Imagine listing your home with an inexperienced realtor, and watching it sit on the market for months with no offers. Every call to the agent goes straight to voicemail. You’re pretty sure they’re busy working another job or helping other clients.
These are just a few signs of a bad real estate agent. Whether you’re buying or selling, it’s crucial to avoid working with a realtor who wastes your time and money.
A bad agent could sell your home for thousands less than your targeted sale price, take weeks or months to find a buyer, or worse, make a mistake that derails your sale entirely.
Keep an eye out for the following signs of a bad real estate agent — and read our guide on how to find a realtor if you’re in the market for a good one.
Top signs of a bad realtor
|👎 Negative reviews: Watch out for agents with repeated complaints from past clients.|
|👶 Inexperienced: Look for agents with at least 2 years of experience.|
|🤷 Lack of knowledge: Avoid agents who don't know your area very well.|
|🦥 Laziness: Some agents are known to cut corners and lack hustle.|
|😞 Lack of focus: Steer clear of part-time agents who aren't fully committed.|
|📟 Poor communication: Not keeping you in the loop is a major red flag.|
|😠 Attitude problems: Avoid agents that are rude, arrogant, impatient, or pushy.|
1. Bad reviews
The first sign of a bad real estate agent is poor client reviews.
You can read reviews from past clients on sites like Realtor.com, Zillow, and Google.
Look out for a pattern of negative feedback. It’s normal for agents to have a handful of negative reviews from dissatisfied clients. But a lot of negative comments in a short period of time (1-3 months) is a red flag.
A good agent usually won’t attract negative feedback repeatedly. Good agents usually have lots of client reviews, including recent reviews showing they’re still on top of their game.
“A good listing agent will have testimonials all over their websites or social media and a large number of happy clients willing to share their good experiences,” says Mike Stewart, an agent at Mike Stewart Personal Vancouver Real Estate Corporation.
Be wary of agents with few or no reviews, as it suggests that the agent is brand-new or unproven.
2. Lack of experience
Experience matters a great deal in real estate. You’re less likely to run into trouble with a full-time, experienced agent (2+ years, 1-2 closed deals within the past month) than with a rookie.
One reason why: Inexperienced agents are often figuring things out as they go – which isn’t ideal when your money is on the line.
For example, an agent who is still cutting their teeth may botch the negotiation process or miss out on important legal requirements for a home purchase or sale, among other pitfalls.
However, even if an agent has years of experience, make sure it’s relevant experience.
“A number of agents specialize in working with buyers from a specific price range,” says David Tully, a realtor with eXp Realty.
“However, if you are a first-time homebuyer who is searching for a $250,000 entry-level residence, you will get less attention from a realtor mostly dealing with $10 million listings.”
How to check experience level
View an agent’s years of experience by searching their real estate license to see when it was issued. The sales history on their Zillow page tells you how long they’ve been active in the industry.
Consider asking for a few of the agent’s previous clients to call. Drill down into an agent’s track record, because some agents may lie.
“There are unnumbered realtors who pretend to be a hotshot in the real estate market by showing clients fake or unreal sales,” says Rafael Murillo, a real estate broker at Compass.
You can verify an agent’s track record by checking the “Sold” section of their Zillow page. It provides a list of their previous transactions pulled from the local MLS.
Get matched with experienced realtors
The easiest way to avoid hiring an inexperienced agent is to use an agent-matching service, like Clever Real Estate, that matches and connects you with vetted local realtors.
Interview and compare multiple agents recommended by Clever to decide which one is best for your needs.
3. Lack of industry knowledge
A good agent is a wealth of knowledge on the neighborhood, market climate, and all aspects of the real estate process. They are familiar with all of the forms, disclosures, and legal documents required to close on a home.
A listing agent who can’t answer your questions or provide good market data to accurately price your home may not have the knowledge to serve your needs.
Good listing agents know the local market inside and out, and can price houses appropriately to help sellers achieve their goals — whether that’s a fast sale or maximum profit.
A knowledgeable buyer’s agent is an expert on the local market and common homeowner concerns like schools, zoning rules, and the cost of utilities. A good agent should know how to structure offers to help you beat out other offers in a competitive market.
4. Lack of drive
Some agents have lots of knowledge and experience, but might be lazy or lack initiative. You want an agent that’s motivated to hustle and go the extra mile for you.
Reading reviews or asking for customer referrals from past clients is the best way to gauge upfront whether an agent is hardworking or a slacker.
Check the agent’s active listings to see how they handle other people’s sales, looking for completeness and quality, says Richard Connelly, an agent with Connelly Team Long Island.
“The listing is one of the most important pieces in garnering interest when selling a home and if the agent cuts corners here, that’s not a good sign,” he says.
Signs of a lazy agent
Examples of cutting corners include listing images that are blurry or poorly lit, spelling errors, and bland copy that leaves out major selling points of the property, according to Connelly.
Another potential issue is when a listing agent skips the buyer’s home inspection. While this is fairly common, good listing agents will often be present at the inspection to look out for the seller’s interests.
If you’re a buyer, be wary of agents that don’t line up many properties for you to see (or push you to make an offer on the first property).
