Am I expecting too much from my real estate agent?

Asked by Massgal, Massachusetts Tue Feb 23, 2010

I am working with an agent right now to buy a house. And i expect her to do more....but I also wonder if I expect too much. Is it appropriate for me to expect the following to be done by my agent instead of by me:
1) Go to town hall and ask questions re: property. Get property line maps
2) Find a local home inspector with a great reputation
3) Not only give me list of similar houses that have sold, but give me written comparison to the home I want to make an offer on, and help me determine a realistic asking price. (not just asking us what we want to offer)
4) When viewing a property, take notes of our questions for the seller and then ask the seller. Instead of telling me to email her a list of questions.
I know that I tend to have high standard for people that I work with. So perhaps these things are normally not done by an agent. Or maybe we just don't have a great agent and we need to find a new one.

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Jane Becker, Agent, Worcester, MA
Wed Feb 24, 2010
You raise many interesting points and some valid concerns. I have been in business for almost 14 years and for the first 9 years, I worked as a buyer agent exclusively. I feel that working with buyers is very different from selling property. When I am a buyer agent I feel that I am a teacher, a professional consultant, if you will. I have a system to save my clients and me time when looking for a home so that our time is spent wisely and not chasing our tails. Regarding your first question. I have a prepared check list for buyers of the questions they need to ask. I give that list to them and have them go to the town hall. Now I can certainly do that for them, but now I have the liability of second hand information. I believe in a team approach to the home buying process and that asking the town officials question falls under the due dilligence of the buyer. As far as the second, I can't imagine this person does not have a home inspector recommendation. Being in business for years, I certainly have seen my share of good and bad inspectors. The only thing I can think of is that you are not working with a buyer agent. You see, only a buyer agent can recommend a specific home inspector. Seller agents can only give you a general list. Are you working under employment agreement with your agent where the agent's duties are clearly identified? My contract does.
For your third concern, I am stumped. I always give my clients a written comparative market analysis outlining the value range of the subject property. I also do research to find out anything and everything I can about the home, the seller and the circumstances of the sale. I provide town records, days the house has been on the market, potential what the sellers paid for it, and the like. How else can you make an informed decision on how much the property is worth to YOU? For item number 4, I don't see why either method can't work for you? In this particular situation, I feel you need to set expectations with your agents or your agent should set expectations with you. I try to accommodate my clients and work how they would prefer. I am curious, though what kind of questions you are asking. As an example, I tell my clients not to ask about condition of homes and the age of improvements. You see you will have a professional home inspector and he/she will let you know the real condition. You can then decide to negotiate on these items after the inspection. But if you had your agent find out that the roof is old, as an example, the seller will not want to negotiate on the roof since you put an offer with that knowledge already. On the other hand, since I go to all of my inspections, I could tell you where the fault of the house lies. In conclusion, who ever you choose to represent your interest. You need to feel comfortable and confident that the agent will protect and represent your interest. Real Estate is a business unlike any other. As an example, when you go out to eat, you know if your waitress is good within the first few minutes. This is because you go out to eat often and interact with wait staff. Unfortunately buying and selling a house takes place only a few times in a lifetime, if that much. A typical consumer has no clue if their agent is good or not. I feel that a buyer agent is like an insurance policy, if everything goes smoothly, you probably don't even need him/her, but if problems arise, they should be the ones defending and protecting you. If you would like to find out what I do for my clients, please visit my website at scroll down to the middle of the home page and click on "view presentation". Feel free to contact me with any questions.
1 vote
Scott Godzyk, Agent, Manchester, NH
Tue Feb 23, 2010
The most important thing is when you hired a buyer broker, to ask what serviced they provide and let them know what you expect. Your list of items is on the high side, but if an agent takes you on as a client knowing what you want, they should do it. Most tax maps you can get online, Most listing brokers already have a tax map and your agent just needs to ask for it. A Realtor in soem states can not suggest just 1 home inspector, but has to give you a list to choose from. A buyer broker can by all means and easily provide you a list of comps. As far as taking notes, If you request it, then they should, but dont assume they will if you havent asked. it is easier for you to send a list of any questions when you get home beacuse in the car leaving is when all the questions come up. Communication is key and should be done right from the start. Good luck with your search
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2 votes
Tim Ambrose, Agent, Castro Valley, CA
Tue Feb 23, 2010
Hi Massgal,

If you like your agent, I suggest you have a talk with her and express your concerns. To your point, you have high standards so if she is not meeting them move on. After the conversation.

I hope this helps!

