Buyers and sellers often misunderstand the scope and responsibilities of a real estate agent. Then again, agents don’t really come with a quantifiable job description, which is a big part of the problem in the first place.

  • A real estate agent's responsibilities tend to be loosely viewed as including tasks such as cleaning, pet sitting and keeping the yard maintained.

Buyers and sellers often misunderstand the scope and responsibilities of a real estate agent. Then again, agents don’t really come with a quantifiable job description, which is a big part of the problem in the first place.

It’s no wonder consumers think that everything between showing and listing homes falls in an agent’s wheelhouse.

Unfortunately, some buyers and sellers don’t hesitate to expect that their agent do things beyond the scope of their job and make those tasks contingent on getting the sale.

Here are the seven most outrageous demands that need a reality check:

Maid service or house cleaning                             

The seller will often say “I’ll need you to come over before showings to straighten things up.” Turning on lights and fluffing sofa pillows is one thing, having to make beds, pick clothes up off the floor, deal with laundry and put dirty dishes in the dishwasher is another.

Ditto for having to run the vacuum and sweep the floors. This sort of “pre-showing house check” often turns into way more than what an agent bargained for.

Sellers need reminding: Cleaning services charge for their work and expect to get paid upon completion of the job, and they either get paid by the size of the home or an hourly rate.

Landscaper, lawn mower or pool cleaner

Not only is there the inside to attend to, but there is also the outside. The sellers couldn’t get back in town to take care of the yard, their lawn help went MIA (never mind that it’s because the seller forgot to pay them), the pool is a mess, the driveway needs to be blown and swept, etc.

Sellers often expect their agent to take care of these things as part of a pre-showing routine, and while a little sweeping or quick skim of the pool may be OK, it’s never a 15-minute task.

Hence the agent travels with a supply of gloves, yard tools and green garbage bags. Once again, lawn and pool services bill weekly or monthly for their services; therefore, if sellers are expecting their agent to do this, they should not expect these services for free.

Pet sitting or dog walking

Some sellers expect the agent to attend to whatever pets are in the house — feeding them, playing with them, taking them for walks, putting them in a crate or possibly putting them in the car and removing them during showings entirely.

Because, of course, the agent’s time is worth little, and he or she has nothing else to do but deal with Fluffy or Fido for a few hours.

In many cases, this also means patrolling for Fluffy or Fido’s messes; because if left unscooped, it wouldn’t bode well for showings. Unfortunately, there just aren’t any pet sitters that work on a contingency basis like real estate agents.

Personal chauffeur

The agent who offers to pick up out-of-town buyers at their hotel for a full day of house hunting ends up serving as the personal limo driver the entire time the buyers are in town.

The buyer expects the agent to pick them up each day, regardless of the fact that the hotel is nowhere near the homes they are looking at, which sets a bad precedent.

If subsequent house hunting trips are made, the buyers expect this same practice. The agent ends up footing the bill for gas and mileage and probably coffee, meals and snacks for the entire day.

The buyers might as well schedule their agent to drive them to the airport after all is said and done — it’s in the complete opposite direction of everything else. After all, the buyers likely think all of the gas and/or mileage is reimbursed by the agent’s real estate brokerage.

24/7 availability

Whether a buyer or seller, the customer expects the agent to be available no matter the day, the hour or the week — whether the agent’s at worship, attending or hosting a family function or dealing with the death of an immediate family member.

Demanding buyers may not acknowledge the situation and just expect that the agent will “hop to it” and show them a home that they probably won’t end up buying anyway.

Once buyers go under contract on a house, they expect the agent to be available to meet them to open up the home for any number of things including multiple contractor visits to obtain estimates, interior designer consultations, showing off the home to family and friends, etc.

This is never just a quick visit. It often becomes hours, plus travel time to and from the property as well as the cost of gas to get there. The agent’s time is spent “babysitting” because someone has to be present while the buyer and whoever else is there.

Or the sellers get irate because they expect their agent to let them know about agent feedback on the last showing immediately, never mind that the agent had followed-up with the showing agent at least three times thus far via text, phone and email with no response.

There is no difference between urgent and important.

Sellers demand numerous open houses, some each week with a ton of money expended to advertise and promote them when their home isn’t selling; the agent better cancel whatever plans he or she had for the next six weekends because the job is to be at that seller’s home both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Demanding the commission

It’s no secret that the public thinks real estate agents make too much money. Unfortunately, they have little understanding or appreciation for the nature of the job and all that it entails.

Some buyers think that they are entitled to share in the agent’s commission and have no problem demanding that as a condition of using the agent to purchase a property.

The more expensive the home the better — using that as a carrot to dangle in the agent’s face —  because if this agent won’t step up, they will find someone else who will.

Other buyers demand that the agents involved in the transaction, whether on the buyer or seller side, use the commission to their benefit when negotiating an offer

After all, the commission, in their view, is not equivalent to a salary that an agent receives to make a living, but rather something “extra” that is discretionary, even unnecessary.

Forget the time, effort and money expended by the agents to get to the point of negotiating an offer. Veiled threats become conditions of the transaction.

On the seller side, commission entitlements reign supreme with getting an agent to agree to list the property at a commission rate the seller expects — putting their listing out there to what they think amounts to agent vultures who will be falling all over themselves to compete for the prey.

After the “winning” agent has discounted the fee to what the sellers requested, the sellers then expect them to pay for all else when the transaction goes awry — most times because they resisted or ultimately failed to listen to the agent’s sound advice about preparing their home for sale in the first place.

The agent ends up running interference by calling in favors from their stager, appraiser, home inspector and repair people after the home goes on the market or the transaction falls apart because of something that could have been easily handled in the first place.

Ignorance and resistance

And lastly, the biggest demand that needs to be reined in? The buyer or seller insisting that they do things their way and resisting their agent’s advice.

Never mind the buyers think that they should be able to purchase a home at a steal when everything in the neighborhood is selling for 99 percent of asking price or that every item on the inspection report should be addressed whether it is a repair or not.

There’s the buyer who calls the listing agents when a new property of interest comes on the market all while their agent has been diligently working with them and has to constantly run interference with their missteps and lack of respect for the process.

Remember the sellers who believe their home defies all odds no matter what comparable sales indicate?

Then there are sellers who don’t see the value in spending time and money preparing their home for sale because the new owner is going to change things anyway.

When they do get showings, they scoff at the feedback because the issues of concern are everyone else’s problem, not theirs. If and when an offer is actually made, it is far from what the seller believes it should sell for, and they aren’t willing to negotiate.

The buyer goes away, showing activity drops off, the seller refuses to make any changes to the property or adjust the price accordingly, and the listing fades away into the expired listing graveyard.

Real estate is one of the only professions where customers routinely blur the lines between agents handling what really falls within their responsibilities and expecting “customer service” to go beyond the scope of the job.

It is difficult for agents to stay within certain boundaries because many times they have expended so much time, effort and money that it’s impossible to say “no.”

Cara Ameer is a broker associate and Realtor with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Email Cara Ameer

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