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This article was last updated May 16, 2023.
New agents are great. I love them. I appreciate their enthusiasm, energy and drive. Their lack of experience can sometimes lead to annoying practices and mistakes, causing headaches for everyone.
Secondly, while what I’m sharing below represents classic newbie behaviors that drive listing agents nuts, the sad truth is many agents who purport to be seasoned pros frequently exhibit the same behaviors. Here are our top 12 newbie behaviors that frustrate listing agents.
1. They do not read
As a seasoned listing agent, I know how to effectively list homes. In addition to working to get the best price and terms for our sellers, we have two other goals: to provide the maximum amount of data possible to enable buyers in making informed decisions and to give the buyer’s agent everything they need to write winning offers.
We even provide instructions for writing an offer, detailing our requirements, including a preapproval letter, verification of funds for the buyer’s down payment and so on. To confirm that a buyer’s agent has read the instructions, we ask them to initial and submit with their offer.
I have lost track of how many newbie agents submit offers without the initialed instruction sheet (along with clear evidence they never read it) or include the sheet duly initialed but without following the directions.
Other fails include not reading the showing instructions on the multiple listing service (MLS), not reading the confidential comments, asking for a link to the disclosure package when it is clearly provided in the MLS profile and more.
2. They do not know the contract
As of late, I’ve encountered a growing number of agents who figure that the contract is a list of suggestions — not a factual contractual document with actual deadlines, concrete specifics and real penalties.
Since our state’s residential purchase agreement is 10 pages long with additional disclosures tacked on for good measure and is subject to continuous modifications, you would hope agents would make a point of studying it on a regular basis.
Additionally, there are countless other forms to address specific issues. We continuously see documents floating through that are either incorrectly filled out or are not the right document for the situation at hand.
3. They do not understand/follow the rules
After riding a short distance with a tour guide in Italy, I began noticing a pattern. Every time he approached a red octagonal sign with the word “stop” emboldened on it, he blew past it like it was not even there. When I finally mustered the courage to ask him why he never stopped, he stated, “Those are merely ‘a suggestion’.”
Similarly, I frequently encounter new agents who either do not know the rules, do not understand them or willfully choose to ignore them. This was nowhere more visible than during the COVID-19 pandemic with its restricted showing procedures.
Showings happened without being scheduled, children were brought into listings in violation of state rules and a general lackadaisical attitude towards the rules prevailed among many rookie agents.
4. They do not understand fiduciary
Frequently new agents, hungry for a commission, will put their personal needs ahead of those of the client. Whether intentional or not, this can produce a conflict of interest that puts them in violation of the Realtor Code of Ethics and could place them in a disciplinary situation.
5. They do not communicate
In real estate, effective communication is critical every step of the way. Agents that do not respond quickly are setting themselves up for failure. Whether by phone, text or email, immediate responses are frequently required.
While I totally understand the need for time-blocking, the top offenders on my list are those agents who state, “Thank you for calling, I will be returning calls between 10 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. Calls received after 4 p.m. will be responded to the following business day.”
My response? “I am meeting with clients and reviewing your offer — we have multiple offers and to accept yours, I need to hear back from you in the next 20 minutes or we will move on to the next one.”
6. They do not get adequate training
A successful transaction depends on an agent’s ability to negotiate, which in turn requires training and practice. Rather than negotiate, some newly minted agents in our area have adopted the practice of writing fully noncontingent offers dramatically over list price in the hopes of winning the home for their clients.
Making matters worse, they do this without talking to the listing agent or verifying that their clients can actually close the deal should it appraise low. We have had a number of situations recently where the buyer’s agent has called after the appraisal and tried to renegotiate the terms. We have also seen agents write offers significantly over the listed price even though they were the only offer submitted.
On the technical side of things, a useful skill is the ability to write an offer with no mistakes and then combine it with a preapproval, verification of funds and other required documents in a single, compact PDF file.
In a multiple-offer situation, nothing is more aggravating than receiving 10-plus offers, each with 10 or more accompanying documents we must sift through to determine the offer’s validity, and then have to counter any contractual mistakes they made.
7. They do not properly vet clients
Anxious to get something into contract, new agents frequently use the mirror test on prospective clients.
Reminiscent of lenders prior to the market collapse who were giving loans to anyone who would fog a mirror, rookie agents are so excited to be working with someone that they never bother to see if they are currently working with another agent, are preapproved or can actually buy a house in the current market.
8. They do not have a ‘no’
Following up on No. 7 above, an agent with no boundaries is an agent who will end up being bossed around by clients and forfeiting any semblance of a life.
Whether agreeing to show 12 houses in a row, driving around clients who have not been preapproved because they “want to see what’s out there” or giving up part of their commission, agents without a well-defined “no” are setting themselves up for failure.
9. They do not understand inspectors and/or inspection reports
I understand that new agents are not contractors and often have no idea of the ins and outs of residential construction. Consequently, they should get training to help them understand the inspection reports.
I have seen buyer’s agents scare clients out of an escrow by misreading or misrepresenting a report and the actual condition of a home. Once a buyer has a negative impression of a property, they will not change their mind.
In addition to being a Realtor, I’m a licensed general contractor with extensive construction experience both in new construction and remodeling. I have been flabbergasted at things I have personally heard buyer agents tell their clients, appalled at how destructive their faulty interpretations can be and alarmed at requests for repairs that are unreasonable, include upgrades or demonstrate blatant ignorance.
Looking for a recipe for disaster? Put an overzealous inspector together with a rookie agent — it will not have a happy ending.
10. They do not work full time
It is no secret that many agents cannot afford to dive into real estate on a full-time basis. Unfortunately, this can cause significant problems once they get a buyer into contract.
Whether they are not allowed to make calls during their “day job,” cannot monitor emails or texts, they are out of the loop when key decisions need to be made. This frequently means the listing agent ends up managing both sides of the transaction. Even worse are the calls we get from buyers asking us to show them a home because their agent is “unavailable.”
11. They do not protect their commission
A common practice with newer agents in our area is to get a home into escrow and then send an addendum to the listing agent and seller disclosing that they are crediting part of their commission to the buyer.
This not only undermines their ability to have a successful long-term career, it invalidates the industry as a whole and continues the sad precedent of eroding commissions.
12. They do not convey the truth about their experience
Rookie agents, attempting to convey to their clients they have more experience than they actually have, have been known to “enhance” the truth a tad. I have personally overheard newbies touting themselves as No. 1. Since I am constantly recruiting, I know the numbers of the top producers in our area and have been tempted to interject, “No. 1 at what, exactly?”
Another annoying habit is the voicemail message they put on their phones to make it look like they are busy: “Thank you for calling; I am either on the phone with a client or out showing homes. Please leave a message.” Please. Stop. You are not fooling anyone, especially when I call you during off hours.
There are many more, but these are the highlights. Truth is, we were all newbies at one time and made many of the same blunders. Ironically, this list is also the path forward for new agents looking to up their game and impress listing agents.
It is no secret that high volume listing agents prefer working with buyer agents who run a tight ship and are known for getting transactions to the closing table. Turn each of these frustrating practices 180 degrees by removing the words, “They do not” and suddenly you have a roadmap to success.
Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.