In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic.

A veteran agent is trying to close a lucrative sale on a listing that has been a challenge for more than a year.

Complicating the matter is the apparent incompetence of the buyer’s representative, who has bungled every step of the process with shoddy work, demanding too much of the agent’s time and attention to correct. What can her broker do to ease her stress and complete this big-ticket sale?

Agent perspective

Few things upset me more than real estate “colleagues” who are responsible for their end of a complicated and important transaction, but clearly have little understanding of what to do. 

I bring years of experience, an abundance of continuing education credits and a record of smooth closings to the table, and I’m too often forced to work with raw newbies, casual and part-time practitioners and flat-out opportunists.  

In order to get many deals done, I have to step in and perform the duties of both sides or guide the agent through the whole process. It’s just not right.

Take this latest pending closing as a typical example — a seven-figure listing that has been a headache since the day I secured it. After months and months of price drops, negotiations and almost-agreements, we finally secured a reasonable offer and proceeded to contract. 

Almost immediately, I could see that the buyer’s agent was unfamiliar with our local Realtor association’s official policies and procedures, as well as required disclosures, and needed step-by-step instructions for even the most basic of measures. (Not to mention the penchant for careless errors like typos, missed signatures and incomplete fields.) 

This has been coupled with a lack of basic professionalism, as demonstrated by unreturned phone calls, emails and texts, lateness to important meetings, and forgotten verbal agreements. My counterpart is nice enough and often apologetic for these missteps, but when you’re dealing with the money and property of others, being nice only carries so much weight.

It really does trouble me that this person is allowed to practice with the same license and freedom as me and that they will earn a similar commission for work I have completed. Isn’t there something my broker and I can do to rectify this?

Broker perspective

I totally understand my agent’s frustration in this case. They should not have to waste their valuable time and expertise cleaning up the mistakes and negligence of others, just to get a deal completed.

However, a difficult reality of our industry is that not every agent practices full-time, has the same commitment to the job or the same amount of experience — and yet we all must play in the same sandbox. 

According to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) 2020 Member Profile (an annual report that outlines members’ behaviors and characteristics over the preceding year), 17 percent of Realtors have less than one year of experience, 65 percent have only a salesperson license rather than a broker’s license, and only 80 percent were certain that they will remain active in the industry for two more years. 

This data demonstrates a fair number of agents who are new, inexperienced and unsure of their long-term commitment to real estate. This often puts the burden of completing a deal correctly on those with more experience and practice. 

The guiding rule in real estate is to protect the public. To this end, the most state-governing real estate commissions consider both agents involved in a transaction equally responsible for making sure things are done correctly. 

If one agent misses something, or makes a mistake, the other is required to correct it. As the saying goes, “it is what it is.”

How to resolve

The NAR and local and state associations have a shared goal of improving the professionalism of Realtors. Online tutorials on our “Pathways to Professionalism” guidelines are always available, and agents are encouraged to participate. 

One of the components of the promise we make when we are sworn in as Realtors is to share knowledge for the benefit of all Realtors. Unfortunately, merely obtaining a license does not provide a fraction of the knowledge one needs to navigate a transaction. This comes often with hands-on experience.  

Our Code of Ethics states that a Realtor will not represent a consumer in an area outside of their “area of expertise” without the guidance of someone who does have experience in that area. If you think about it, with no actual prior real estate sales experience, this applies to all of the services we provide.

As agents and brokers, we can encourage our associations to institute requirements for mentoring, in which all new licensees must work with more experienced agents for the first few transactions. 

Until and unless that comes to fruition, the experienced agent has two choices: she can continue to get frustrated with her less-experienced and professional counterparts, or she can accept these situations as opportunities to educate and incrementally improve her industry person-by-person. 

Simply by staying professional and patiently explaining any missteps, she can be a true role model upon which that new or part-time agent can shape their future transactions.

After all, at some point, the agent herself was new and inexperienced, and certainly benefited from the wisdom and patience of more seasoned colleagues. Haven’t we all?

Anthony is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty, with offices in North Miami, South Miami, Kendall, and the Florida Keys, and where he leads the activities of more than 170 agents. He is also a working agent who consistently sells more than 100 homes a year. For three consecutive years (2018, 2019, and 2020), Anthony has been honored as the “Managing Broker of the Year” by Miami Agent Magazine’s Agents’ Choice Awards. NOTE: Anthony is not an attorney and does not give legal advice. Please consult a licensed attorney regarding matters discussed in this column.

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