What do you deserve from your real estate agent?
Perhaps you’ve heard horror stories from friends or family members about defects that were discovered after closing, leaving buyers stuck with thousands of dollars in repairs. Or maybe you or someone you know lost their home to foreclosure caused by the sub-prime lending fiasco that triggered the 2008 recession. While many things in life are out of our control, when something goes wrong in real estate, it’s often because the buyer or seller did not get, or take, advice that was in their best interest.
Who can you trust?
According to a Gallup survey from 2018, nurses rank the highest among US professions in terms of honesty and ethical standards. 84% of respondents ranked them with a trust level of high to very high. Doctors, pharmacists and high school teachers ranked above 60%. At the other end of the scale, members of congress and auto salespeople came in at 8%. Lawyers ranked 19%, business executives 18%, and only 25% thought real estate agents ranked highly in terms of honesty and ethics.
Many have trust issues with real estate agents. This probably stems from the hard sell: “Always Be Closing” approach used by agents who focus on their immediate income needs over the interests of their clients. This old school approach was exemplified in the 1992 film “Glengarry Glen Ross”. Granted, it can be tough to make a living selling real estate. Agents only get paid when the sale closes. Sometimes transactions fail after weeks of work. Sometimes clients change their minds or decide to work with another agent. We are all independent contractors or small business owners without company benefits like insurance, vacation days, or sick pay. For some agents, the survival response is “get it while you can”, closing one deal and moving on to the next without looking back. For others, most likely those who rank in the 25% category, it’s not just about one commission check. It’s about the relationship - building trust over the long term and taking good care of clients who then go on to trust you with repeat business and referrals. And I believe this is how most real estate agents actually operate these days. It certainly has been my experience working in our community over the past 13 years.
Most agents are Realtors®, which means we pay for association membership and agree to follow a code of ethics. This code puts clients first. The state of Oregon regulates real estate practices too, investigating and leveling penalties against licensed agents who break the rules. How does an ethical real estate agent operate? They place your interests above their own They understand your needs and motivations They inform and educate you about buying and selling They help you investigate potential risks They help you research issues and remedies They empower you to make decisions in your best interest and feel confident about your purchase or sale.
You deserve ethical service from your real estate agent. So choose wisely. Get recommendations from your friends. Ask them what they liked and what they didn’t like about their experience. Read reviews of real estate agents on Zillow and Google. Interview your agent for the job of representing you. Ask them how they operate and how they will work to protect your interests. And go with your gut when deciding who to trust with a big transaction like buying or selling your home. Remember, your agent is the expert on the process, but you are in charge of every decision along the way.