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It’s been more than eight years since my wife and I sold our house in Alexandria, Va., and moved to Atlanta, where we still live. And I still seethe over the agent who sold our house. It was the first time we’d ever sold a house — this was our starter home, a 2,700-square-foot center-hall colonial — and I still vividly remember the night we received our first formal offer. It was our starter home (for which we’d paid $216,000, back when you could still do that in Washington D.C.), the local market had flat-lined during the seven years we’d owned it, but we still felt confident we’d get close to the $235,000 we were asking.
Our first formal offer came from a junior NATO officer on the very day after we listed it. His agent showed up at 7 p.m. that night, settled in at our dining room table, made his spiel and then offered…$226,000 and the buyer wanted us to cover $6,000 in closings costs to boot. If we didn’t accept it, he said his client was prepared to simply walk away and bid on a house in Burke.
My wife and I were dejected at the price, but when the agent walked outside, our agent turned to us and pressed us hard—really hard—to take the offer. “I think we need to work with them,” he implored. “Don’t let them walk away. Let’s work with them.” The other agent returned, and my agent—in front of the other agent—pressed us hard to take the offer. “You’re starting your new life in Atlanta in a few weeks and you should take their offer so you can wrap things up here,” he said in front of the other agent. So much for out agent representing our interests.
We got the buyer to nudge his price up by $2,000, but we ‘d never done this before. I had that small pang that maybe this WOULD be the only offer we got and in the end, we capitulated.
And the next morning I had seller’s remorse. Another agent dropped by that afternoon after seeing the “For Sale” sign in the yard, we told her the price we’d accepted but still let her look around. After a walk through she said, “Oh honey, you just GAVE your house away. You should have gotten $250,000. Your decorating is fabulous.”
In hindsight, I felt that I’d been negotiating against three people—the buyer, his agent AND MY OWN AGENT….
I fumed, but I'd already signed the contract. I turned my anger against my own agent. I concluded that he was one of those agents that made a fat income by maximizing "turns"--squeezing his client to take a quick offer so he could flip the house in less than a week and move on to another client. (Adding to our angst is the fact that the Washington market took off like a rocket in 2000 and similar houses on our old street now go for upwards of $650,000 or $700,000. I've gotten over it but my wife hasn't.)
When our agent called us in Atlanta (where he were on our own house hunting trip) a couple days later after the home inspection and rattled off a list of a half-dozen minor repairs and improvements the buyer was demanding--which collectively, would add up to more than a thousand bucks--I said, "Pay for it all yourself. And frankly, I hope you don't, because I'd like the contract to fall through so I can fire you and hire a new agent." And I hung up on him. I contemplated taking the sign he hung out front of homes he'd just gotten a contract for, which said, "(His name) SOLD ANOTHER ONE!" and defacing it to read, "(His name) DUMPED ANOTHER ONE!"
Our agent paid for the repairs out of his own pocket to save the deal--and his commission. So I had to honor the contract. But to this day, I still can't see straight when I think of him. When our family vacationed at Sea Pines in Hilton Head a couple of years ago, I discovered that he'd bought a three-bedroom townhouse two doors from the one we were renting, and he was there with his family (the personalized plate on his car was the giveaway). My wife stopped me from going over and giving him a piece of my mind. "We're on vacation, let it go," she said.
Am I being irrational? Yeah, probably. Admittedly, over a lifetime of home ownership and investments, $10,000 or $20,000 will be a mere rounding error in our net worth. And I realize I'm going to get no sympathy from those many homebuyers who have seen their homes drop by $25,000, $50,000 or even $100,000 from what it was worth a year ago. And some homeowners now own a home that is worth less than they paid for it.
But to me, it was the principle of the matter. Our agent wasn't intent on getting me the highest price possible--as was his fiduciary obligation--he was hell-bent on flipping a house within 24 hours after he listed it so he could move on quickly to his next client.
Anyone else have any agent horror stories? I created this thread to give fellow homeowners a place to vent, so have at it. Consider this a form of group therapy, so you too can excise your own real estate demons along with me.
And to give equal time to agents--just so you think I'm allowing our readers to take cheap shots without giving you equal time--feel free to post the habits that drives you crazy about buyers or sellers. Maybe creating a dialogue here will help us all find common group. Maybe all this therapy will help me get over my experiences with that agent from eight years ago. Heck, maybe an agent will tell me to just shut up and get over it.
APRIL 30 ADDENDUM: In response to some of the posts on this thread, I will make these comments:
1) As for the comment that I should have interviewed more agents...fair point. I went with this agent because he was one of the "name" agents in my part of Fairfax County -- he probably did more closings than any other agent. But now I understand how one agent can do that many closings.
2) As for the comment that the agent got me 97% of our asking price, that's not a fair read in my opinion. During my years in Washington, I covered the tail end of the S&L crisis--namely, the cleanup conducted by the Resolution Trust Corp. Remember the RTC? I remember applauding the RTC for its successful auctions, in which it claimed that it recouped "96% of book value" of assets it was selling from the failed S&Ls. Only afterwards did oI realize that the RTC was marking down assets by, oh, 40% and then selling it for a little less than that and claiming a 96% success rate. Same with these brokers. If my house was really worth $250,000, then I got less than 90%.
3)As for the comment that the second agent who came along saying I sold my house too cheap...it wasn't in her interest to tell me that. She was representing other buyers, and hence, even if my initial offer had fallen through, I wouldn't have hired her as the selling agent -- I could see the conflict of interest there. And if my first contract fell through, she effectively put her client -- had they desired to buy my house -- in a bad spot by effectively telling me to relist it for $25,000 more.
BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.