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Anyone have an agent horror story like this one?

? Prices down around the country (except Portland, Charlotte and...what's going on in Seattle?) |


| Short Story ?

April 26, 2007

Anyone have an agent horror story like this one?

Dean Foust

It's been more than eight years since my wife and I sold our house in Alexandria, Va., and moved to Atlanta, where we still live. And I still seethe over the agent who sold our house. It was the first time we'd ever sold a house -- this was our starter home, a 2,700-square-foot center-hall colonial -- and I still vividly remember the night we received our first formal offer. It was our starter home (for which we'd paid $216,000, back when you could still do that in Washington D.C.), the local market had flat-lined during the seven years we'd owned it, but we still felt confident we'd get close to the $235,000 we were asking.

Our first formal offer came from a junior NATO officer on the very day after we listed it. His agent showed up at 7 p.m. that night, settled in at our dining room table, made his spiel and then offered...$226,000 and the buyer wanted us to cover $6,000 in closings costs to boot. If we didn't accept it, he said his client was prepared to simply walk away and bid on a house in Burke.

My wife and I were dejected at the price, but when the agent walked outside, our agent turned to us and pressed us hard--really hard--to take the offer. "I think we need to work with them," he implored. "Don't let them walk away. Let's work with them." The other agent returned, and my agent--in front of the other agent--pressed us hard to take the offer. "You're starting your new life in Atlanta in a few weeks and you should take their offer so you can wrap things up here," he said in front of the other agent. So much for out agent representing our interests.

We got the buyer to nudge his price up by $2,000, but we 'd never done this before. I had that small pang that maybe this WOULD be the only offer we got and in the end, we capitulated.

And the next morning I had seller's remorse. Another agent dropped by that afternoon after seeing the "For Sale" sign in the yard, we told her the price we'd accepted but still let her look around. After a walk through she said, "Oh honey, you just GAVE your house away. You should have gotten $250,000. Your decorating is fabulous."

In hindsight, I felt that I'd been negotiating against three people--the buyer, his agent AND MY OWN AGENT....

I fumed, but I'd already signed the contract. I turned my anger against my own agent. I concluded that he was one of those agents that made a fat income by maximizing "turns"--squeezing his client to take a quick offer so he could flip the house in less than a week and move on to another client. (Adding to our angst is the fact that the Washington market took off like a rocket in 2000 and similar houses on our old street now go for upwards of $650,000 or $700,000. I've gotten over it but my wife hasn't.)

When our agent called us in Atlanta (where he were on our own house hunting trip) a couple days later after the home inspection and rattled off a list of a half-dozen minor repairs and improvements the buyer was demanding--which collectively, would add up to more than a thousand bucks--I said, "Pay for it all yourself. And frankly, I hope you don't, because I'd like the contract to fall through so I can fire you and hire a new agent." And I hung up on him. I contemplated taking the sign he hung out front of homes he'd just gotten a contract for, which said, "(His name) SOLD ANOTHER ONE!" and defacing it to read, "(His name) DUMPED ANOTHER ONE!"

Our agent paid for the repairs out of his own pocket to save the deal--and his commission. So I had to honor the contract. But to this day, I still can't see straight when I think of him. When our family vacationed at Sea Pines in Hilton Head a couple of years ago, I discovered that he'd bought a three-bedroom townhouse two doors from the one we were renting, and he was there with his family (the personalized plate on his car was the giveaway). My wife stopped me from going over and giving him a piece of my mind. "We're on vacation, let it go," she said.

Am I being irrational? Yeah, probably. Admittedly, over a lifetime of home ownership and investments, $10,000 or $20,000 will be a mere rounding error in our net worth. And I realize I'm going to get no sympathy from those many homebuyers who have seen their homes drop by $25,000, $50,000 or even $100,000 from what it was worth a year ago. And some homeowners now own a home that is worth less than they paid for it.

