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Your real-estate agent may stand to make a nice commission off you, but that's no reason to take him for granted. After all, the agent is working for you — as in, on your behalf. If inspired, he can think creatively and act quickly — for you. He can negotiate wisely and fiercely — for you.
Or not. Your choice.
Yes, agents are professionals. Yes, they should do the best job, regardless. But remember: We're all human. For best results, treat kindly.
So what should house hunters avoid doing to keep agents from clenching their clipboards in frustration? We asked a few, and put together a list of "don'ts."
1. Please don't turn into an all-knowing insta-expert just because you have an Internet connection.
This is the most common complaint we heard.
These days, buyers can see everything online, and everything can look pretty good online. But those online listings can leave a lot out, including whether the home is still for sale.
"To the extreme, I've had multiple clients who will email me list after list of [multiple listing service] numbers, saying, 'We'd like to see 50 homes,' and only three of them are available and I've already sent those listings to them," says Kristen Gil, a manager with Intero Real Estate in Reno, Nev. "It prevents me from being out there finding them the right home because I'm checking every MLS number known to man."
There's nothing wrong with looking, agents say. But try to understand how your agent's job works. She has access to the same MLS listings, but with updated and additional information that has been filtered to weed out your duds.
Agent after agent told us of spending hours looking up MLS numbers provided by clients only to have those same buyers abandon each and every one after being let in on key details. It's a time waster.
The advice from agents: Go ahead and look online, but don't bombard your agent. Instead, put that effort into hiring someone you trust, then be comfortable relinquishing some control to the expert you've hired. (See "Find a superstar real-estate agent.") No one likes to be told how to do her work.
In short, Gil says: "Get out of my way and let me do my job."
2. Please don't eat up your agent's time with unresolved personal arguments.
Let's just say that even a minor dispute, if unresolved, can throw a major wrench in the works.
It happens all the time, agents say: A couple provides a detailed list of wants and needs, but in reality they still disagree on some seemingly small matters. The problem is that once the tour of homes begins, tiny disagreements morph into giant hurdles.
Read: 6 signs of a crummy real-estate agent
Such was the case with the husband bent on finding a house with a living room ample enough to display his 6-foot replica of a game fish. The wife, it turned out, felt otherwise. "Every house that we looked at had to have a wall that would fit this fish. And the wife had no intention of letting that in the house," Gil says. "There was yelling and screaming in the car about whether the fish would go in the house."
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Needless to say, this did not make for effective house-hunting: "Everything that she loved wouldn't fit the fish, and vice versa," she says.
Gil's response: She let them air it out for the day, then sat them down for a serious discussion about where compromises could be made. In the end, she found a house with a "man cave" for the husband and his fish. And she placated him with a large yard and a view.
How to avoid this: Write up a detailed list and take a few open-house test runs to tease out any lingering disagreements. Real-estate agents accept their role as pseudo marriage counselor, but wouldn't you rather reserve their time for finding you a nice house?
3. Please don't accuse the agent of sabotage.
On one level, it's natural to be suspicious of someone who will profit off your purchase. Won't the agent be eager to make a sale regardless of problems? But let's pause right here. Why would you continue to work with someone you don't trust?
A little understanding about the agent's job can help. First, know that real-estate agents are not clairvoyant. They have the seller's disclosures, but have no way of knowing what's hiding behind the walls or underground.
Katya Dennis, an agent with David Lyng Real Estate in northern California, says buyers will say, angrily, "Oh, you didn't tell me that this house had a problem." She tells them, "We didn't know until the inspection came in."
Some buyers will mistake legal or technical problems for subterfuge. "They don't realize that this industry is so varied, you can't 100% predict what's going to happen," Dennis says. "Then the first-time homebuyer gets frustrated with their Realtor. They get offended ... they stop communicating, which is a very bad mistake."
The upshot: Trust your agent, or find another whom you are willing to trust.