Also published on the Huffington Post

I get it. Agents get a bad rap. I can’t help but get my feelings hurt a little when I hear things like we’re idiots, or money-hungry, but then I’m out there pounding the pavement and come face to face with an agent whose ability to sustain his or her own client base is astonishing. It’s happened more than once this month that a client of mine, upon hearing my half of a conversation with another agent, will say, “Are they for real?”

Yes. They are for real. Yes, Real Estate Agents show houses and “forget” to put the keys back in the lockbox. Yes, they list houses and then say you can’t show them for a week or two but then the house magically goes under contract. Yes, they play games then have their friend swoop in and buy the house for a good deal. At least that’s my strong suspicion. And yes, Real Estate Agents don’t return calls, don’t return emails and let their voicemail fill.

So what’s your agent been out there doing? Hopefully none of the following:

Oops I did it again!

I was setting appointments to see properties with a client. The listing agent kept correcting the address I was reading and I said, “No, it’s 1165. The owner is Elaine….” She said, “Oh. Oh. Oh no. I have to call you back.” With that, she hung up. I think you see where this is going. Not for a minute, not for an hour, but for two whole days she had the wrong house listed for sale. How… scary. But even scarier, it took her another full day to remove the incorrect listing and enter the right one. Reason cited for removal of first listing? “Assistant made an error.”

Sure. Blame the assistant.

Lesson: Don’t trust people who don’t take accountability for their actions and who blame others for things that are their responsibility.

Market Value? What’s That?

Clients of mine were interested in a house that has been languishing on the market. No. Not languishing. More like, rotting. It’s been listed for months in a hot neighborhood and yet, no contract. You needed a HazMat suit just to navigate the inside of this place and it’s clearly overpriced. At the right price though, my clients would buy it. I called the listing agent to talk about the houses across the street that are fully renovated and sold for less than her price. She started screaming, “That’s a good neighborhood!”

Whoa. It’s never good when agents get emotional about listings. It’s a sign something isn’t right. I wasn’t getting far with her so I called her partner who wasn’t much help either. He did tell me they received several offers that were about half the asking price — which is pretty much what my clients thought it was worth as well.

Lesson: The market is very efficient in D.C. The market is efficient everywhere really, but when the market speaks, you have to listen and in this case, it’s speaking very loudly. They are never going to get that asking price and shame on them for misleading their clients into believing that they could.

The Snow is Softer in Italy

My favorite had to be the highly unethical agent who could not contain himself from constantly nagging for my clients to move up their settlement date. This was not possible for a number of reasons — mostly because his client did not want to move out of the house she was selling. But it didn’t stop this guy from harassing anyone who would listen. He directly asked my clients to settle early when we crossed paths. He knows better. He’s not allowed to speak to my clients.

As it turned out, there was a ton of drama at settlement which required his presence, but he decided to go skiing in Italy instead. His client had no representation, had to make some decisions on her own, and he came back and complained about anything and everything. Well, it’s a service oriented business. Closing was scheduled months in advance (remember the long lead time he didn’t want?) and there was no excuse for him to not be there. That’s his JOB.

Lesson: Don’t get ditched at any point during the process but especially not at settlement when it matters the most to your net worth.

Check your agent’s reviews. Ask for references. Talk to people. Check the State Real Estate Board Complaint Files. (This is a treasure trove of information.) Don’t make the mistakes the clients of the above agents have made — it can cost you a lot financially and emotionally if you make the biggest investment of your life with someone who is incompetent or unethical.