Last week I told you that I had asked ChatGPT to tell me the top ten complaints about real estate agents. Eight of those complaints seemed reasonable. The last two, I believe were misplaced. They seem to me a bit like blaming the waitress if the chef overcooks your steak. You’ll have to see if you agree.
The number one complaint about real estate agents, of course, was lack of communication and responsiveness.
Clients don’t like it when the agent they’ve chosen to represent them chooses to ignore them. (Of course, some of them are unrealistic and overly needy, but that’s another story.) I don’t know how many times I heard clients complain that their last agent ignored them. I’m sure you’ve heard it as well.
The other reasonable complaints about real estate agents were:
- Inadequate market knowledge.
- Failure to effectively market their listings.
- Misrepresentation of property information.
- Poor representation during the closing process.
- Pressure to use specific inspectors or lenders.
- Lack of attention to detail.
- Incompetence or unprofessionalism.
That last one – Incompetence or unprofessionalism – covers a lot of territory, including the complaints listed above. We’ll look at the other forms of unprofessionalism next week.
Inadequate market knowledge
Whether you’re buying or selling, you want your agent to know the local market. That’s why agents are wise to refer out buyers and sellers who want help in territories other than their own.
Failure to effectively market listings
Sadly, there are still a few agents out there who think putting a sign in the yard is good enough. And then there are those who promise the moon with regard to marketing and don’t follow through.
Several years ago (when the market was not hot) I had acquaintances with such an agent. I happened to be there the day she promised good signage, open houses, exposure on a number of websites, magazine ads, etc. She did not do any of it and then was outraged when they complained.
Misrepresentation of property information
My first thought was that the buyer’s agent doesn’t always know if the listing agent has misrepresented the property. So buyers shouldn’t blame their own agent.
However, in thinking back over the years, I realized that some buyer’s agents do indeed skip over or alter property details. For a few, it’s “anything to make the sale.”
With this in mind, I think it would be a good idea to let buyers know if you have not personally viewed a property they plan to tour. Tell them that you have only the information in MLS to rely upon because it is not your listing.
That disclosure will keep them from blaming you if the pictures make a house look better than it is, or if the listing agent failed to mention a few important details.
Poor representation during the closing process
This is self-explanatory, but important. I’ve seen many transactions fall through because one agent left all the work to the other agent – or to the closing attorney.
Pressure to use specific inspectors or lenders
I understand recommending professionals you know are honest and competent – and discouraging them from using those you know are not.
However, pressuring people smacks of kick-backs. I didn’t realize the practice was so widespread that it would land on a list of top ten complaints.
Lack of attention to detail
This is another self-explanatory complaint about real estate agents, but it is oh so important. As I point out in my Grammar Guide for Real Estate Agents, something so seemingly insignificant as a missing comma can put a client (and his or her agent) in the middle of a lawsuit.
One example was the lawsuit that cost a Dairy in Maine $5 million in back wages.
Details, especially in listing agreements, purchase and sale contracts, and counter offers, prevent misunderstandings. Details are vital to clear communication.
Incompetence or unprofessionalism
As I said – I’ll save that one for next week.
Here are the complaints about real estate agents that surprised me:
- Hidden or unexpected fees
- Inflexibility or unwillingness to negotiate.
Hidden or unexpected fees
I suppose this could be true if an agent failed to tell sellers that they would have to pay closing costs. But don’t most agents give sellers a net sheet? Don’t most sellers ask about the bottom line?
It could also come into play for buyers who were using their own cash. Perhaps their agents didn’t mention that they’d need to pay closing costs.
Or – is it possible that some agents fail to mention HOA fees? I think that would come under property details, but…?
As for buyers who are obtaining a mortgage – don’t lenders have to provide estimates within 3 days of a mortgage application? And aren’t there limits regarding how much those numbers can change?
Way back before all those rules came into being, I did have buyers whose mortgage lender failed to tell them about an extra $2,400 they would need to bring to closing. I felt bad for them, but not too bad, since I had recommended 2 or 3 reliable local lenders and they insisted on using an out-of-town lender.
For the most part – I think the blame is probably misplaced on this one.
Inflexibility or unwillingness to negotiate
Unless they’re referring to commission rates, I don’t really see how clients can blame their agents for this one. This, I believe, falls on the buyers or sellers themselves.
Some agents do fail to provide guidance in negotiating – feeling that it is up to their clients to make those decisions unaided. (Or not having the experience and market knowledge to advise confidently.)
However, most agents I know are more than willing to negotiate on behalf of their clients. In fact, many mention their negotiating skills in their marketing materials.
On the other hand, I’ve met many sellers who wouldn’t budge – and buyers who couldn’t budge. Their offer was the best they could do.
So, again, I think this blame is misplaced.
Knowing these complaints about real estate agents should give you some marketing ideas.
Now you know what bothers real estate consumers. Since I’m sure you do not do any of those things – use this information in your marketing.
- Let them know that you know your market well – and tell them how you gained and maintain that knowledge.
- Talk about your marketing systems and let them know that you’ll be glad to explain the details in person. (Because you don’t want your marketing methods in the hands of your competitors.)
- Let them know that when you take a listing, you want all of the information you can get about the property, and that you will share it. If you’re a buyer’s agent, disclose the fact that you do not have it – but will get it for them if they’re interested in a specific house.
- Tell them about your negotiating skills – and that while the ultimate decisions are theirs, you will advise based on market knowledge and experience.
- Go into some detail about staying in touch during the time between agreement and closing – and about what you do to keep transactions from failing.
- Tell them you will provide your list of service providers who have served your clients well, but the choice is theirs.
- Mention the importance of detail in legal documents and assure them that you will explain the importance of every blank you will fill out on their behalf.
It’s a shame that complaints about real estate agents get more attention than compliments.
But you can make sure that your own clients have only good things to say. And then, one transaction at a time, you can help give the real estate industry a better, more positive reputation.
Do make it a point to share your own testimonials – on your website, in your blog posts, and even with your prospecting letters.