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Unethical practices that affect buyers:   1  ●  3  ●  4   ●  5   ●  6   ●   7  ●  8   ●  9  ●  10 
Unethical practices that affect sellers:   1  ●  2  ●  3   ●  5   ●  6   ●   7  ●  8   ●  9 

Unethical Practice #9:  Agents who flake out as soon as the ink is dry on the contract.
Have you even noticed that photos of $8 items on eBay are often better than photos of $800,000 homes on Realtor.com? 

The reason is that listing agents have little incentive to spend money on marketing after the listing agreement is signed.  Suppose an agent were able to boost the expected sales price of a home by $10,000 with an aggressive marketing campaign, including newspaper ads, professional photography, open houses, and fancy flyers.  If the agent gets a typical commission of 2.5% and splits that with his broker, the additional $10,000 will only boost his commission by $125. 

Unfortunately, it's the agent--not the seller--who usually makes the marketing decisions, which is why you often see poor photography and slipshod descriptions on flyers, and stale candy at open houses.

Buyers' agents, too, can flake out.  Unfortunately, once an agent shows a property to a buyer, it can be difficult for that buyer to switch agents or go it alone.  (See, for example, this article on how Jerry Seinfeld was successfully sued by his agent for $100,000.)

How to protect yourself

  • Choose your agent carefullyClick here to see my web page on how to select an agent.
  • (for listing agents):  Require that the agent give you a written marketing plan before signing the listing agreement.  Then incorporate a 10-day cancellation clause into the agreement, so that you can back out if the agent doesn't adhere to the marketing plan. 
  • (for listing agents):  If you don't like your agent, go to the broker and ask to be assigned another agent.  Note that the listing agreement belongs to the broker, not the agent. 
  • (for buyers' agents):  Don't sign exclusive buyer representation contracts with brokers.  They don't need it in order to have a claim on the buyers' agent's commission.
  • (for buyers' agents):  Ask another broker for representation.  If a buyer's agent has shown you a property, that agent may have a claim to all or part of any buyers' agent's commission if you purchase that property, so be sure to tell the new agent about this.  Click here for information about the issues local boards consider when they arbitrate commission disputes.




ŠLori Alden, 2010.  All rights reserved.