Signs You Have A Bad Real Estate Agent

Whether you are buying or selling a home, it's likely to be one of the biggest financial transactions you'll ever make, per CNBC. So, it's important to partner with a great real estate agent. But you've likely heard the horror stories of how hiring a bad real estate agent can absolutely ruin your experience.

It's easy to point out the qualities of a great real estate agent, but how are you supposed to avoid getting let down or scammed? It pays to be vigilant and aware of the signs. If you're lucky, you can weed out a bad real estate agent before signing any paperwork and go through the real estate process with a champion by your side. But not all of us are that lucky, as maybe you're already tied up in a business relationship with a real estate agent that's less than stellar. Here's how to know if you have a bad one. If too many of these signs sound familiar, it's time to break up with your real estate agent.

Your real estate agent isn't a certified Realtor

There are a couple of key differences between a real estate agent and a Realtor: hours of training and a license from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Picking the former means your agent might not have the same amount of training or follow the same rules. Investopedia does a great job of breaking down the important distinctions between a real estate agent, a real estate broker, and a Realtor.

Essentially, a real estate agent is licensed to assist homebuyers, sellers, and renters alike, but they cannot operate independently and must do all work under the supervision of a real estate broker, or a brokerage firm. A broker is an agent with more training and further licensing under their belt. Because of their higher experience level, they are able to work without supervision, unlike real estate agents. A Realtor, however, can be either a real estate agent or a broker, but they take things a step further and hold membership to the NAR and must abide by all the policies put forth by the association.

Your real estate agent doesn't communicate with you

A real estate agent's communication skills can make or break your relationship with them. This is because communication is one of the most important aspects of establishing trust in a relationship (via Stevenson University). And, whether you are buying or selling a house, the process is likely one of the most expensive you'll ever experience. So, because of the high stakes, trust is essential.

While most real estate agents are busy, professionalism dictates responses to questions and concerns within a reasonable timeframe, usually at most one business day. However, most agents will respond within the hour, if not with an answer, to at least let you know they are working on it. If your agent takes ages to reply to your real estate questions, and even when they do get back to you, the answers are lackluster, you are working with a bad agent.

According to Forbes, good real estate agents support their clients through each step of the transaction with punctual, helpful advice. Bad real estate agents will leave you hanging and make you feel like you're going through it alone.

Your real estate agent hasn't continued their education

A good real estate agent always wants to be on top of their game. However, often a bad agent doesn't, and whether or not they're upskilling is one of the best ways to tell if you're working with a good or bad real estate agent. If they haven't taken the opportunity to upskill in any way, like taking a course approved by their state's real estate commission, you have a bad agent.

According to Aceable, there are dozens of courses available in sectors like marketing, negotiating, presenting, and even copywriting, all of which significantly improve your agent's skills. For example, if your seller's agent hasn't taken a course on marketing, then your real estate listing might not be promoted to all the right people and you'll struggle to find a buyer. Or, if your buyer's agent hasn't taken a course on negotiating, you might find yourself paying thousands more than your offer and closing with no contingencies.

When selecting an agent, be sure to ask them what their specialties are. While it might differ from state to state — for example, the Texas Real Estate Commission requires more training at 180 hours than Florida's does at 63 — if your agent has only done the bare minimum of training, they might not be the best.

You feel pressured by your real estate agent

There's nothing worse than a sleazy real estate agent. It's a house, not a used car. Never, at any point in the process, should you feel pressured to make a choice you don't want to by your real estate agent. And while there may come a time when their professional advice doesn't match your hopes, kindness is essential. For example, you were hoping to sell for $350,000, yet they advise you to take the $338,000 offer because of the current market conditions. Still, you should never feel bullied into a choice.

If you're buying a home and your agent pressures you to accept a "no contingencies" close because they feel like you're dragging your feet and just want to collect their commission and be done with it, it's time to find a new agent. Always go with your gut, and if you're not sure about something, it's always okay to sleep on a big choice before you make it. Remember: A sleazy real estate agent is a bad real estate agent, as noted by Forbes.

