This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.
Q. We have been working with a Realtor for almost two years and we have been unable to find a house in North Arlington that is suitable for us. At this point we are wondering if it is time to find a new agent, but at the same time, we wonder if a new agent would do any better for us because there is such low inventory in North Arlington and the market is so competitive.
We are having second thoughts about our agent because he is not proactive. We receive a daily automated email from him with the MRIS listings, however, after reviewing the daily list, we must tell the agent which houses we would like to see. He has never once said to us “this house is coming on the market” or “this house came on the market today, let’s go and see it.” We feel like we are doing all the work and the agent is just “opening doors.” Yes, we know once the time comes to put in a contract the agent will be working hard for us, but at this point it is frustrating.
We have not signed any kind of agreement with our agent, but after almost two years we feel a little guilty about finding someone new, especially since he is expecting to sell our condo. What is the best way to handle a situation like this? Could we have him sell our condo and work with another agent to find our home, or should we just separate ways?
A. There are plenty of people critical of my profession and I totally get it. Many of those critics have had an experience like the one you are describing. You are hoping this agent adds value once you find the right home, but he has not demonstrated the ability to do so thus far. If he is just going through the motions now, I would expect the same when it comes to advising you on the value of the home, negotiating your offer and marketing your condo. You deserve a lot more than this!
There isn’t any excuse for not being able to find a home after two years. I know that housing inventory is lower than buyers would like, but after two years it is not low anymore. It is just normal. In February alone, 183 other people were able to find homes in Arlington.
There needs to be continuous dialogue between you and your agent so that he is advising you on what needs to be done to help you meet your goals. Maybe your expectations are a little unrealistic, but that is not your fault. It’s his job to be a market expert and to help you understand what it will cost to get what you want in today’s market. Rarely should a week go by without at least one proactive suggestion from your agent. If he is unable to do this, then he is either not trying hard enough, too busy for you or not well enough ingrained in the North Arlington market.
The buyer agents on my team and I try to establish realistic expectations at the initial consultation. Sometimes, we even review active listings in this first meeting. It does not make sense for someone to think they are going to find something that doesn’t exist. Especially in a market where prices are increasing.
As for not having a buyers agreement, he is violating Virginia agency law by actively representing you in your real estate search. Though an argument can be made against how active he actually is. Even if you had a signed agreement, I don’t think any ethical broker would hold you to the agreement if you asked for a release and explained why.
Buying and selling a home is one of life’s biggest events. You need to make sure you feel confident in the agent you are working with. If you decide to end the relationship you may want to simply do him the favor of explaining why. Maybe he will learn from this experience and find ways to improve.
You may want to create a list of interview questions based on your current experience. Before hiring a new agent, find out exactly how he or she will be serving your needs before moving forward. Possible questions to include:
- What experience do you have with the type of home we are looking for?
- Describe your network (outside of friends at your office).
- Is real estate your full time career?
- How many homes have you helped people purchase in the last year that were not listed in the MLS?
- What strategy will you use to make us the most money on the sale of our home?
- Will you provide a discount on your commission if you assist with both transactions?