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Why Do People Hate Real Estate Agents?

A few years back I heard about a public opinion poll that had rated real estate agents only one spot ahead of used car salesmen in trustworthiness and likeability. At first I wanted to deny the results. “Show me proof of this poll!” I very quickly realized, however, that the existence of this poll was irrelevant. If such an idea could remain alive and circulate freely through the general public without being quashed, it’s clearly not so far-fetched.

I vowed to do whatever I could to separate myself from “them.” I created a slogan that let people know they could trust me to serve them. And I created a mission statement that captured the essence of my business philosophy:

“Re-defining the residential real estate experience through integrity, market knowledge, and professionalism.”

Most importantly, I sought to understand precisely which behaviors led to the public’s perception of my chosen path. In any service industry, the best way to learn how to improve one’s performance and one’s image is by understanding where we fall short. I use the term “we” to include all professionals working in a given field, because customers tend to lump various types of professionals together in terms of their characteristics (think “postal employee”), without regard for the natural tendancies that differ from person to person.

Very early on in the relationship I like to have a discussion with my clients about what sorts of experiences they’ve had with Realtors in the past, if any. Have you worked with a Realtor before? To buy or sell? Tell me about your agent. Were you pleased you used them? Why aren’t you using them for this purchase/sale?

I’ve interviewed hundreds of people on this topic and few common complaints surface again and again.

Home buyers most often report that their agent “didn’t listen” to them with regard to property characteristics. “We told him we wanted a house with a large kitchen, but he kept showing us houses with small, galley-style kitchens!” Or “We said our home MUST be in a certain community, but he continued to send us property listings for homes in other areas! He didn’t listen to us!” Many of these buyers ended up ditching their agents to take their searches into their own hands.

Hands-down, the most common complaint among home sellers is, “My agent took my listing and I never heard from her again, except to suggest price reductions! I have no idea what she was doing to sell my house!”

Both buyers and sellers commonly report that their agent didn’t negotiate as strongly as they thought they should have, or that a ‘mistake’ in the contract paperwork caused a negative financial impact (e.g. “He didn’t tell us that our flat-panel big screen TV was considered a fixture and had to convey with the house!”).

Unfortunately, the sales cycle is an emotionally-charged time for all parties, so any problem, either real or perceived, is magnified. Realtors are paid handsomely for their expertise and nobody likes to feel like they’ve overpaid and been underserved.

As for my team, we listen to and learn from our clients in order to continually improve the value of the services that we bring to the table. Whether we’re working with a seller of a $150,000 Phoenix condo or someone who owns Scottsdale real estate, our service standards do not vary. Our clients put their trust in us to represent them as effectively as we can regardless of the price point of the transaction and that’s exactly what we deliver.

Back to my original question, why do people hate real estate agents? I believe it boils down to a few key reasons, all centered around consistency and quality:

  • Low barriers to entry and perception of ‘easy money’ have flooded the market with agents, resulting in erratic service at best;
  • There are no standardized systems for running a real estate business – agents are independent contractors who are responsible for developing their own business and service models. This results in inconsistent (often incompetent!) service because it’s beyond their expertise to build them;
  • There are no systematic mechanisms in place to regulate real estate agent performance – we’re free to practice at any level of competence as long as we retain our licenses, which involves 48 hours of continuing education training every 4 years and not running afoul of the law. Only public complaints filed with the Department of Real Estate or legal troubles seperate the professionals from the rest. Otherwise, we all look the same.


The good news is that high quality real estate professionals will thrive in all market conditions, while those who aren’t, won’t. Every decade or so the housing market will ‘correct’ and the least capable agents will be forced from the business, leaving it a better place, at least temporarily.


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