Breaking Up With Your Real Estate Agent. Is it them or is it you?

All posts / For Sellers / General: Real Estate

Have you been on the market for ages? Are you creeping up to that 90 day mark and thinking about dumping your real estate agent?

You’re tired of keeping the house clean for viewings. Every time you walk past a sold sign you want to knock it over out of sheer frustration! If your agent doesn’t bring you the right offer (or any offer) soon, they are history!

But wait…

Read on to find out if a change of agent is likely to fix your problem. Is it them or is it you?

Disclaimer. : )

Ok. Some of this will be a bit tongue in cheek but please bear with me. Selling your home is serious business as is the intensity of the frustration you feel when it is taking longer than expected. I get that.

Sometimes a change of agent is called for. But other times the agent is not the problem and changing horses mid stream will only add length and expense to your process.

How so?

Length: because if the agent wasn’t the problem, the real problem remains unsolved. Resolution is delayed.

Expense: a second round of marketing costs anyone?

Changing agents mid-campaign is often a knee-jerk response to stress or discomfort. Bouncing around from agent to agent can also be the response of a seller in denial.

Ready for a little diagnostic? Here we go.

When your agent is the problem…

FIVE signs that your real estate agent is the problem and a change might be exactly what you need.

SIGN ONE: They ‘bought your listing’ and have been trying to beat you down on price ever since. 

Buying the listing is an industry term for the practice of deliberately inflating an appraised price in order to gain business and then proceeding to beat the sellers price expectation back down until it is in the realms of reality.

Your agent may have bought your listing if:

  • They neglected to give you a written appraisal (a big no-no for agents) but just asked you what you wanted and told you they would get it.
  • Comparable statistics were available but your agent used completely incomparable statistics to justify their appraised range accompanied by meaningless statements like ‘We are the best so we should get…’ ‘I see value where you do…’.
  • Your real estate agents appraisal was far above other appraisals you obtained and wasn’t backed up by data.

If any of the above sound familiar then sorry…you may have been duped! Don’t beat yourself up too much. It’s human to hear what we want to hear. But it might just be time to dump your agent!

Note on Incomparable Statistics.
These could be statistics in a superior suburb, in a superior location within your suburb or for properties with significant differences in construction, condition, site size and zoning.

However, your agent has probably been up front with you if:

  • They gave you an appraisal accompanied by comparable statistics BUT agreed to try to achieve a higher price for you.
  • Clearly explained to you in their appraisal that there was no comparable data in your suburb and that the appraisal was an estimate based on supply and demand factors in your location and neighboring suburbs. They may have suggested that you obtain a Registered Valuation.
  • Major issues have come to light during the course of your campaign which have affected likely price outcome (ie. construction issues, unusual buyer objections).

If your agent has been upfront with you and you have already been on the market for 10 weeks or so you likely already know what you need to do in order to sell – and it isn’t dumping your agent. Fix any issues or adjust your price expectation. Or keep your property until house prices rise to meet it.

Important note for unhappy sellers:
Did you know that your Exclusive Agency Authority is with the brand (or franchise for franchised brands) not with the salesperson?

If you are seriously concerned about the quality of service you are receiving and have had no luck with your salesperson, take it up with the Branch Manager from their firm. Explain the reasons behind your unhappiness.

If the issues can’t be resolved, ask to be assigned to a different salesperson within the branch. You don’t have to wait for 90 days to sort things out.

SIGN TWO: They aren’t keeping in touch.

Your agent was great in the beginning but now communication has dropped off so severely you’re considering reporting them to Missing Persons.

If your real estate agent isn’t giving you regular updates they may have lost interest or  be prioritizing other clients or other things. (SIGN THREE may also be a culprit)

Define regular update?

What was agreed at the start of your campaign?

A decent agent will ask the client how often they want updates and in what form. Some clients prefer a weekly meeting, others like updates by phone, txt or email every couple days and occasionally a busy client will only want to hear from their agent ‘when something is happening’.

Agents should be keeping you in the loop, letting you know the outcome of each viewing, how much interest you have, give you relevant feedback from buyers in real time (even when it’s feedback you won’t like), monitoring your progress compared to other similar properties and proposing recommendations to help you get a better dollar result as well as sell faster.

SIGN THREE: Your agent isn’t willing to give you bad news.

This is related to SIGN TWO but your agent can also communicate regularly while still not telling you anything useful. You know the type I’m talking about. The professional pleasers.

I have met sellers who have been on the market for months longer than similar homes and have no idea why their house hasn’t sold. ‘Everyone loves our house..we don’t know why we’re still here!’. Incidentally, these sellers mostly said their real estate agents were really lovely people.

They just weren’t comfortable delivering bad news.

Ok. I’ll level with you. Some sellers make delivering feedback hard by being unreasonable and at times downright irrational. “What do you mean the 40 buyers you’ve had through say I want $100,000 too much?! If you had chosen a different lead pic for our signboard we would have been sold two months ago!!”(I kid you not. This happens. And it is never and I mean NEVER the photo-from-a-hardly-discernably-different-angle-of-the-living-room on the signboard that prevents a sale.)

Occasionally an agent who won’t give you bad news is lazy but more often than not they are just chicken (but not cute like this one).

And quite frankly, chicken is not ok because you can’t fix what you can’t identify. You’ve engaged a professional to sell your home not a new best friend.

If your agent isn’t gutsy enough to tell you what you need to hear, respectfully and tactfully, then it may be time to find another one regardless of how nice they are.

SIGN FOUR: Their marketing is horrendous.

Here I am talking about the marketing your agent controls and is responsible for.

