Competent Representation When Buying or Selling a Home

I frequently receive emails from TG readers who have had both positive and negative experiences with real estate agents.  The following comes from a reader who felt like he and his wife were duped during the negotiation process by an agent who, from his accounts, seem to put her interest ahead of both her seller and this prospective purchaser.  Don’t take my word for it.  read and decide for yourself:

My wife and I made a bid of $780k on an apartment on 74th Street that was listed for $799k. She (the seller’s agent) told us that wouldn’t do it and we needed to offer the asking price. I asked her what the owners’ counter-offer was and she said that if we offered the asking price we would get the apartment. I asked my question again and was given the same answer. I firmly believe that our offer was never conveyed to the owners since this was all occurring on the phone in one conversation.

Around this time we got rid of the broker we were working with because she was basically showing us $1.2 million condos on 90th and York, which we couldn’t afford and were in neighborhoods we didn’t want to live in (bad listener).  She seemed quite inexperienced and was so frazzled by the seller’s agent that I was more or less dealing with the seller’s agent directly anyway.

About 10 days later the seller’s agent called me at work and said that there was a "slight glitch" with the apartment.  She thought they had an offer of $800k for the apartment and it turns out that the offer was really $780k, so she wanted to know if we were still interested in the apartment. I told her that we were and that our previous offer had actually been $780k, but we would offer $782k.   She immediately told me that the asking price would get us the apartment. I asked her why she didn’t give our offer to the owners and see what they said first.  She refused and said we should consider offering the asking price if we wanted the apartment.

We really liked the apartment and felt that our bid was fair based on comps that we did. I had to do all of the comp work because the broker we got rid of said she wasn’t sure what a good comp would be (again a good reason to not work with her anymore). I called the seller’s agent back the next day and said that we could go to $792k. We wanted this apartment, but we didn’t want to overpay more than was necessary.  The seller’s agent again said that the asking price would get us the apartment. I suggested that she actually go to the owners and give them our offer before saying that and we would listen to their counter-offer.  She again said that the asking price would get us the apartment.  At this point, I told her that I thought she was full of "it" and that she was using us for leverage and had no intention of actually giving any of our bids to the owners.

The apartment ended up being sold for $780k to the original people that we had been bidding against 3 weeks earlier. The seller’s agent let slip that she was representing the other buyer too which shows that she was more interested in a $780k sale that was all hers than a $792k sale that she had to split with our broker who wasn’t even involved in the negotiation process. She had also previously suggested to me that the owners might be more flexible if we just worked with her because other brokers would "just get in the way".

I was absolutely disgusted by the way we were treated and used by her.  We ended up buying an apartment on 56th Street for $675k that we put another $45k into renovating. We did like the apartment on 74th Street more and were willing to pay a fair and reasonable amount for it, but we never really had a chance because the playing field wasn’t level as the seller’s agent kept saying to us, "If you want to be in the game you have to offer the asking price."

I cannot put into words, even now, the anger that I feel for allowing this agent to get away with treating us this way.  She was clearly manipulating the system for her own gain without any care for how she was treating the people involved in the transaction. Her fee was all that mattered to her.

This has certainly given me a specific view of brokers in NYC. I know that they are all not like this agent, but there are enough that are like her out there. I appreciate all of your work to give the industry more transparency. I am a partner in a recruiting firm, so I know quite well how much a person’s reputation can help or hurt a process. In my 11 years in this field I have never met someone so devious in their negotiating tactics as this particular agent. She was so brazen in her deception and incompetence that she told me she was doing it (as stated above).

Now of course we don’t have the agent’s account of what happened (and I’m sure it is VERY different), but the most important factor in my mind is the perception that this particular consumer walks away with regarding the real estate profession.  I can’t stress enough how important that I believe it is to have a competent agent working for you whether you are buying or selling a home.  And always be mindful that although a seller’s agent (more than 80% of my personal business is representing sellers) has a fiduciary responsibility to their seller, it is not unheard of for an agent to get in their own way and put their interest ahead of even the seller’s.  I still maintain that the direct deal should die and that both sides of a transaction should be represented by a competent real estate agent (PODCAST).  Until this happens, there is just too much temptation for agents to consider their bottom line first.

5 Responses to Competent Representation When Buying or Selling a Home

  1. Doug, all the more reason that all real estate consumers should check references when hiring an agent to represent their interests on either the buy or sell side to feel comfortable that their interests, rather than their agent’s interests are being represented. Beware the double dipper or the desperate.

  2. avatar Lindsay says:

    We are having the exact same problem happen to us in Florida. The house is still for sale and we even offered full price for it, but the seller’s agent either won’t give the seller our offer, is pushing for another sale where the buyer uses him instead of another agent, or is somehow convincing the seller to not accept our offer all because he doesn’t want to split the sale. It’s extremely frustrating. I wish that something could be done about it.

  3. avatar Michael says:

    Isn’t the broker acting illegal here? Doesn’t the original seller have a claim against the broker for misrepresentation? Could the potential buyer get a cut of this claim?

  4. Michael,
    It certainly seems like it would be illegal but that is a question for an attorney.

    • avatar Valeria says:

      I would get a buyer’s agent. They will help guide you through the pceorss, provide good referrals for lenders, inspectors, insurance agents, etc, and are obligated to work on your behalf unless they also happen to be the agent for the seller of the home you are interested in. The best part is they are essentially free to you because they are paid by splitting the commission with the selling agent, which is paid by the seller. When I purchased my first home in 2008, my buyer’s agent was great in finding homes in my price range and helped me understand the whole pceorss, making the experience exciting rather than stressful. If you know of someone that recently purchased a home or is currently looking, ask them if they have, or are, using a buyers agent, or if they know one to recommend.

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