A Part-Time Real Estate Agent Could Cost You Thousands — Maybe Even The Home You Want

Recently, Hal Bundrick from NerdWallet (great service, we might add!) posted a great article in USA Today about how to find the right real estate agent in which he made a few critical observations about important things to look for that are quickly becoming very, very important for home buyers and sellers making deals in the digital age right here on the Emerald Coast.

In fact, these things can be more than deal-breaking, they can be downright wallet-busting — and sometimes even heartbreaking:

“I called a family friend who is a part-time real estate agent,” Devin Carroll says. “She showed us the house, and we submitted an offer. It was at this point the fireworks began.”
Carroll says the seller’s agent was an experienced negotiator “ready to go to war for her clients.” His agent was immediately intimidated. It took only one phone call for the veteran agent to stand her ground on price, and “from that point on, my agent was scared to negotiate.”
Lesson learned. Carroll says the next time around, he’ll look for a professional agent, one who’s not scared to negotiate and who is more concerned with getting a great deal than with sealing just any deal.

Most notably, Mr. Bundrick notes that homes buyers and sellers should look for a “professional” real estate agent. Now that may seem like a no-brainer, but what he’s really talking about is something most buyers and sellers never think to ask of their prospective agent — are you a full-time or part-time?

You see, in most states around the country, the majority of licensed real estate agents are actually part-time. In other words, being an agent is not their primary job. The rest of the time they’re retirees, landscapers, bartenders, lawyers, secretaries, dental assistants, farmers, government employees, web developers, writers and just about every other job you can imagine.

What’s more, most of the biggest, most recognizable names in real estate — the likes of RE/MAX, Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams and more — as well as the very small, local “mom and pop and aunt and uncle and brother-in-law” firms tend to have many part-time real estate agents.

Here in Northwest Florida on the Emerald Coast, your chances of encountering a part-time or “weekends and evenings agent” at one of these firms when you want to buy or sell a home is even higher.

According to the US Bureau of Labor, Florida has more licensed agents than any other state. Most of these agents are part-time.

Now, nothing against folks trying to make extra money or advance their careers, but there are critical differences between the agent that does real estate as a kind of hobby and the ones who do it professionally, day in and day out. Little things like consistency, experience, preparation, training, and education just to name a few.

You see, real estate in general is highly-regulated. That said, rules and regulations can vary from state to state, city to city, county to county and even property to property. As well, year to year, real estate contracts, policies and requirements are constantly changing, to say nothing of federal, state and local laws. HOA associations, flood zoning, building and construction regulations and a million other things have their own rules and regulations — and they’re always changing.

We won’t even go into home inspections, settlements or mortgage laws, but suffice to say these areas are about as straightforward as learning to speak Icelandic.

In fact, a typical real estate deal involves more paperwork, deadlines, controls, checks and balances than many lawyers and bankers have to deal with on a regular basis. Come to think of it, there are quite often more lawyers in a typical deal than most lawyers deal with on a regular basis.

All this is very hard even for full-time, professional agents to keep up with. Brokers and their agents are almost continuously learning, collaborating, training, trading gotchas and tips/tricks, as well as updating the seemingly endless list of things they’re required to know so they don’t go to jail or get fined.

For part-timers, it simply isn’t possible.

So what does this mean for you? Well, it means you could be out a great deal of money, end up in a lawsuit (more lawyers) or miss out on that great buy or buyers for your home. All because your agent dropped the ball at quite literally any one of a thousand hand-offs in a typical real estate transaction.

As Bundrick points out in his piece:

“The average real estate agent sold only four homes last year,” Durham says. “Think about if you are purchasing a home and you represent 25% of that person’s income for the entire year. Do you really think they have your best interest at heart, or will they do just about anything to get the deal closed?

Sounds to me like most savvy buyers and sellers should think fully before hiring a part-time agent.

And we didn’t even talk about agents and technology….Oh, well. More on that in our next blog post.