A general lack of professionalism and effort in marketing is a big red flag. Think photos taken on the agents digital camera with the gorgeous little time and date stamp in the corner, lackluster text, and constant errors that take days remedy. I’m talking about marketing that makes you scratch your head when you see it and say ‘Really??!’

Important Note: I am not talking about your agents’ polite refusal to front up for your $5000 print media campaign in the Saturday Herald. Agents only get paid upon unconditional sale. This means a whole lot of work and uncertainty on the agents part completely free of charge right up until they bring you an offer you are happy to accept and the buyer declares that offer unconditional. Refer SIGN THREE – the bad news is that the good marketing is not free and if you want big money you need good marketing. If this hasn’t been broached with you, your agent isn’t willing to give you bad news.

Included in this category are things like extremely poor response times, or worse, no response to enquires.

To err is human, to forgive divine but there are limits. If your agents’ marketing has less finesse than a 3 year old raiding mums make up bag it might be time to dump your agent.

SIGN FIVE: Dishonesty and conflicts of interest…

This doesn’t need much explanation. If you catch your agent lying to you or giving away sensitive information to buyers in order to secure a sale your instincts to run are spot on.

When you’re the problem…and the solution.

I hope you’ll excuse my candor here but, if you’re reading this, chances are you have a problem or you know someone who does and, like I mentioned earlier, you can’t fix what you can’t identify.

If any of the following FIVE signs apply you may want to rethink your break up because the person that needs to change in order to secure that elusive sale might be you.

SIGN ONE: You mostly refuse to take or return your agents calls or respond to them by email.

Working for you is like a painful game of Hide and Seek. On the odd occasion you do communicate with your agent you are irritated with the lack of offers (or offers at the level you desire) and treat their attempts to give you meaningful, actionable buyer feedback as excuses. Because of this you aren’t receptive to recommendations on adjustments to your strategy or price.

The Fix

Make time to communicate. Your agent can make recommendations but all actual decisions are yours so your lack of timely responsiveness might be the main thing slowing down your sale. You probably wouldn’t feel so defensive or irritable if you were staying abreast of your properties progress either. It’s easier to process and accept information when we are drip fed than flooded. Pick up your phone. You and your agent are on the same team.

SIGN TWO: You’re a bully. …and you’re deflecting to avoid facing reality.

You nit-pick and complain at every possible opportunity but particularly loudly when given any kind of buyer feedback that isn’t effusive praise. Most of your grievances are about inconsequential things that you use to prevent yourself from facing the harsh reality that your expectations need some serious adjustment if you are going to move on. You’ve made your agent cry and he’s a burly 6ft 6 ex-navy seal named Josh.

The Fix

Your turn to face up to reality Buttercup! You’re only hurting yourself (and sometimes Josh) and prolonging your process by burying your head in the sand. Time to decide if you’re going to stay or sell. And be a good human.

SIGN THREE: You expect the market to pay for your change in circumstances. 

You’re retiring early. Congratulations! But your dream of moving to Tauranga with $1,000,000 in the bank and a mortgage-free lifestyle block doesn’t mean that a buyer is going to pay 25% more for your property than the three near-identical homes within a half a kilometer of you.

The Fix

Consider adjusting your plan. Why don’t you consider a different location within Tauranga, a smaller property, coping with less in the bank or delaying your retirement?

SIGN FOUR: You expect the market to pay for your misfortunes.

We all go through tough times and I feel for you. Logic can grow wings when we are feeling desperate.

The reality is, expecting the market to pay a huge premium because you…

  • are in dire financial straights
  • overpaid for the property
  • bought at a high point in the property cycle and are forced to sell at a low point
  • overcapitalized when you renovated
  • are scared that you won’t have enough equity to re-enter the market.

…are all understandable wishes but not realistic expectations.

And think twice before advertising your situation to buyers. People are much more likely to attempt to take advantage than sympathize.

The Fix

Sales triggered by misfortune are often time sensitive which means hanging on for something that isn’t there can create far more pain and cost for you than timely acceptance of what is. If your market feedback has been consistent then its time to pay attention and move on.

SIGN FIVE: You dismiss consistent buyer feedback as ‘negativity’ or minimize its relevance.

These are sellers who acknowledge that their home has issues but view (all) buyers objections around these as excessive, insist that remedies are far cheaper than (all) buyer estimates yet refuse to remedy any issues themselves.

Do any of your proposed solutions look like this?

The Fix

Try not to take feedback personally. Consistent buyer feedback is hugely valuable in helping you establish what you need to change to secure your sale. You need a buyer if you want to sell and they can’t all be wrong. If you want to move things along you will need to fix the issues (in a professional manner otherwise you may not get the benefit from your outlay) or fix your price.

In closing…

‘But I’ve had no feedback because I’ve had virtually no buyers through! Surely changing agents will fix this!’

Possibly but not necessarily. There is one pool of buyers and agents in your location from every brand are likely dealing with them. If your photos and ad can’t be faulted and your property has been exposed in the usual mediums there may be another explanation and solution.

Properties can take extended periods of time to sell for a variety of reasons. And while price is a common culprit it is not the only one.

Keep digging until you identify what is holding you up, change that and move on.

Good luck with your sale!


For more tips to for frustrated sellers check out:

Dead Open Homes? Tips To Increase Traffic.
Smart Ways To Deal With Stupid Offers
Conjunctional Sales: What They Mean For You.


Have feedback for me? Or a question? I’d love to hear from you. Give me a call on 021 454694 or email me here.

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Whatipu

The Author

Maria is a veteran Auckland realtor, rookie blogger and long time resident of the West and Nor'west. Maria markets and sells residential and lifestyle property across Auckland and is based at Harcourts Northwest Realty Limited - Licensed REAA 2008