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9 Signs of a Bad Real Estate Agent

9 Signs of a Bad Real Estate Agent

There are many signs of a bad real estate agent, but not all of them are easy to spot.

If you question the skills of the agent you’ve hired, read our guide to see if you can spot any of these red flags.

Signs of a Bad Real Estate Agent

Working with the right agent can make your home search significantly easier and help you find the perfect home.

On the other hand, working with the wrong agent can make it difficult and will likely cause you unnecessary stress.

Most real estate agents are competent at their jobs. About 90 percent of buyers surveyed for the 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers who worked with an agent said they’d recommend or work with the agent again.

But with nearly 1.4 million licensed real estate agents, some are inevitably better than others. Fortunately for you, we’ve complied a comprehensive list of things to help you spot a bad agent. Read on to learn more.

No Communication

A real estate agent must communicate well and often with you. Lack of communication is easy to spot. If a week or two goes by without a call, text, or email from your agent, that’s clearly a bad sign.

If you don’t hear from your agent after a showing with feedback, that’s also not encouraging. If you request updates or answers and don’t get a timely response, it may be time to start thinking about taking your business elsewhere.

Poor Communication

It’s not enough that an agent attempts to communicate, the communication has to be effective. And it has to be two-way. One sign of poor communication is not being assertive and honest.

An agent who agrees with everything you suggest about pricing your home or other aspects of the deal is not good. An excellent real estate agent will be able to tell you things you may not want to hear as well as the things you do want to hear.

Although honesty is the best policy for agent-investor interactions, your agent should still respectfully communicate with you.

Lack of Respect

Being condescending or scornful if you ask a question is the mark of a poor communicator and one of the signs of a bad real estate agent. Agents also need to ask you questions, pay attention to the answers, and respect your wishes.

An agent should not show you for sale properties far outside your stated price range, or pressure you to lower your sale price.

Poor Marketing

Pricing is the most critical part of marketing. It’s an axiom of real estate that owners tend to think their properties are worth more than the real value. The real estate market, not the owner’s wishes, should determine pricing.

But a listing agent should present a rationale for suggesting you price your property different from what you expect. A vast difference between the agent’s pricing recommendations and what your research suggests could be a sign of an agent not doing a good job.

The days are long gone when effective marketing consisted of a yard sign and a listing on the local Multiple Listing Service. Today your agent should have your property on a website, Zillow, Trulia, and social media platforms at a minimum.

Your agent should be able to show you a complete marketing plan for your property. And it should include explanations for why each platform was selected and what it brings to the marketing plan.

Photos are of prime importance for marketing. If listing photos are un-focused, poorly lit, or look like they were snapped by an unskilled amateur with a phone, beware!

A great real estate agent will recruit a professional photographer or have the ability to take high-quality photos. Marketing plans for listed homes usually include open houses.

Too Many Open Houses

But too much emphasis on open houses can be a sign of an agent whose priorities are not in line with yours. That’s because open houses rarely produce buyers.

They are important sources of new listings for agents, but that doesn’t help you sell your home. An open house or two is fine, but having one every weekend is probably not in your best interest.

Other Red Flags

Unprofessional office worker slouching at his desk with his striped socks feet curled around his laptop as he types


These warning signs relating to communication and marketing are important. Also, keep an eye out for general failings.

Missing Important Events

Failing to show up for important events and meetings. For instance, if your agent doesn’t attend the home inspection, there should be a good reason why. An agent’s presence is essential at the inspection.

He or she will also learn things from the inspector that may not show up on the report. On the flip side, it’s best if an agent not be over-involved in the process. An agent doesn’t need to be present for every showing, for instance.

Too Much Time

If an agent seems to have a lot of time to devote to your project, you have to wonder how successful they are in their career. Disorganized agents are unlikely to be able to bring a complicated transaction to completion.

Signs of disorganization might include coming to meetings without important documents, missing deadlines for submitting counter-offers, and the like. One of the most significant markers of a good agent is experience.

Lack of Experience

If you avoid agents with less than two years of experience in the business, you will prevent many problems. A Journal of Housing Research study compared agents with less than 10 years of experience with those having more than 10 years in business.

It found properties listed by rookie agents sold for 10 percent less than those listed by veteran agents. Properties listed by veteran agents also sold in less time.

Lack of Results

No matter how well your agent communicates or plans out the marketing of your property, results are what matter. If he or she is not delivering results, it may be time to explore options.

If you have been looking at homes for months without finding one to buy, the problem may be your agent. This is especially likely if homes you are seeing don’t fit what you told your agent you are interested in.

You may not be the world’s best communicator yourself. But your agent should eventually realize what you want based on how you respond to the homes you are seeing.

If your listed property has not been shown in a few weeks, it’s reasonable to contact your agent and request an explanation. The problem could be external, such as the market, the timing, or the price you’ve listed it at.

Whatever it is, your agent should be able to explain it. Then he or she should suggest ways to overcome the obstacles and get your home sold.

Finding a New Real Estate Agent

Real-estate agent presenting modern house

ESB Professional/Shutterstock

Whether you are a buyer or a seller, an agent will likely have you sign an agreement. The agreement states that you‘ll work exclusively through them throughout the real estate transaction.

It also spells out the commission to be paid and the circumstances in which it will be paid. And it will have an expiration date. If your expiration date is near and you’ve decided to break up with the agent, you can let it expire.

If you don’t want to or can’t wait that long, you can request a meeting with the agent’s broker. Often a broker will be willing to release you from your obligation purely as a customer relations move.

If not, you can talk to a lawyer. If the deal is big enough to justify legal costs, it may be worthwhile to go to court to get out of the agreement.

So What Are the Signs of a Bad Real Estate Agent?

The agent works for you, not the other way around. As the customer, you have the right to expect specific standards of service and results.

If you aren’t getting them, and you spot these signs of a bad agent, you should look for someone else to work with.