Changing agents. Should we do it?

Asked by Susan F., Central Business District, Newark, NJ Wed Dec 24, 2008

I'm disappointed with our agent. We have seen many houses with her but none that was perfect for us. Iniatially she was very optimistic, enthusiastic and eager to find our dream house. But I feel like we haven't bought a house quick enough for her or her pocket. In the past few weeks she hasn't responded to emails or phone calls. And it's been weeks since we have heard from her. My husband and I wanted to be in a house by Christmas and now we are wondering what we did wrong. We have heard from past clients that the agent is very experienced but tends to looses enthusiaiam if things are not moving fast enough.

We haven't signed any agreements with her. But we are not sure if there is an agreement that is "understood"
and does not require a signature on a physical contract...

Can anyone recommend a non-monetary influenced buyer's agent?

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William Leigh…, , New Jersey
Wed Dec 24, 2008
Susan F: Your agent should have told you where she stands with you. It may be that you have seen all that there is to see in your price range in the area(s) that are acceptable to you. She may be willing to show you stuff that is new to the market.

Having said that, I'm afraid that Paul Howard is basically, if somewhat brutally, correct. This industry is not Macy's. We don't get paid to handle customers at the counter. Our only compensation comes when we sell a property. While most buyers do not pay a commission, (the seller allows his agent to split the selling commission with the buyer's agent) you should be aware that a buyer's agent will get NO commission on a house that is listed by another where he or she does not bring forth the buyer.

While you yourselves have been fairer than many buyers and stuck with your agent, an awful lot of buyers take up their buyer’s agent's time and gas and then switch to whomever is handy when they see something that excites them. This leaves the buyer's agent with no compensation after working hard for the buyer.

As you can see, the business model seems to be less than perfect but it has been in place for a long time.

Now, to answer your question: I believe that you should write a little note to your agent, even though you have no contract with her, telling her that you will be working with someone else in the future. Next, you should shop around for an EXPERIENCED agent who has the time to work with you. Sign them to a three-month contract as buyer's agent. That's short enough to be able to get out from under but long enough to get some serious looking done. Step three is to get FULLY prequalified in TODAY'S mortgage market. No sense looking beyond your means, it will just spoil your perspective and you may miss something nice that is not as "toney" as you'd really be able to afford. Step four: write up a list of what you need in a home. Then another is what you'd like. Share it with your Realtor. Step five: Give your Realtor feedback ON EVERY home you see. Let him/her know exactly why it isn't what you want. "It's not my dream house,” IS NOT an acceptable answer. Only fairy princesses live in dream castles. What you need is a snug harbor for when the winds blow. (And maybe a place to store Uncle Bert and Aunt Emma when they come in from Seattle.)

Meet with your agent in their office as often as you have to, to exchange information about what you've seen and what impact that has had on your criteria. Your present arrangement may have soured because the agent is at her wits end trying to imagine ANYTHING that might please you.

Remember: This is YOUR search, not your agent's. He or she is a tool in the process. Like all good tools, they should be respected and used properly. Failing to keep them from rusting away or getting dull is part of your job as much as it is theirs. You have to train them to see things that you are looking for. Shandu the magician could pull up the card that you were thinking of but retired from the real estate business and is now appearing on the nightclub circuit.

Good Luck.
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Paul Howard, Agent, Cherry Hill, NJ
Wed Dec 24, 2008

My clients always come first - right after my family. One has to wonder if it is the agent that is failing when a consumer can't find a house they want to buy in this market. You say yourself you have done a lot of research. Do you think there is some secret cache of homes out there somewhere that your agent won't tell you about?. Think hard about what you want the agent to do that she has not done. How many professionals do you know (that are not in the real estate business) that will spend weeks or months and drive hundreds of miles to help a consumer - and not know if they will ever get paid? And what about the research and time you have put in: Why didn't it get you what you want? It is nice that you research but it does not pay the agents bills.

I'll stack my client satisfaction rate up again anyone in the industry. That comes ONLY from having a wealth of knowledge and competence with some creativity thrown in. For every client I have I am an advocate - and they know it. If the perfect home they want is not in the price range they want I will tell them. It may surprise you to know that one of the traits they seem to value most in me is patience. I can do patient very easily. I don't do unreasonable for very long. I don't know enough about your situation to know if that is where you are at or not but you should think hard about it before starting with another agent.

The fact that your agent didn't come out and tell you why she was abandoning you indicates a lack of professionalism. But that is common in this industry. Too many find it too easy to just fade away. Often, by simply laying it out for a client they will see that their expectations are not realistic in the price range available to them in the location they want to buy. Sometimes a small adjustment can put the search back on track.

Your agent did not give you that opportunity so you are still looking for your perfect dream home.

I hope you find it.
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Eric Funk, Agent, Morristown, NJ
Wed Dec 24, 2008
Hi Susan,
I understand your disappointment and frustration. It is true that we also have bills to pay and we need to either bring in some business that gives us a commission, or get out of real estate and find a salaried position elsewhere.
That being said, many of us work incredibly hard and with patience with our buyers. I have people who have been looking 'on and off' for 2 years and who are still undecided. That is fine and I am very happy to be working with them because I know that when they do buy, they'll buy through me.
I work in Morris /Somerset and Hunterdon County. If you're in my area, please feel free to get in touch and I'll do my utmost to reverse your opinion of realtors!
Kindest regards,
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Susan F., Home Buyer, Central Business District, Newark, NJ
Wed Dec 24, 2008
Dear Paul,
The agent came highly recommended from a close friend and we didn't question it. We have seen many houses with her within our price range, location, age, style, schools etc. I'm sure that she has put in a lot of hours and miles BUT so have I. We have done a lot of research on properties, school districts, area, geographics and been very proactive in our search one wants a house more than we do. I feel like it's a no brainer! Help us find what we are looking for and you get paid!

