When Is It Time To Replace Your Realtor?

You’ve been on the market for many months and your home hasn’t sold.  Maybe you got some traffic in the beginning but what was a trickle, has now turned into a tortuous drip.  You’re getting pretty anxious because you really want to sell and it’s supposed to be a good market.  So why isn’t your home selling and is it time to replace your hired help?  This is a particularly difficult question for any home seller who hasn’t been able to get their home sold.  The closer you get to the listing expiration, the more you start thinking, “Is the problem with my agent?  Would I be better off with another company?”  “I really like them but…”

Before we directly answer this question of replace or not replace, there are some things we need to examine first.  Let’s start with communication.  The number one complaint from sellers about their Realtor is their failure to communicate.  So ask yourself, “Does my agent reach out to me or do I have to call them?”  If the answer is the latter, you need to address this and it’s best addressed early on.  If you aren’t articulating this frustration, you need to.  If after doing so they still are falling short of your expectation, then yes, you probably want to start anew when the listing expires.  Mind you, being a Realtor I don’t say this lightly but from the beginning you need to lay out certain understandings and one of those is communication.  Establishing clear expectations is the first step to a successful relationship with your agent.  If you said to your agent, “Text me for showings” and they didn’t that’s a reason to be disappointed and if the problem were to go unchecked or unattended, that disappointment will lead to anger and frustration.  This is no way to maintain a quality working relationship.  That’s not to say that if they are communicating but you are micromanaging, that maybe you may need to look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I being constructive or do I have a need to control the situation?”  I have had situations where a certain seller is on top of my every move and that makes me less effective and the more tedious every conversation, the less I want to call or communicate.  This is just human nature and if love is a two way street, so is business.  However, in the end, if you are a micromanager, be honest with yourself and honest with your agent and if after you’ve done so, you still aren’t satisfied, you’ve every reason at that point to work towards terminating the relationship.  One thing to bear in mind here is that a listing agreement is a binding contract and you can’t unilaterally end it until the listing expires. If you are really unhappy and the agent is not responding or addressing your concerns, you should escalate and speak with the broker or office manager.  They have the ability to be an intermediary and even help assign another agent from the office whose personality more aligns with yours if the situation truly is untenable.

The next thing you want to ascertain is the trust level you have with that agent.  Ethics and trust are absolutely essential to having an effective agent/seller relationship.  If you doubt the agent’s ethics or not sure you trust them, you are never going to be fully satisfied or happy with the outcome of the transaction. You will always have a gnawing doubt that your interests were not being fully considered.  Remembering that selling a home is a stressful process, the last thing you want to wonder is, “Is my agent really looking out for me or are they just thinking about their commission?”   Conversely, if you have a rapport with your agent based on mutual trust, respect and communication, the process though stressful, can be rewarding.  You must have trust in your agent.

At some point you’ll want to examine is your agent’s job performance.  Every employer does this and so should you.  This review should be a sit down, straight forward talk between you and your agent, though it seldom is.  Rather what tends to happen is that time passes and the listing expiration sneaks up on you.  This however circles us back to communication issue and is your agent keeping you informed and giving you assessments of your progress?  Part of an agent’s job is to eliminate surprises. 

“My agent didn’t bring me a buyer.”  This is a pretty common complaint when your home doesn’t sell.  While it is possible that an agent has any number of potential buyers for your home, more times than not they don’t have “the one” and the job of getting your home sold is really about getting your home exposed to as many potential buyers and agents as possible.  “Some agents have a bigger network and are better connected, right?”  True.  But that doesn’t mean they have your buyer now and have been patiently waiting for your listing to expire to show your home.  If they had a buyer, they would have shown them your home already.  In real estate one of the oldest tricks in the books is for an agent to tell a seller that they “have a buyer for your home,” get the listing and then mysteriously, that buyer never materializes.  Or worse, some unethical agents have been known to bring in an offer from a shill buyer and in some cases even open escrow only to have the buyer cancel.  I heard of this in our area only recently where an unscrupulous agent actually brought an offer on a home with her brother in law (of different last name) as buyer, opened escrow and then on the day the buyer’s contingencies were to be lifted, cancelled, just to get the listing!  By then it’s too late to change and difficult to prove any wrong doing.  Does it help to be with a larger office?  Not really.  All homes go on the same multiple listing service (MLS) so once listed, your home is exposed to everyone.  In the beginning if you were hoping to sell without ever actually having to go on the market, then a larger office might offer an advantage as a “Pocket Listing.”  But this typically sells you short on sales price since you are not getting exposed to every possible buyer, only those from that office.  A bigger office may have more agents, but the MLS has all the agents.  Most transactions involve two agents, two agencies.