5. Lack of focus (part-timer)
Avoid part-time agents or those who “dabble” in the real estate profession.
Agents probably won’t admit they are part-timers, so you may need to do some digging around. Check their sales history — a lack of deals suggests they’re not committed to the job or brand-new.
You might also be dealing with a part-timer if they don’t answer their phone during normal working hours. Someone doing real estate as a side gig might miss out on the action several times or be unavailable when they are needed most.
“You need someone who is able and willing to follow the market actively, every single day,” says Tully, the realtor with eXp Realty.
Home buyers should look for an agent who is always ready to identify and show new listings to you, Tully adds. Sellers should look for an agent who will always be available to show your home to prospective buyers.
6. Poor communication
Good communication is critical in real estate. Your agent needs to be a skilled communicator when showing your house to potential buyers, negotiating a contract, or explaining complex issues to you.
Not keeping you in the loop is a major red flag, according to Boyd Rudy, an associate broker with Dwellings Michigan. “A good agent will keep you updated on new listings, offers, and other relevant information,” he says.
It’s a also warning sign when an agent isn’t providing feedback from showings, Rudy adds.
Look out for other warning signs of a bad communicator:
Doesn’t respond promptly (or at all)
Agents should respond to your calls, texts, and emails in a timely manner. Failure to do so is a warning sign that your agent is distracted or just doesn’t care about serving you.
Worse, it could mean missed opportunities and failed deals. For buyers, a slow agent may cause you to miss out on a great house. For sellers, you may lose out on a good offer.
“If you have problems getting them on the phone, or getting a reply to emails or text, find an agent that has time to take great care of you,” says Satas.
Doesn’t explain things clearly
It’s a bad sign when an agent gives vague, generic, or confusing answers to your questions. As a buyer or seller, you need to clearly understand your legal obligations and responsibilities.
An agent’s failure to inform you about all your disclosure obligations, paperwork requirements, and deadlines can delay or derail your deal, or lead to a future lawsuit.
Doesn’t pay attention
You don’t want an agent who gets distracted by other work calls or texts when they’re supposed to be listening to you and learning about your goals and situation. It’s your money on the line and you deserve an agent’s undivided attention.
Isn’t honest or upfront with you
Honesty and transparency are vital qualities in a real estate agent. An agent that is dishonest or evasive likely has something to hide — and may be trying to take advantage of you.
For example, some agents will try to secure a listing by deliberately misleading an owner about their home’s true value. Others may push clients to buy a house that isn’t a good fit for them so they can secure a quick transaction.
Watch out for agents that aren’t upfront about their fees, cautions Rudy. “Be sure to ask about the commission and other fees before signing any paperwork.”
An agent who is less than transparent about their fees isn’t very trustworthy and may not have your best interests at heart.
Unethical behavior is sadly a fact of life in any industry. But licensed realtors are professionally obligated to be honest and truthful in their communications with all parties. Don’t put up with dishonest, manipulative, or unethical behavior from an agent.
7. Attitude problems
A realtor might come across as rude, arrogant, impatient, or pushy. Your tolerance for a bad attitude may vary. If an agent can get the job done, you may be willing to overlook an unpleasant personality.
That said, a bad attitude often signals lack of professionalism, or worse — the agent may be “in it for the money” and not really interested in helping you.
Watch out for an agent who pushes you towards a decision you aren’t ready or willing to make, says Martin Carreon, a broker and owner at Soco Wine Country Properties.
“A realtor who pressurizes you to go beyond your budget is just thinking about his or her own commission,” he says.
Carreon advises finding an agent who is willing to work at your pace, and find a home within your desired budget.
Signs of a bad real estate agent: How to avoid hiring one
Save yourself some trouble and look out for warning signs before you even hire an agent.
Search the agent online. First Google the agent, check their Realtor.com or Zillow page, or visit their professional website.
Check their experience level and reviews from previous clients. An excellent agent likely has an abundance of positive reviews. While negative reviews are common for any agent, watch out for a pattern of disgruntled customers.
Request references from previous clients. Ask them if the agent delivered a successful outcome for their home sale or purchase. Find out if the agent helped the client close the deal efficiently, and if there were any snags along the way.
Find an agent through a trusted source. A great way to reduce your risk is to find a vetted agent through an agent matching service, which does all of the upfront work for you.
Request a listing presentation. If you’re selling a home, a listing presentation or interview is a great chance to grill the agent, test their communication and responsiveness, and determine if they’re the right fit for you.
» MORE: Get in touch to learn more and interview top agents near you
How to Find a Real Estate Agent: What You NEED to Know. We review the top ways to start your search for a local realtor, from agent matching services, to personal referrals, open houses, and social media.
Signs of a Good Real Estate Agent: We discuss the key skills, traits, and qualities that make a great real estate agent.
How to Choose a Realtor: Expert Secrets. Learn how to vet buyer’s and seller’s agents, set up listing appointments, sign paperwork, and pick the best realtor for you.
The Best Questions to Ask a Realtor. We spoke to realtors, brokers, and other professionals to discover the best questions to ask before committing to working with an agent.
How to Fire Your Realtor. Did you make the wrong decision? Learn how to go about firing your real estate agent, including how to read your contract’s termination clause, and what to do next.
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