1. “I’m using your house to sell myself.”
U.S. home prices have rebounded to mid-2004 levels, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller home price survey, and though monthly gains are slowing, this spring — traditionally the prime home-buying season — looks to be a sellers’ market.
That’s good news for real-estate agents as well. A 2013 National Association of Realtors member survey showed that agents’ $34,000 median annual income last year reflected a level not seen since 2006, just before the U.S. housing boom went bust; incomes in 2012 were up 37% from 2010.
But while most agents are hardworking professionals, buyers and sellers may encounter some agents who see only the “me” in home.
To get a listing, some agents tell dazzling stories about houses they’ve sold in your area. They’ll promise to splash photos of your home across the advertising pages of glossy magazines and blanket your neighborhood with direct mail to lure move-up buyers.
Critics say these agents are great marketers — of themselves. Photos in real-estate circulars “market the agent,” says Karen Krupsaw, vice president of real-estate operations at brokerage website Redfin. Mailers generate interest in the neighborhood — not the home. “It’s an avenue [brokers take] to generate business for themselves — using your house,” she says.
Furthermore, just because an agent does a lot of business, that doesn’t necessarily mean his clients were happy with his work, Krupsaw says. Indeed, the Council of Better Business Bureaus reports that consumer complaints against agents nationwide rose 22% in 2012 over the previous year.
The real estate website Trulia advises sellers to ask an agent how long their recent listings stayed on the market before selling, and compare that to the neighborhood’s history. Find out the average sale price compared with the average listing price of the homes they’ve sold. And ask how many other sellers the agent currently represents.