Monday, April 6, 2009

Why real estate agents suck (except for Redfin)

Disclaimer: If you are a real estate agent or love a real estate agent, stop reading this now.  You will be insulted.  If you choose to read on, don't come complaining to me.  You will only add to my long list of why I hate real estate agents.  

We have unfortunately had a lot of contact with realtors lately.  We have just bought a house, and worse, we are living as renters in a house that is for sale.  On the latter issue, we have had the joy of dealing with B, who despite endless schmoozing attempts, has come to reside squarely on my blacklist.  B's sins have been many and continuous.  First she asked if she could start showing our house a month earlier than we were contractually obligated.  We said OK, provided the owner agree to a few demands.  We never heard back, except to be informed that the open house would be two days hence.  We took that to mean the owner had agreed to the demands, and we didn't put up a fight.  We sat in our house with our baby for 3 hours while dozens and dozens of people stomped through and stared and us and our baby.  After which it became apparent that the owner had no intention of honoring our demands.  Nice, very nice. B promised us we would have 24 hours notice for showings then proceeded to repeatedly ask for showings at an hour's notice.  We accommodated when we could, we aren't bastards.  But now I refuse a showing for maybe only the 3rd time out of about 100 and B goes all ballistic and contacts the owner, to threaten us with revocation of the free month's rent she had earlier offered.  You know what B? Your owner can keep her pathetic month's rent if it means I don't have to be nice to you.  So there.  

Then we have the charming selling agent of the place we just bought.  We contacted N about our new house when it was off the market--we originally saw it last summer when it was on the market and we went to the open house.  She showed us the house this winter without us having our agent present (which is apparently against stupid realtor protocol). When our agent contacted her about us putting in a bid, she insisted that we wanted dual representation and proceeded to make up lies about how many times she had showed us the house.  When we told her that he was our agent, not her, N continued to give him trouble and even tried some under the table double dealing.  And this in a BUYERS (hello, N!) market and a house that had not sold for a year.  She is lucky we didn't just have enough of her and move on.  We are suckers, what can I say.  

In fact, the whole problem with the real estate business and real estate "agents" is that in reality, no one is really working for your best interest. It is in the realtor's interest that you buy something, anything, as quickly as possible and at the highest price possible because that way they get more money.  It doesn't matter what the market is doing, they will always give you a load of crap about why "it is a GREAT time to buy," etc.  In 2004, when we were last on the market as potential buyers, the jerk we were working with then just went on and on about how the DC housing market was perpetually strong and the federal government is the most stable employer and the value of whatever we would buy would just go up and up and up.  Fast forward 5 years and prices have collapsed 20% as part of a nation-wide crisis.  Thank goodness we didn't listen to him and decided to rent.

Which is why Redfin is so awesome.  Everyone, listen up, because you want to know about Redfin, and you want to use them if you live where they operate, if for no other reason than they will eventually put the conventional realtors out of business and score one for humanity.  Redfin agents do not work on commission, they are salaried, and when you buy a house with Redfin, they SPLIT THE COMMISSION with you. That is right folks.  AND you get the same service, only without the self interest and annoying salesmanship, since your agent gets paid their salary regardless.  So you get actual, objective advice from a real estate professional. Unheard of!  And of course you get 1.5% of the value of your home purchase back, not bad either.

Incidentally, what do you think the realtors did when Redfin began? Of course they tried to put them out of business. Redfin had to sue for access to the MLS system of listings.  They won, because this is America, and the better business model will eventually triumph.   

So watch out real estate agents!  Your days are numbered. There is a God.


  1. We used a buyer's agent, so our realtor really was working for us. But yeah, the whole process of selling and buying a house. Ick. I don't want to go through it again any time soon.

  2. Hey. Congrats on buying a house! And you have your war stories to go with it. What more could you ask for :o). Hope you also got your U2 tickets. Cheers, axel

  3. Redfin has its share of lousy agents. The website rocks, the model is great, but you know what? Those agents did not start their careers with Redfin. They were agents somewhere else first. Real estate agents move from one agency to another all the time. And Redfin seems not to screen or train any better than does any agency. Our first Redfin agent (buying) was great. Can't say enough good things about Karen Parnes. Our first selling agent, however, was beyond awful. Semi-literate, pushy, sloppy. Didn't even give us a copy of our listing agreement. Didn't tell us about the Redfin "sparkle" program where they reimburse you up to $250 for sprucing up the house. We asked if we should remove or tag items that don't convey and he said no. Now we are under contract and worried about the buyer wanting to keep nearly $1,000 worth of lighting fixtures. The final straw came when he screamed at me on the phone that I was trying to cheat Redfin out of a commission (because we decided to buy a house we found on our own; it wasn't even listed) and that Redfin's management had decided to fire me as a client. The next day I spoke to the regional manager and found out that none of this was true. And yet the man still works for Redfin! Our current agent is a lovely person who seems to have no understanding that she is supposed to be on our side. She even conceded an important contract term without consulting us first.
    I mean - Realtor 101! And she insists that I make endless concessions to the buyers but never pushes anything that we want/need. I sometimes wonder if she even tries (i.e., even bothers to ask). So don't think that Redfin walks on water. Lousy agents are lousy agents and Redfin has its share.