2 votes
Real Estate…, Agent, STATEN ISLAND, NY
Tue Feb 23, 2010
Hello Massgal,

I don't think you are expecting too much but there are some things to expect from your realtor for example:
-A realtor should not go to town hall this is usually done by a title company.
-A realtor may reccomend a good home inspector but its better that you find one yourself.
-There are no identical homes to compare with so a list of simlar homes that were sold in the area is a good starting point to help determine a price to offer. Even bank appraisers use the same kind of data to determine home values.
-A realtor should write down your questions and ask the homeowner for you, why not?
It sounds like you have an O.K. agent
Good Luck To You.
2 votes
Laura Stevens, Agent, East Longmeadow, MA
Tue Mar 2, 2010
Hi Massgal,
I think that whenever you hire an agent to represent you (in anything, not just real estate) you should have what I call a "mutual expectations" conversation with that agent. Indeed, the agent should be having that conversation with you.

The only way for an agent to live up to your expectations is if he or she knows what they are. Also, you need to know what role the agent expects you to take in the home search process so that you can decide if you want to do that or look for an agent that expects differently from you.

For instance, I usually instruct my agents to have their clients drive by a home if the buyer is unfamiliar with the street. That way, if the buyer hates the neighborhood, time has been saved for not only the agent, but also the buye and the seller. Why plan a time to go see a house that you are going to rule out because of the location? On the other hand, if the agent already knows that the buyer likes the neighborhood, then there is no need to drive by and the agent should go straight to making the appt to view. Even in this market, the best homes are snapped up quickly.

what you have posed does not seem unreasonable on the surface, but you have to ask yourself honestly, are you asking for too much info on too many houses and running your agent ragged, or are you extremely selective in which homes you want more info on? If it is the latter, you are good, but if you are asking for boatloads of info on a lot of houses (that you ultimately are not going to buy anyway) then you are indeed asking alot.

I have another "buying aid" that I share with my agents and clients. Limit the number of homes that you "have an interest in" to just 3 at all times. You are only going to buy 1 home (I am assuming here). You would be most apt to make an offer on the house that is number 1 on your list. You MIGHT settle for number 2 if the first house was unavailable due to terms, price, etc., but you most likely WILL NOT buy your 3rd choice and you definately wouldn't even consider settling for 4th or 5th place, so why muddle up your buying process with those that are beyond the 3rd place house?

Hope some of that helps you. Good luck with your purchase and if you decide to switch agents now, or in the future, please call a Keller Williams Realty Professional.

Laura Stevens
Operating Principal
Keller Williams Realty
Longmeadow, Agawam and Northampton, MA
1 vote
Guy Berry, Agent, San Jose, CA
Tue Mar 2, 2010
Too often agents and their clients think the agent's primary job is finding the house. With the internet today, that is the easiest thing to do. My guess is you should consider firing the agent and finding someone who is willing to do whatever you ask. If you would like me to find you a top agent in Mass. email me at

Also, if you would like to read several (maybe 50) posts on my blog about how to stay out of trouble on your transaction, check out my blog:
1 vote
Tom and Joan…, Agent, Boston, MA
Wed Feb 24, 2010

Those are all services that we offer to our buyers. I think that your expectations are right in line. If your agent is not doing this then find another agent. I do not work in your area, but will tell you that we offer a 1 hour buyer consultation before we even get in the car.

The only item that I personally iffy on is number 1. I tend to like my clients to go to town hall to talk with the town so we do not have any communications that are lost in translation. Otherwise you are correct and have a sub par agent. Best
1 vote
Sarah Sydor, Agent, Bainbridge Island, WA
Tue Feb 23, 2010
It is good to interview agents (for both buying and selling) and to discuss expectations. It sounds like your agent may not be meeting yours. To get an idea of how one agent operates, I can tell you how I would handle each of your above points.
(1) I do go to the planning department at the local city hall in my market area to ask questions and get maps. However, if there is something that is critical to the buyer I make an appointment for us to go together. For instance, if they want to know whether or not an addition could be made on a property, it is important for the buyer to be there and explain just what they plan to do and to hear directly from the source what the likelihood of the addition being permitted is. That way, there is no room for mistakes in the interpretation because the client has heard the information directly. However, by being present, I can also best understand what my clients' needs are and help them to achieve their goal.
(2) In the brokergae I practice in, we are required to give the contact information for three home inspectors. My clients sign a form with 3 inspector referrals, but I often make the appointment for them once they have chosen someone.
(3) A market analysis for a property a buyer is considering making an offer on is standard practice for me.
(4) I think it is a reasonable expectation to have your agent remember the details of your conversation.

I wouldn't say your standards are high, but instead they are reasonable. If you have a good relationship with your agent and want to continue to work with her, perhaps you should tell her about your expectations not being met. It will make for a better transaction for you, and hopefully improve her service overall.
1 vote
Mack McCoy, Agent, Seattle, WA
Tue Feb 23, 2010
Like they said.

