Better yet, how to set up clear expectations so you never need to fire your real estate agent - or your client if you're the agent.
After a few weeks of talking with real estate professionals for research on reasons to fire your real estate agent, I’m finding this article should really be called, “how to set up clear expectations so you never need to fire your real estate agent” — or your client, from the agent’s perspective.
The interest in this topic was sparked by the frustration of my co-worker, which can be felt across the 4 feet of sleek, white, Mac-inspired desks even when I can’t see her through my 14-inch monitor. She and her sisters are selling their late mother’s home in Florida — or trying to sell it, with the lackluster help of a Vero Beach duo.
Lackluster really doesn’t even describe it. I’ll share some of her frustrations with these agents and then get into the great information I’ve gathered from other real estate professionals on setting clear expectations for communication, marketing and follow-through whether you are buying or selling a home.
My co-workers complaints highlight the agents’ poor communication, lack of knowledge, minimal effort, substandard marketing and nonexistent attention to detail. Her examples include:
- After interviewing the agents, and signing a contract in late July, the sisters received little contact from the agents over the next month.
- The agents justified a month of sparse communication and no home marketing, saying that August is the “down season” in the area.
- Although the sisters requested communication other than phone calls, the agents rarely respond to emails and struggle to comprehend texts. When my co-worker sent them a bulleted email that only required updates – none were entered. (I can tell you from working with this gal that she is the master of clear correspondence, organized notes and documentation.)
- She had to write the home description herself.
- The house sat with no official “For Sale” sign for weeks. The agents claimed there’s only one guy in their area who handles signs for the national company.
- The agent has scheduled at least three open houses and then cancelled several at the last minute without informing the sisters. My co-worker recently discovered that another agent in the company can “sit in” on an open house, yet the events were not held.
- For one of the scheduled open houses, the agents prepped the home, but no buyers showed. Why? Because both agents missed a company memo saying the local newspaper changed the publication date of real estate listings, hence all open houses were to be rescheduled.
- One of my real estate resources said the lock box on the home provides a record of home showings since July, including the name of the buyer’s agent, dates, and a log of time spent in the home. She’s asked for this for months to no avail.
Unsure what to ask a prospective listing agent? This guide helps you know what to expect from your agent and questions you can ask to make sure the agent is a good fit for your home.
- The real estate listing has horrible photos. The agent said he “used the wrong lens,” yet never took new photos. She and her sisters mentioned the poor images more than three times, yet it was months before they were improved.
- The comparative market analysis (CMA) used real estate comps that weren’t really comparable in size or features, and did not include homes that had been removed from the market.
- The agent made two property listings, which my co-worker explained was bad for user experience (we are online content editors). The agents said their content management system (CMS) always creates a local and a national listing. Yet my co-worker found no other examples of double listings on the site. Then they improperly removed the link, rather than 301 redirecting it, so it now goes to an “Invalid property ID specified or this property has expired” message. OH WAIT! She just checked the second listing, and it’s link is dead too. (Steam rising from her parallel monitor).
- In the interview, the agent told the sisters that he only represents 7-10 clients at a time, yet on Trulia.com he has over 20 listings.
Establishing a Successful Client-Agent Relationship
When I reached out to my network of real estate professionals on LinkedIn, the responses to my question about firing your agent all focused on communication and expectations. The gist of these comments is that expectations need to be clearly set upfront and to meet those expectations; both parties need to communicate well.
Agents need to set expectations in the listing presentation or buyer consultation / representation meeting. This includes communication style and timeliness, the marketing plan, and what both parties need to do for the sale/purchase to be successful.
“We set up front the expectations of the transaction and convey exactly what it is that we do,” said Rebecca Haas of RE/MAX Metro Realty in Seattle. “Initial discussions need to include topics such as 1) what my job entails; 2) how often and what I communicate to my clients; 3) discussion about how I am compensated (in writing too); 4) what extras I offer to all clients; 5) information about the entire process of purchasing or selling; 6) discussion of current market conditions and the effect it will have on their goals.”
Second – Communication is a two-way street
Communication from both parties needs to meet these expectations. Clients need to respond to lenders, inspectors and other professionals involved in the sale just as promptly as they would to the agent.
“Buyers and sellers communicate differently; find out if email / text or calls work,” said agent Lisa Eckert with Edina Realty of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. “I always respond immediately, but my clients may let days go by without getting back to me. It is important to understand their style and level of urgency.
If the communication is not meeting expectations, then you need to talk about it – whether you are the client or the agent. If that doesn’t work, then someone may get fired. One broker told me he has fired clients.”
As I mentioned above, my co-worker has tried to improve communications with her agents repeatedly. If it were easier and less time consuming, she would have fired the agents already. She and her sisters do not live in Florida. She plans to take a personal day off to find and interview potential agents – again.
When she does, I hope they follow the advice of Nancy de Marcay, who owns Town Favorites Realty LLC in Baton Rouge, La.:
“If you take on a client, do it right, do it well, do it with a gracious heart … or get out of the business.”