But to me, it was the principle of the matter. Our agent wasn't intent on getting me the highest price possible--as was his fiduciary obligation--he was hell-bent on flipping a house within 24 hours after he listed it so he could move on quickly to his next client.

Anyone else have any agent horror stories? I created this thread to give fellow homeowners a place to vent, so have at it. Consider this a form of group therapy, so you too can excise your own real estate demons along with me.

And to give equal time to agents--just so you think I'm allowing our readers to take cheap shots without giving you equal time--feel free to post the habits that drives you crazy about buyers or sellers. Maybe creating a dialogue here will help us all find common group. Maybe all this therapy will help me get over my experiences with that agent from eight years ago. Heck, maybe an agent will tell me to just shut up and get over it.

APRIL 30 ADDENDUM: In response to some of the posts on this thread, I will make these comments:

1) As for the comment that I should have interviewed more agents...fair point. I went with this agent because he was one of the "name" agents in my part of Fairfax County -- he probably did more closings than any other agent. But now I understand how one agent can do that many closings.

2) As for the comment that the agent got me 97% of our asking price, that's not a fair read in my opinion. During my years in Washington, I covered the tail end of the S&L crisis--namely, the cleanup conducted by the Resolution Trust Corp. Remember the RTC? I remember applauding the RTC for its successful auctions, in which it claimed that it recouped "96% of book value" of assets it was selling from the failed S&Ls. Only afterwards did oI realize that the RTC was marking down assets by, oh, 40% and then selling it for a little less than that and claiming a 96% success rate. Same with these brokers. If my house was really worth $250,000, then I got less than 90%.

3)As for the comment that the second agent who came along saying I sold my house too wasn't in her interest to tell me that. She was representing other buyers, and hence, even if my initial offer had fallen through, I wouldn't have hired her as the selling agent -- I could see the conflict of interest there. And if my first contract fell through, she effectively put her client -- had they desired to buy my house -- in a bad spot by effectively telling me to relist it for $25,000 more.

02:53 PM


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How did you feel about your listing agent before you signed the listing contract? Had you done any due diligence in picking your agent? Talked to any past sellers? Drove around with the guy to gauge his general moral tenor? I'm sorry you had an unhappy experience, but it would be better for your future mental health if you chalked it up to inexperience and haste. There are bad vendors in every line of business, but nothing protects a customer who won't protect himself. I expect you've had better experiences with other Realtors -- but those you're willing to take credit for. ;)

Posted by: Greg Swann at April 26, 2007 04:25 PM

There's a funny show on tv called "Buy Me". It's filmed somewhere in Canada. Some of the markets are "hot" but most are "not". The show's pretty funny because emotions always run high. Sellers always think their house is worth more. Every episode. 100% of them... When I watch an episode, it's a common debate with my wife about who's truly delusional: agent or seller? It's usually hard to tell.

The situation you describe is like one of these episodes. You didn't know if you had a good deal or not at the time but the reality is, you did sell your house. Just because some agent strolled in after the fact and made some comment about price, that's actually worth zero. You can speculate all you want about what could have been but realistically it may have sat on the market for months.

Now, did the agent act in your best interest? Who knows. I suspect he probably did churn and burn you, but this is far from a horror story in my opinion.

Posted by: California Dave at April 26, 2007 08:09 PM

It is really important to know what you are likely to get and what you should ask before you ever set a price. The seller is usually assumed to be more knowledgeable than the buyer, but this is frequently not the case. If they have looked for some time, they will be in a better position to know than the seller. This doesn't mean they won't want a bargain though. You may be paying your agent but you should always be aware they are really working for themselves. Getting a deal done is what is important. One can always get more for a property, the question is how long you are willing to wait and how much it will cost you for that to occur. Most sales do occur fairly soon after listing or they are over-priced, but the same day is a little fast. I would have deferred the decision for a week or at least until after the first open house. I never make big decisions without at least sleeping on it.

Posted by: Lord at April 27, 2007 02:33 PM


Sorry you had the bad experience. You'll probably hear from more real estate people than others. Taking your account as totally accurate, any statements about you not doing your homework or your impression of your home's value was too high are just not going to cut it.