You're not really expecting too much from your real estate agent, but you may have a different approach to things than the majority of her clients.

Also, you may not be aware that some of the things you're asking, such as investigating matters down at the town hall, places a liability onto the agent which is completely reasonable for her to decline to accept.

When Real Estate Brokers practice outside of their field of expertise, they are held to the reasonable standards of practice for an expert. So, if I go downtown to research property lines, but I failed to ask (for example) whether the property was in a special overlay zone, and you end up adversely affected by this, a judge is going to think that I presented myself to you as a land use consultant, which I am not.

It can be expected that real estate agents will make referrals for service providers such as home inspectors; it is not to be expected that they will consider how widespread that provider's fame reaches. And, they will usually provide you with a selection, rather than a direct recommendation. Again, they don't want to be held liable for the inspector's flubs.

I don't quite know what you mean by #3. Again, we are not the principal to the transaction. We should educate you as to how to determine value, but only you can decide what the value of a specific property is to you. Many of the places you wouldn't buy are certainly worth the money, just not to you.

#4 is a matter of personal taste. Myself, if you have A LOT of questions, compound questions (for example, like the way I write), then I think I'd rather have you be responsible for asking them then be responsible for getting them straight.

Hope that helps!
1 vote
Anna M Brocco, Agent, Williston Park, NY
Tue Feb 23, 2010
Property maps will come with the title, a home inspector should be chosen and contacted by you, however your agent can suggest a couple of inspectors and give you contact information, comps should be provided, however, do remember most properties are not always all alike, as for the questions--a list should be made by both of you and they can be asked then or at a later date--discuss your concerns with your agent, communication is key--
1 vote
Kathryn Acci…, Agent, Sturbridge, MA
Tue Mar 2, 2010
Hello Massgal and congratulations on your decision to purchase a home! May I respond to your questions? Here we go:

1. It is acceptable to ask your agent to obtain information on a property that interests you greatly. However, it would be overboard to ask your agent go to the town hall for each property that you visit. Also, be aware that the plot plans at the town hall show approximate lot lines. For an official placement of lot lines, you would need to hire a surveyor - usually not practical to do until you have an accepted offer.

2. A buyer's agent with experience will have a list of home inspectors whom he/she respects. A buyer's agent should also point you to the state's web site of licensed inspectors so that you can interview other inspectors if you desire.

3. Yes, you should expect to have help in determining a fair price to offer, if you sincerely wish to make an offer. Don't ask your agent to do a market analysis for every home you see, though.

4. Your agent should pose your questions to the listing agent (who works for the seller).
If you are asking about the seller's personal property (furniture, yard equipment and so on), ask your agent to write those items into the offer and negotiate for them. Otherwise, keep your questions to the topic at hand: the house and land.
Good luck!
0 votes
Tom Lynch, Agent, Great Barrington, MA
Wed Feb 24, 2010

Interesting questions about expectations. I do think it is best for the buyer to ask questions at Town Hall to avoid misinterpretation. Town maps should be provided by the listing agent. A buyer's agent should have several home inspectors they recommend. An agent representing the seller needs to provide you with a list of home inspectors. A buyer's agent should very definitely help you with understanding "market value" by providing you with "comps"... asking the agent to provide a "written comparison" seems a bit much. With #4 it's hard to say... I can tell you that 90% of the time I show a property where there is interest, the buyer will ask me to gather information (e.g. heating costs), and then the next day will tell me they changed their mind about the property. Your agent may be putting your questions on hold to determine if you still have serious interest later (when you can formulate the questions).

A relationship with an agent is just that... a relationship... and sometimes they are not a good fit. A good relationship is one with good communication and mutual trust.

Good luck in your search.

Tom Lynch
Associate Broker, Berkshire Property Agents
Great Barrington, Massachusetts 01230
0 votes
Dallas Texas, Agent, Dallas, TN
Tue Feb 23, 2010

Agents can provide 3 or more the buyer must select inspector due to professional code of ethics

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0 votes
Dallas Texas, Agent, Dallas, TN
Tue Feb 23, 2010
Town hall -
Would be consider hear say therefore any of those types of questions we direct buyer source of info.

Property lines
Seller usually will have a survey agent needs request from listing agent. If seller does not have that then buyer will complete survey at buyers expense.

Agent can provide comp's for "like homes" in given area work in concert with buyer submit a winning sales offer.

Questions to property owner
We request therefore less time we get question correctly where we can relay to listing agent who provides to seller INSTEAD get confusing and frustration.

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0 votes
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