Your real estate agent isn't patient with you

If your real estate agent isn't patient with you, you're working with a bad one. This is especially true if it's your first time buying a home because you've never done this before and are likely to have lots of little (and big!) questions about every single point in the process. This is totally okay, but a bad agent will make you feel dumb for asking.

If you're selling your first home, it'll be much the same as it's your first time in the seller's seat, as it would also be if you're moving to a new, unfamiliar area. You need someone to be patient with you who will listen to all your questions and concerns with an empathetic ear. A bad real estate agent won't do this. Your agent should also be patient with you as you take the time to make the big choices regarding buying or selling a home. As noted by Forbes, one of the biggest problems with bad real estate agents is that they try to rush their clients through the process.

Your real estate agent isn't proactive in their approach

Real estate is one of the most fast-paced fields out there, especially in a hot market. Circumstances in real estate can change from minute to minute, so being proactive is key to getting you the best price on your dream home, no matter if you are buying or selling. If your agent is reactive and always seems to be playing catch up on showing you listings or bringing you offers, you're in trouble.

As per Bordas Law, being proactive means you always have the upper hand in negotiations because you have more time to prepare for all contingencies that might arise during discussions. If your agent is caught by surprise at any point during the process, their lack of foresight could be detrimental. If this has happened to you, you're working with a bad agent.

Remember, don't confuse your agent's heavy workload with being proactive (via Costa Invest). Just because they are always running around doesn't mean they are making great plans to get you the best deal. It might just mean they have poor time management skills and are playing catch up.

Your personality clashes with your real estate agent

Sometimes we just click with people. When we meet, it feels like we've known them forever and we can talk to them about anything. According to Greater Good Magazine, this is due, in part, to having similar educational levels, social backgrounds, and interests. But sometimes it's just the opposite; you meet someone and they just rub you the wrong way. If this happens with your real estate agent, run. It's not going to work out.

Getting along socially with your agent is very important as you'll be spending quite a lot of time together, whether it's going to house showings or preparing your own home for the market. You're also relying on this person for advice about one of the biggest financial choices you'll ever make. So, if you can't stand them, the process isn't going to go well. They just aren't a good fit. In fact, complementary personalities in real estate are so important that Ramsey Solutions even recommends that you should be wary of hiring family or friends as your agent because of how tense the real estate process can become.

Everything takes too long with your real estate agent

Does your real estate agent take too long to answer urgent emails? Has your house been on the market (or have you been looking for a new home) for longer than the national average? If so, you have a bad agent.

According to Zillow, from start to finish it takes roughly 5.5 months to buy a home, and that's including attending showings, making an offer, obtaining financing, and closing. Of course, there is some give and take on this timeline, but if things stretch out much farther than that, it's time to double check with your real estate agent about their priorities, as finding you a home might not be one of them.

The average time to sell a home in the U.S. varies greatly depending on current market conditions, but Zillow states that the average in 2020 and 2021 was about 1.5 months. If you follow all your agent's advice and still can't get your property sold, then there might not be something wrong with your home — it could be that you have a bad agent.

Your real estate agent isn't a good negotiator

Negotiations are a critical part of any real estate deal, as noted by Harvard Business School, so if your agent isn't great at them, it's a big sign you have a bad agent. Even if they've taken the time to upskill and take a course in negotiating, it doesn't necessarily mean they actually held onto any of the information and can effectively put it into practice.

You have a lot to lose during the negotiation phase. So, if your buyer's agent is too aggressive with the seller's agent (or vice versa), inspectors, or even lenders, take a step back and reevaluate. Remember, driving a hard bargain in negotiations isn't the same as being aggressive; it's all about demeanor.

