This has been a very frustrating week for my friends who’ve been looking to buy a house here in the Westside of Los Angeles. Two different buyers, two different houses, but it’s the same set of circumstances. In both cases, the listing agents when pressed about the status of the buyers’ offers (and why they had not yet heard back with a counter-offer) replied that, “they hadn’t been in touch with the seller” and “they didn’t know what they’re thinking.”
Can this really be possible in an era when buyers and sellers have many options open to them on who to work with or how to market their property?
I took the question to the streets.
“Do you have good communication with the sellers on your listings?” I eagerly asked several of my acquaintances who are real estate agents. “Do they call you back? Respond to your offers and questions on time?”
“Not always,” said one. “Almost never,” said another.
“Then why do you take the listing?” I continued.
“Are you kidding?” they each responded. “That’s the name of the game. Get the listing and you’re king.”
These real estate pros (and friends) aren’t telling me anything new. It’s hard work to be a buyer’s agent – especially in a market like the Hollywood Hills where inventory is low and good listings go fast. Prices are high and (I think) getting higher. It’s much better to be a listing agent and just sit back and wait for the phone to ring.
Or is it? In a profession where time is money, how can a listing agent afford to take a listing from a seller who won’t call them back or let them show the house or won’t respond to offers in a timely manner?
Would you try to sell a car that didn’t run? Or bake a cake with no heat in the oven? Are there listings that agents should just walk away from?
Never mind the buyer frustration on the other side when their agent calls them back for the one hundredth time in two days to say “we haven’t heard” or “I don’t have any news.”
Does not getting an answer back indicate that the selling agent doesn’t have a whole lot of experience or is unprepared for the challenges of dealing with the seller? Does the seller not really want to sell? Are there signs that a real estate agent should look out for so they don’t end up representing a seller from hell? Is there a device that will warn agent on their Blackberries when it “smells” a seller with bad intentions?
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Isn’t it up to the listing agent to set the ground rules on what is expected from the seller in order to have a successful transaction for both parties? Or has the market created an atmosphere of bad behavior?
And what about the buyers? Buying a house is a process filled with anxiety under the best of circumstances. Never mind the additional stress of a multiple offer situation and the potential for rising interest rates on the horizon. Don’t they deserve to have their offers answered on time–or at all?
Here’s a resolution idea for the new year: Even though you know that you’ll (eventually) make money on a listing, try saying “no” to dysfunctional sellers and give the rest of us a bit of a break. After all, at the end of the day if no one will take their listings, they may “come around” to the reality that this great market might not last forever. They may actually be cooperative, helpful, considerate and unselfish.
Julie Brosterman is a consultant to the real estate technology, mortgage and servicing industries. She lives in Los Angeles and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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