The fact is that many real estate agents and brokers market themselves in ways that do not place their expertise in negotiations and pricing in front of you. The ads with "I sold $X million last year" could just as well indicate deals like yours instead of great ability.

At the same time, volumes are written putting forth the value of having a real estate professional on your side in the negotiation and transaction. You have a right to rely on their expertise. Any client of mine with an offer on the table that fast would be advised to let them walk or pay asking price, or close to it, without concessions. It was simply too early to settle for anything less.

Posted by: Jim Kimmons at April 27, 2007 06:00 PM

It doesn't sound like a horror story to me.

Let's see, you sold your house in one day for 97% of the list price, in a market that you say had 'flatlined for seven years'.

'If', your agent worked against you (just to make a quick sale, let's say) rather than for your best interests (to get the highest price, best deal), yeah, he neglected his responsibilities to you, big time, and you can count him as one of the scoundrels. And maybe he did, maybe he didn't. Maybe homes weren't selling very well at that time, and your offer really was a good one. It doesn't sound like you did much in the way of research interviewing agents to find one that you were comfortable with and trusted, and to get a better handle on what your house was really worth, and to understand the market conditions at the time- how many comparable homes were on the market, how many days were they taking to sell, etc, etc. You didn't bother to understand what was going on at the time, and now you're pissed.

As for the agent who breezed in with the 'Oh honey..." bit. Oh come on now, seems like you're prepared to believe anything in order to condemn your agent. That's bull. "Adding to our angst is the fact that the Washington market took off like a rocket in 2000 and similar houses on our old street now go for upwards of $650,000 or $700,000". Really! that damn agent

Posted by: John Schneider at April 28, 2007 12:20 PM

Good call on the "Buy Me" reference.

Selling brokers often come in high at first to get a seller to list with them then ask them to make concessions on the price if there isn't any movement for a while. The fact that they got an offer right away leads me to believe that you probably listed fairly low.

Having said that, the other agent was probably just trying to taint your view of his/her competition so the seller would speak badly about them if people asked who you used. It's a mean spirited think to do in my opinion - that other agent, just to keep business away from competition, makes the seller feel like they lost out on a bunch of cash. The sell should be more angry with that agent, they knew the impact that statement would have.

Posted by: Stephen Brown at April 30, 2007 11:52 AM

My reaction to your story is indeed one of horror, but I suspect this is too typical to constitute a horror story.

I read somewhere recently -- maybe this space? -- of a study done on realtors' sales of their own houses. Quelle surprise, it turns out they hold out for a higher sale much more often when it's their own house and bottom line at stake.

I have the ultimate disgust for this shabby trade (not profession, trade) and it's absence of ethics. I anxiously await the results of the DOJ's antitrust suit against the realtors, which will eventually bring other actors (primarily the big banks, I suspect) into the marketplace and lower the unearned 6% fee considerably.

Fire away, defensive "REALTOR"s who invariably lurk on sites such as this.

Posted by: Tim at April 30, 2007 05:31 PM

I have a horror story beyond horror stories:

Back in Jan of 2006 the police came to our neighborhood letting us know a tier 3 offender moved in. The officer told us we had no rights, could not bother him or make it known to others outside the neighborhood that he was there. We were thinking about selling before the knock on the door but this put the nail in the coffin. We interviewed 3 agents, hired the most aggressive one and she also indicated not to worry, the offender would not be an issue for her. She said she would get us out of the house in no time.

March 2006 - the house was on the market for 1 day and an offer came in. We never made it to attorney review as the buyers changed their minds. Then 3 weeks went by when I found out my agent was the wife of the offender...........UGH. So from my perspective here is a man that is bringing down my property value and I am supposed to hand over a commission check. NO WAY. We fired her for that primary reason but she also made mistakes on all of our advertising. So we were done. The agency would not let us out of the contract so now I move on to agent number 2 story.