We started this discussion with the framework that the listing was coming to an end and you are considering making a change in representation since your home hasn’t sold.  Let’s assume you’re satisfied with your agent’s communication and that you trust them.  Since they didn’t have the right buyer for your home and it’s been sitting on the market unsold, it’s time to ask if they are marketing your home effectively and doing the things they said they would when they took the listing.  If your agent told you they would have professional quality photographs but took the pictures themselves with their iPhone, you have a legitimate gripe.  If they told you they would hold an open house every weekend and they aren’t, that’s not right.  If they said you’d be a featured home on Trulia, Realtor.com or Zillow and you look and you are not, they haven’t lived up to their promise.  Some agents will actually put their commitments in writing.  I include a partial list of my marketing plan in my listing presentation book and some agents will even make it part of the listing agreement itself.  However, if the agent is doing everything they said and you’re still not getting traffic, changing agents is not likely to have an impact.  Why?

A correctly marketed home should have quality photographs, maybe video or virtual tours, be on all the websites and in some print media etc.  And so long as you’re paying a full commission and your agent isn’t a complete unknown/out of area agent or has a really bad reputation, one which gets them and your listing boycotted by other agents (yes this happens,) then the problem isn’t with the marketing and changing agents won’t help.  OK, what is the problem then?  When a home is in good show ready shape and has been marketed properly but still doesn’t sell, ultimately the problem is pricing.

This argument seldom sits well with the home seller, but let’s face it, in the end the reason any home doesn’t sell is price.  Price for the condition, price for location, price for size, room count, amenities, lot size, priced for the current market.  It’s always price.  What distinguishes one agent from another is their market knowledge in setting the price, their ethics and the expertise to help you achieve the highest possible price by properly preparing your home for sale.  An agent must effectively present the home to the public.  (Effectively is the key phrase and that speaks to all the marketing we’ve already discussed.)  Changing an agent will not make your home more saleable though it might make you feel like you are doing something.  Since many sellers feel helpless when their home doesn’t sell, changing agents seems like their only recourse.  I compare this to a ball club firing the manager: even if they have a winning record and faced a lot of injuries, if they didn’t win the championship, sometimes the coach still gets fired.  The owner just has to shake things up.

So before you look to fire your agent, ask yourself, “Do I like my agent and do I feel they have done a good job even though we’ve not sold” and most importantly, “Do I trust them?”  If the answer is yes, then you should probably relist with them when the listing expires.  If you aren’t satisfied with something other than the fact there’s little traffic or you haven’t gotten a satisfactory offer, then you should consider making the change.  Sometimes new blood can inject new life into a property.   More times than not however, it’s not the new blood that brings the offer, rather the price reduction that the new agent gets from you, that creates the interest, that sells the house.

About Tim Freund

Tim Freund has been a licensed real estate agent/broker since 1990. He spent 14 years as a new home sales rep, ran his own boutique resale brokerage for 5 years and is currently an Estates Director for Dilbeck Estates/Christie's International Estates in Westlake Village, Ca. Tim is a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), an Accredited Buyer's Representative (ABR), a Corporate Mobilty Specialist (CMS) and a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES). Tim has successfully negotiated a loan modification for a client and is a professional short sale negotiator. Tim has been married 28 years, has 2 children, is a native Californian and has been a resident of the Conejo Valley since 1991.
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