Don’t Look for Answers About Agents in Consumer Reports

Real_Estate_Agents_300x262Consumer Reports says it interviewed 303 real estate agents . . . and 86% of those agents said real estate agents are out to screw you and are dishonest. Now, it could be the manner in which Consumer Reports phrased the questions or it could be that they are talking only to the dishonest agents or maybe the cross section is skewed. Whatever, this Sacramento REALTOR aligns herself within the minority — the meager 42 agents of those surveyed who believe agents want to do the best job possible.

They couldn’t have tried to trash an industry any better than the March issue of Consumer Reports. It seems to me that they didn’t interview enough people. The numbers are off. They say buyers care more about interest rates than buying a home because they got married or they need more space. Wha? They say an agent’s median fee is 4.2%, which might apply to a tiny real estate market in Idaho somewhere but certainly is way off in other markets.

If you ask Consumer Reports, it will tell you that they pulled the stats from real estate agents, not outta their butts. Below is their claim:

  • Agents will steer buyers to homes yielding higher commissions: 32%
  • Agents make exaggerated claims when marketing themselves: 30%
  • Agents refuse to disclose structural problems: 26%
  • Agents persuade sellers to sell for less than their homes are worth: 27%

The only thing they got right was when is the best time of the year to sell, which is April. They neglect to point out that homes selling in April tend to close in May. I wonder if they talked to any experienced real estate agents at all or just those with their feet up on the desk watching the homeless sleep in the park.

Who among us hasn’t thought at one time or another to lie, or hasn’t been tempted under certain circumstances to bend the truth? Would an agent lie? It’s normal to consider. The fact is most of us would not do it. Like last week I discovered a referral had closed escrow and the company that had referred the buyer to us was not paid. I use a tight system to track buyers but this one had slipped through, with the buyer’s agent forgetting to source the lead.

I looked at the buyer’s name. The name given to us by the referral company was slightly different than the name that had closed escrow. In fact, the referral company most likely would never track this referral. I could have just left it lie. Forgotten about it. Nobody would know. The thing is I would know. And I do know. And I agreed to pay that company, and that company should be paid, even after the fact. So, I contacted the referral company and arranged for payment. Also, fixed a hole in my referral business tracking so this kind of thing doesn’t occur a second time.

I believe that most agents are honest and ethical, and they would do the same thing under similar circumstances. But when a company is out to provide “insider advice,” sometimes the only way to do that is to paint an entire industry with a tainted brush and proclaim that everybody is a crook — create a little hysteria, even if the facts are wrong.

The real estate industry is such an easy target. We walk around with a bullseye drawn on our foreheads. I’m not sure Consumer Reports could recognize a real estate pro, though, if they found one. It’s a sorry day when we can’t even rely on Consumer Reports to get the facts straight.

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