You have made it very clear that the driving force is commission. But my question to you is what about the CUSTOMER? Have you thought about satisfaction and how it relates to volume? If I have a bad experience, why would I stay with you? Or recommend you? Bad experiences spread like wildfire and good experieces you keep to yourself. I wouldn't expect such behavior in these bad economic times....I mean beggars can't be chosers.

You paint a very negative picture of real estate agents so much that I really wouldn't want to work with one. What's the point...I do all the work and you can write the contract and collect the commission and add the sale to your montly stats? Am I right?

Thanks for opening my eyes.
Susan Flynn
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Paul Howard, Agent, Cherry Hill, NJ
Wed Dec 24, 2008
All the Realtors that are "non-monetary influenced' left the business to get a job that would pay their bills. I could use a roofing contractor right now that is 'non-monetary influenced'. Let me know if you have a number I can call. I have an occasional client that could use that number too.

You haven't said what you are looking for other than it has to be 'perfect for us' and a 'dream' house.

I am curious about how many hours the agent spent with you - without pay. How many houses did you see? What were the reasons they were not for you? Some buyers can find 'perfect' - just not in a price range they can afford. You might want to think about finding an agent that would accept a retainer that could be applied to his/her commission if you find a house and settle.

I can tell you that I am definitely not in this business to work for free - although that does sometimes happen. If you find someone that says they are, what else will they say just because they know that is what you want to hear.

I don't know the details of your situation but for others reading - keep in mind that usually we don't get paid till you buy a house. That fact affects who we are willing to work for. I myself, tend not to work for most investors unless they pay me a retainer. I know too much to give it away for free and if they don't buy they will use what I taught them somewhere else.

Here is the thing though: If your agent thought you were wasting her time she should have just said "I can't find what you want in the price range you are looking. If you want me to continue you need to change your criteria or pay me a retainer". She should NOT have just cut you loose without a word. That is rude and bad business.

Paul Howard, Broker Realty
Cherry Hill NJ 08002
Member: NAEBA (National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents)
Follow me on Twitter at
0 votes
Roy Minieri, Agent, East Brunswick, NJ
Wed Dec 24, 2008
Dear Susan F.

It is unfortunate that your Realtor did not support your needs..unfortunately there are a number of Realtors who just don't get it.......SERVICE SERVICE SERVICE/CONTACT CONTACT CONTACT...

If you feel left out in the cold..then by all means go back to square one and interview some Realtors in your general search area..then ask a few questions...Do You Do This Full Time??? How Many homes did you list last year or how many homes did you sell last year???? Sit with Realtor and make sure your personalities blend and build some confidence in your relationship...and ask for some referrals,just so you know someone else was warm and cozy with that Realtor.....

Merry Christmas and maybe you will get into your dream home by Valentine's Day...

Roy Minieri
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Gina Chirico, Agent, Fairfield, NJ
Wed Dec 24, 2008

You are by all means free to find a new agent especially since you are under no "written" obligations. I never ask my buyer clients to sign any written agreements but as time passes and I work with them...I gain their loyality which is much more important than some piece of paper that binds us.

With all that being said, have you asked her why she stopped responding to you? I know some agents may tend to only work with motivated buyers and perhaps things moving too slowyly she felt as if you weren't motivated enough. In addition, were you choosing the houses you saw or was she? I know many agents pick the top 5 and only show those homes to buyers but I'm not the one buying the clients are so I send them everything that matches their criteria and let them pick which houses they want to see. Sometimes we end up seeing the others that didn't make their list but it's not up to me to choose for them. Also sometimes the perfect house may not be available and therefore we start to make a "must have" and "can do without" list and see some other homes until my clients see something THEY like.

Again, buying a home is most likely the biggest purchase you will ever make and you need to make sure that you are buying the right one. You cannot settle for any house just because your agent is too lazy to do her job. Of course...I don't know if that's the case with your agent. I would rather work with my buyers for a year and have them buy the right house then work with them for 3 weeks and force them into buying the wrong house because in the end...all that they will remember is that I rushed them pushed them into buying that house. That was my own personal experience when we bought our first house. We were young, naive, first time homebuyers and regretted after the first month that we bought that house but we were pushed by an experienced, fast moving agent.

As John stated, I too when buying our second home (again before I was an agent), found my own home during an open house and literally use to send my agents (NOT the same one who sold us the first house) dozens of listings that I wanted to see instead of her sending me listings of new houses, price reductions, live and you learn and I've learned from my own personal experience (two agents later) what type of agent I would be and that I am.

If you are looking in North Jersey, in counties such as Essex, Morris or Passaic, please contact me directly.

Good luck and I'm sorry to hear about your not so pleasant experience but I will assure you that not all real estate agents are the same.

Gina Chirico, Sales Associate
973-715-1158 cell
973-992-6363 ext 116
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