A cautionary tale of realtor missteps and unethical practices
that rounded out our whirlwind home purchase
Welcome welcome to Part 4 of the tale of our home search. If you need to catch up:
We left off yesterday with a voicemail and an email for Bad Realtor after being unable to reach her, letting her know we were ready to make an offer on Contender #3 – which had just about everything we wanted. Today we pick up there, and you finally learn exactly why I’ve given her the moniker Bad Realtor.
The Realtor Conflict of Interest
If you’ve ever bought a house you know – or even if you haven’t I’m sure you can imagine – this is a big moment, telling you’re realtor you’re ready to put in an offer on a house that feels perfect. A high adrenaline, heart fluttering moment where you’re about to tell someone you’re ready to spend a fortune on something – but have to wait to see if you’ll get picked. You’re too attached and dreaming up all sorts of possibilities. It’s akin to letting yourself get too excited to get picked for sports in gym class or hang out with a crush, and you’re waiting to see what happens – but on top of that vulnerability you’re paying them a lot of money to pick you. So you’re not only desperate, you’re bribing them for their acknowledgment, and hopefully, approval.
We were all amped up and eager to talk to our trusted realtor. Not that we really knew the woman. She was assigned to us by our real estate firm while we were still living across the country. But yes, we placed our trust in her.
With the extra time it took us to get a hold of her in its reins, my imagination was running wild with a vision of what our life could be like in this house.
We finally got her on the phone after her uncharacteristic radio silence, and we recapped the whole email, assuming she hadn’t read it, talking about the finances yada yada yada. (you can read yesterday’s yada yada yada here)
And you want to know what she said?
[Good, because I’ve spent so much time writing this series!]
Of course, this is a conversation from several years ago, this is to the best of our recollection.
I present to you…
A Dramatic Re-Enactment of our First Realtor Conflict of Interest
Enhanced with GIFs!
A Phone Call
(set in woman’s parents’ living room)
Bad realtor (BR): That looks like a great house.
Us: It is. I mean, like we said in our email, this is really our dream house. It has everything we’re looking for in an ideal house for our family. But it’s at the top of our budget. How likely is it for us to find what we’re looking for again at all in this area, or any cheaper? There was nothing like this on the west coast.
BR: I mean, that’s hard to say. I don’t know.
Us: (Pausing to allow for any expansion on her thoughts on this. None came.) Oh, ok. Well we’re at the top of our budget if we do this. What do you think?
BR: I mean if you want to, it’s up to you.
…Are you wanting to do an offer?
Us: How about we discuss a little more and give you a call back.
(We knew something was up, but we wanted the house. We gave it one last moment of consideration and decided to go through with the offer. We called back and…)
US: Hi BR, we have decided…yes! Let’s do it. We’d like to put in an offer!
(This is where your realtor is supposed to respond with professionally reserved enthusiasm that shows they’re an ally that will fight the good fight for you but also that they’re responsible and level-headed enough to be trusted with the largest transaction of your life and keep their cool when you don’t. Instead, we got:)
BR: You want to put in an offer?
Us: (exchanging worried glances) Yes…
(young couple is relieved but wary as she gets more info on details of what we want to spend, paying more attention this time)
BR: You know what, full disclosure I have another client, another family interested in the house. But that shouldn’t be a problem.
BR: So –
Us: I’m sorry, what does that mean?
BR: Well, they love the place too so they’re putting in an offer. That’s why I didn’t get back to you sooner. I can help you with yours too, no problem.
Us: How is that no problem? Isn’t that a conflict of interest?
BR: No, no, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Us: We just told you our entire plan for our offer! You asked us for information about our finances, we showed you our entire hand!
BR: No, no. I guess.
US: You don’t think this is a problem?
BR: I mean, it should be fine.
Us: How is it not a problem? You’re preparing an offer for someone else to buy the house we want, knowing full well our entire hand and financial plan for buying it? How can you represent both of us? (yes this we actually repeated this – she clearly was not getting it)
BR: I mean honestly I don’t think you’re gonna have problem. I don’t think they can afford it.
Her nonchalant tone about the situation really bothered us most of all, I think. We were in disbelief.
Yes, we realized as we hung up the phone, this woman actually betrayed one clients’ financial scope to another competing client, and set herself up with all the information she could to help her initial client have an edge.
Not that it mattered anyway, since they couldn’t afford it.
No biggie! ::shrug::
What a Realtor Should Do in the Event of Having Competing Clients
Hopefully you won’t find yourself in a similar situation. According to some cursory research I did, it’s kind of rare – at least according to a small sampling of reactions in realtor’s forums and articles on the topic. This was our third home purchase and the first time working with a realtor who had a competing client.
