent or brokerage declines to terminate an agreement early, then you are indeed stuck, unless your agent has breached their agreement (for example, done something unethical). If that’s the case, things are probably complicated and it may even be time for a lawyer (even writing “lawyer” makes me a little lightheaded).
Paperwork. The Texas Association of Realtor has a form to terminate a listing for sellers and also terminate buyer’s representation agreement for buyers . Most listing terminations are not contentious or ugly. Often the seller’s situation has changed, or the home rented instead of sold, and the owner is simply taking it off the market.
I’ve never used a buyer’s representation termination, and the instances I can imagine where one would be necessary do sound contentious and ugly.
Note – there may be fees still involved with terminating a listing early. Some expenses the Realtor may have already made might be refundable.
What if I’m in the Middle of a Deal?
If something occurs and you already have a contract with a buyer or seller, it is not as easy as simply walking away. First, try to work the issue out with the agent. Perhaps they are unaware of what they’ve done that you find so objectionable.
If an understanding can’t be reached, you can request that the agent’s broker reassign you to a different agent in the same office, or perhaps be represented the rest of the way by the broker themselves.
Single agent brokerages don’t have anyone else, and the path forward may be a little more difficult and complicated in these instances.
What Do You Do Now?
Don’t let one experience ruin your opinion of all agents. The reasons for hiring an agent to represent you as a buyer or seller are still the same. Find someone who is serious, has good market info, doesn’t waste your time and is committed to providing value, and don’t make the same mistakes twice.
I try my utmost to be such an agent. If you are looking for an agent in the Killeen/Fort Hood area, please include me in your interviews!