On the other end, bad real estate agents could also be total pushovers who can't advocate for your best interests during a deal. You don't want to work with someone like this either as you'll walk away feeling let down or scammed. You don't want to experience buyer's remorse after buying a house (per Bankrate), so take your time and find an agent who is a skilled negotiator.

You don't trust your real estate agent

Licensed Realtors must abide by a strict code of ethics (via NAR), so if you feel like your agent is untrustworthy, it's possible they are committing a violation. The code includes rules that require agents to be truthful about a home's true market value instead of massaging the numbers to secure your business. They also can't represent both the buyer and seller of the same home without the informed and active consent of both parties, as the situation is rife with possibilities for conflict of interest.

Realtors also can't use confidential information (like about your finances) for their own personal gain. The full code of ethics also includes very specific codes of practice around each step of the home buying (and selling) process. For example, any fees associated with preparing things like a home appraisal have to be set and cannot be percentage based, as the latter would encourage agents to inflate numbers to secure a bigger payday, as per NAR.

If you don't trust your real estate agent, trust your gut. Even if what they are doing doesn't turn out to be against the code of ethics or any laws, you not feeling comfortable with their behavior is enough to end the business relationship.

Your real estate agent isn't familiar with the local market

While you might love your local real estate agent, if you are moving out of the area, working with an agent who isn't familiar with the market in your new location has major downsides, according to Coldwell Banker. Even a normally superlative agent might not excel when working outside their typical market as their performance would suffer because of a lack of local connections, knowledge of school districts and floodplains, etc. If you don't work with someone who knows the area, you might end up sending your children to a terrible school and your house might flood twice a year — definitely not a situation you would want to find yourself in.

In addition to these consequences, it is actually illegal in some states for a non-local agent to assist with the transaction, per Upnest, so any agent willing to work around these laws is, by definition, a bad one.

Your real estate agent has too many clients

If you aren't getting the attention you need during the buying or selling process, it could be because your real estate agent has too many clients and simply can't keep up with their current workload. This might seem like a sign of a great real estate agent at first. They must be one of the best if everyone else is so eager to work with them, right? Wrong. A good agent will only accept clients that they have time to provide a high level of professional service to. If they can't, they will recommend one of their colleagues. A bad agent will take on every single client possible because they have large-commission-check tunnel vision.

If your agent has too many clients, you might end up like clients approaching Phoenix Real Estate Guy who have to beg another agent for assistance because they are being ignored by theirs. To avoid this sort of thing, it's okay to ask about an agent's workload before jumping into an agreement. And if you're already experiencing it, it's okay to look for a new real estate agent.

Real estate isn't your agent's main job

Real estate is often lauded as a profitable side gig, according to Real Estate Express. But, if your agent isn't in the industry full time, it's possible that you're working with someone without the experience, connections, time, and education needed for things to go smoothly.

For example, maybe you found the home of your dreams on a third party listing site and sent it on to your agent, asking them to set up a viewing. But it's Friday morning and your agent also has a part-time office job, so they won't be available to help you until Tuesday afternoon. In plenty of markets, that's long enough for someone else to swoop in and snatch up the house.

Partnering with an agent making the transition into the industry can often be a positive, as they are eager to learn and build a portfolio of satisfied clients. However, if your agent only got involved to make a quick buck, you've definitely got a bad one on your hands.

Your real estate agent seems too good to be true

You might be working with a real estate agent that seems to tick all of your boxes. They have glowing reviews from past clients, have upskilled with plenty of specialized courses, and listen to all of your concerns. Maybe they are even a certified Realtor. But, if everything about the local agent you found seems too good to be true, it just might be. As Forbes warns, it could be that the agent is agreeing with everything you say just to act the part to secure the contract, only to misbehave later on down the line. While this doesn't happen often, it happens just enough to be wary.

When buying or selling a home, always keep your wits about you and trust your gut. Do plenty of research before choosing an agent to work with, and if things start going awry and your agent turns out to be a bad fit, don't panic. You always have options.