I learned that Bad Realtor should have told us as soon as possible in our search (ideally when signing on with us) that she had another client that was looking for the same thing we were, and that they may end up making a competing offer. And that she should ask if we’re comfortable with that possibility.
Then, in the event both we and her other clients wanted to put an offer on the same property, she would hand one of us off to another broker – usually the manager of the team.
From that handoff point, there would be no communication between those agents representing completing clients until the transaction window passed.
Makes sense. These things must happen at some point. There are only so many realtors in the world. But Bad Realtor did none of these things according to the standard protocols, overexposing our financial strategy and her other client’s and breaking some major ethical boundaries.
But, looking back, we realized there were more areas where she failed us and we grew increasingly troubled with the bigger picture.
Other Problems We Had with Bad Realtor
She really didn’t do much for us at all.
We found pretty much all the listings – maybe even literally all of them. I know this because she reacted with genuine surprise when reviewing them, as if she had never seen them before. The only one I remember her being familiar with was the one so ugly and in such a terrible location we refused to go in – you can see it here – it’s the last one in Part 1.
Ok, but maybe that’s not so crazy in this age of online real estate, where buyers can access listings on their own. And heaven knows I do my own research. But it’s not like we could contact realtors directly for information. That was her job.
There were a few listings that I scoped out before the move. Every time I asked her about one of them, they were suddenly unavailable or about to go under contract. Our view of her was tainted in retrospect – was she helping her own clients get these houses after we pointed them out? Or did we just pick in-demand properties? Hard to say for sure. We were probably a little paranoid and overgeneralizing our experience, giving her too much credit for some houses no longer being available.
But at least one listing we missed out on that stood out in my memory seemed odd when I looked into it after the fact. It was a gorgeous high-end (looking) flip that had been on the market for a whole year and was finally pulled right before our move without ever accepting an offer. Likely priced too high and unwilling to negotiate bc of the money they put into the thing.
BR: Yeah that one doesn’t look like it’s available anymore. [👏👏👏 thorough work Bad Realtor]
Take a look below.
Yeah, I’d live there. For that kitchen, I could put up with some gray bathroom floors.
Did she even contact them?
Now, we’ve since tracked that house down and driven by, and are happier with our floor plan, lot and location. And I do believe everything happens for a reason.
But it’s the principle of the thing. And what other listings did we miss out on because of her lack of research? Or was it really a lack of research at all? Was she just spending more time helping our competition, since that’s where her initial loyalties lay?
Another problem: She did not call listing agents for any information on the houses before we showed up – remember the plumbing issue in the One That Got Away? A little research would have changed that experience entirely. Again, I ask, was she holding back information for that other client, or just terrible at her job? Because that house was 100k under what we ending up buying, and probably more in line with her other client’s budget.
The taxes were so difficult for her to find information on for Contender #1 (yesterday’s post) – did she even really try?
Thinking over those listings that were suddenly unavailable, and the lack of research into basic information and goings on, I wonder if it was more withholding and favoring her other clients than anything else. All of those listings were about 100k under what we ended up paying – I’m guessing more in line with her competing clients’ budget, which I shouldn’t have any knowledge of but do because
We cut ties with Bad Realtor. She asked if we wanted to, and we couldn’t believe she was even asking. YES.
As per was I now know to be the standard procedure in the unlikely event a buyer’s agent has competing clients, her manager stepped forward and represented us in the sale after we laid out everything for him. He was on the phone with us within minutes after we hung up with Bad Realtor (their phones are always on). He was as professional as one can be after his employee’s egregious misstep, but we could tell he was not happy with Bad Realtor. He – appropriately – apologized profusely.
We won the house (Contender #3) with an offer for the house as-is, at asking with cash back for home repairs needed that were acknowledged in the seller’s disclosure, paired with a letter about our family and how the house would be perfect for us as the kids grew. The sellers moved in with a similar story, and we got the house over 7 competing offers, including one that was 5k over asking.
An Update on Bad Realtor
I did a search for Bad Realtor when writing this post. It doesn’t appear she’s employed anywhere (that I can find) as a realtor – at least at this point in time. So, rest easy if you’re on the hunt in SE PA – or anywhere, really I couldn’t find anything at all. So unless she shapeshifted or changed her name, you’re probably not running into her in your home search.
I hope you’ve enjoyed joining my on this verbose trip down memory lane! I mean you must have if you’re still reading, right?
Next time, I’ll finally share photos of the backyard.