He had a buyer; a bid was made and accepted. However, the buyer had a condo to sell. Lo and behold the condo sold and we made it to attorney review which in NJ should last about 5 business days. Two weeks later we found out that our agent was stringing us along, the condo deal fell through and he did not want to tell us because he was the "dual listing agent". I will say it again, UGH. You would think this agent would have worked his butt off before the contract expired, but no. This was my first experience with what I call a "professional listing agent" List the house, and let everyone else try to sell it. That contract expired. Now to agent number 3.

We switched agencies in July of 2006 and we even renewed the contract with them when it expired Jan of 2007. We were just tired of switching. We just last month got an offer, made it through attorney review, made it through inspection and guess what - the mortgage commitment no longer held and the buyers could not get a mortgage.

May 2007 - house is still not sold. No one can tell us why. Everyone says it?? beautiful. We had a staging agent come in and nothing more can be done to its appearance. We have now dropped our price $50,000 from the original asking price. My contract with this agent is up in July of 07 and I can not even think about moving on to agent number 4 but as it looks, we are going to have to. Does anyone know of a good agent in the southern NJ area that is a professional selling agent? I have already met 3 professional listing agents and its time I met someone that wants to work for a living!

Posted by: Lori at May 4, 2007 05:16 PM

Lori -

I hate to say it, but it sounds like the house isn't selling because the market's dead and your price, given the state of the market, is too high. If you don't need to sell, and it sounds like you really don't based on the length of time you've had it listed, then pull it off the market and wait a few years. Or slash the price and sell on that basis.

Posted by: Josh at May 8, 2007 08:38 AM

All I have are RE agent horror stories:

1-I purchased a condo in NoVa in 1998 at asking price at a time when condo owners where soo weary & desperate to sell that low ball offers were the norm. The agent recommended the home inspector who outside of some minor repairs, gave the unit a clean bill of health. Within the first 1-2 years of ownership the hot water heater, the washer/dryer unit, the dishwasher and heat pump all failed. They had been on their last legs and each repair man told me they should have been replaced as a condition of sale or the price of the condo reduced. The warranty was worthless and I was just jerked around. So I ended up paying for all the repairs/replacements myself.


--The first agent was a piece of work. It was bubble times (fall 2004), I had accepted a new job outside the area and was looking to make a quick sale. The agent priced it in line with comps. I said but prices are rising, shouldn't we push the envelope? He said their will be a bidding war, don't worry. Well no bidding war, I got asking. I refused to accept, the agent got miffed. I said were is the bidding war you promised that would come since I was in line with comps, while other's were going up 5-10k greater than the last sale? I fired him. New agent listed higher, bidding war resulted and I got a final bid 21k higher. It was lowered by 6k due to loan appraisal. I wanted to refuse. New agent said ask for a split of the difference. The buyers refused. My agent said you can't predict the future, and that I should take it. I took it. The future would have prices go up another 55k in the spring of 05. I still made a killing, and I take ownership of the decision but the hindsight still hurts.

3-Buying agent in new city. Lazy deadbeat that was friends of the partners at the firm I was to work at. She played me and I ended up being a "pioneer" in what was billed as a hip happening riverfront development that was really a weak, lame attempt at urban renewal that was nothing like the sales agents for the developers billed it as. I lived in a frankenstein neighborhood with freaks roaming around at all times of the night. Looked good on paper and the selling agent lied through his teeth about the next phase, the ownership of the lands necessary to start the next phase and its timing. In less than 30 days I realized it was going to be decades before it might be livable by any normal standard. After 90 days of ownership I had decided to sell. But the developer, the mortgage broker and all the agents got paid and I guess that's all that matters in modern age. Meanwhile I was the proud owner of a luxury riverfront ghetto town home cleaning off malt liquor cans from the lawn the HOA was demanding that I water despite the developer leaving the reflecting ponds barren like the desert.

