Meanwhile, the Board has decided with effect from next Monday all the real estate agents to submit required documents certified true copies as per the checklist

What is the one thing that drives you crazy about real estate agents?

What is the one thing that drives you crazy about real estate agents?

Two things, actually:

  • Pretending they know what they’re talking about when they don’t.
  • Pretending not to know the answer when they do.

Pretending They Know What They’re Talking About

The first characteristic can be found in all sorts of people, from doctors and lawyers to handymen. It’s not a particular failing of real estate agents. Still, it drives me crazy.

I’m also a real estate investor—actually, my primary focus is on investing. So I know at least something about investing. But try this test: Walk into an open house some weekend. Choose a “pretty” house—one in top condition, and priced accordingly. And try to choose one that will rent for far less than the mortgage payment would be. Ask: Would this be a good investment property?” Probably 95% will say: “Absolutely. Yes.” Ask why, and you’ll get answers like: “Everything’s been fixed up” or “Renters will love it.” The other 5% may say something like, “Well, you have to make that decision.”

The honest answer is: “No. It’d be a lousy investment. You’d never cash-flow. And since it’s all fixed up, there’s no way for you to add any value to it.” Now, the listing agent has a fiduciary duty to the seller, so you’re not likely to hear that answer (nor, probably, should you). Some of those 5% may be trying their best to warn you off of buying it for investment purposes. But those other 95%—those who insist that a pretty, fixed up, fully-priced house would be a good investment? They don’t know what they’re talking about. (Either that, or they’re lying, which isn’t any better.)

Like I said, you’ll find that in all professions. I’ve had lawyers discourage me from deals not because the deal was bad but because they didn’t understand what a lease-option was. And so on. But you’ll very seldom hear a real estate agent say: “That’s a good question. I’m really not sure.” (Unless it’s self protection, as in “Does this roof leak?” If the agent knows that it does, the agent is required to disclose the answer. But if the agent doesn’t know, the agent will honestly answer, “I don’t know.” But most will never then go to the owner and ask: “Does the roof leak?” Because, if the answer is yes, then the agent would have to disclose. Better to operate in ignorance and answer honestly, “I don’t know.” Now, some agents will follow through on such questions. But don’t bet that any particular agent will.)

Pretending Not To Know The Answer When They Do

This usually isn’t the agent’s fault. Rather, it’s a complex web of laws, rules, and regulations that don’t allow agents to provide information. The laws were put into place generally for very good reasons, and some applications of them still serve the purpose.

Example: A white couple are looking at a house. The husband (or wife; it doesn’t matter) asks the agent: “Ummm, are there many blacks living around here?” The appropriate answer: “I don’t know.”

But you also get into areas that agents are forbidden to talk about, but most can’t or won’t explain their inability. Example: A couple with several small children are looking at a house. A parent asks: “How are the schools around here?” Or “Is this a family-friendly neighborhood?” Or even “Are there other kids for my children to play with?”

Or an Orthodox Jewish family is looking at houses. But they’re not allowed to work on the Sabbath . . . and that includes driving a car. They ask: “Are there any synagogues within walking distance?” The agent can’t answer. Answering that question would actually violate two laws/regulations: One regarding religion, the other dealing with the Americans With Disabilities Act (the use of the word “walk”). A Muslim family asks whether there are any halal stores nearby. Again, the agent isn’t supposed to answer.

Most of the time, though, agents aren’t going to explain that they’d like to assist their clients or customers. Instead, they simply play dumb and (when appropriate, as with the question about schools) refer them to websites that may have the answers.