4-SALE OF THE LUXURY GHETTO TOWN HOME I interviewed a total of three agents. The first two where nice cheerleaders with no plan to address the quickly falling market. The third seemed normal and had hard data. I picked her. I then busted by behind to get the place ready. She immediately became non-responsive to my requests for guidance & assistance in staging the home. The day she took photos & ignored my renewed requests for advice was the day I fired her. I hired one of the liars from the sales center that sold me the luxury riverfront ghetto town home. He immediately gave me advice an assistance to stage the home. It looked and was 100% better. Two offers came in. One was shockingly (365k, 20k less that what I had just paid) low from a savvy buyer who knew the market was turning. But he did not have the burden of a home to sell. The second offer was closer at 383k but she needed a home sale contingency. The low baller came of to 375 & then 390k but refused to budge any further. The other bidder came up to 394k & tossed the contingency. I said great, I accept lets do it!! The day I accepted the offer I learned of the wrinkle, she wanted the max allowable amount of time to close, 90 days. I told my agent, you did not tell me this. He said its her right. I was pissed but I signed. I arranged a vacation to get away from that hellhole. Days before I go away she balks, her new job no longer requires her to move into the city. I am a nice guy and split the earnest money with her. I tell the agent to get the place back up for sale ASAP & I'll see him when I get back from vacation. I get back (2 weeks!!) and I have neither my 1/2 of the deposit nor is the place back up for sale. It takes another week to get things going again as I become a task master. Its the summer of 06, the market is dropping like a cannonball to the bottom of the ocean. The open house in July is pathetic. My competition matches my price & is an end unit. I ask, "Should be cut?" He says "No, yours is nicer inside" I said "But the psychology of the market says end units are better" "No" he replies. The end unit sells for 385k. The same low baller comes back with 375k again. I am pissed. My agent says, "Wait for the fall season" I say "Yeah screw him" (not realizing I was screwing myself). We drop price to 379k. Other people take their units off the market (Tons of flip-tards, who are now flop-lords). Its now September 06, the price cut (and bonus to buying agents) brings in tons of foot traffic but no bits. I am getting pissed. I no longer live there & I'm working on a new job back in DC. The potential buyers are all crying about things I cannot change or fix. One cries about the taxes, I say tell them I'll pay the first years taxes. Still nothing. The agent says "The market has turned" I said I know that's why I was trying to sell six months ago & did not like the 90 days to closing offer!! I say what happened to the low baller. He says he took a spec home from a developer at 375k that was previously listed at 420k. I say, I guess I have to compete with them then. We cut price to 369k. Still nothing. I want another price cut. He says give me one more open house & I'll start a whisper campaign that there is the potential for another 10k. I agree. Nothing comes of it and I get pissed even more. I demand a 20k cut. He agrees. So it lists for 350k. I get an offer the very next day. Seems all to convenient to me but I hate the place and just want to move on with my life. I come up for the weekend to sign the papers. Its finally over. Selling for 35k less, paying all the commissions + a rip off transfer fee to the state, 5k in appliances and now having to absorb the costs of a move on my own. I do get one parting shot. Sunday morning, the day after I signed away 60k+ in money that I needed to buy a crackerjack box in DC an agent brings in a young couple with a toddler. I tell them its under contract. They look disappointed because everyone else is listing for soo much more. The agent says don't worry we can just go next door and negotiate. I say, "you do not want to live here, its not a place to raise a family, there are too many homeless people sleeping on the front lawn." The agent walks them out in a huff. The husband shakes my hand & says thank you. I wish them good luck. Its the only time an honest statement was ever made during the entire development's history. I wonder if I would have made it if I was not under contract??

RE agents suck. The have no idea what they are doing. They are overpaid, worthless gatekeepers to the transaction that just increase its cost. I will buy again after I've recovered from these staggering losses and after the RE markets have dropped down to reasonable prices. In the interim I'm just going to rent near where I work and live my life not worrying about "owning a home". After all this its the last thing I want to think about for a very long time.

Posted by: joe at May 12, 2007 06:57 PM

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