May 31, 2012 | by David Bediz
Give your agent some R-E-S-P-E-C-T

A real estate transaction is just as much a human exchange as a business transaction complete with emotions, potentially discordant personalities, constant dialogue and a high stakes financial investment. It can be easily complicated by misunderstandings and can have serious long-term financial implications.

So it’s extremely helpful to have an agent represent you as a buyer. A buyer’s agent is a professional who ensures your needs are being met, that your rights have not been ignored and that your purchase is made with as much disclosure as possible. Their commission is paid by the sellers, but at times their role is to represent the position most at odds with those of the seller.

Sometimes, their efforts to work on behalf of the buyer may even end up canceling the whole transaction. Without the help of a buyer’s agent, many buyers would purchase homes for too much money, without enough insight as to the property’s condition and could even lose their earnest money deposits due to their inability to close the deal on their own.

When working with an agent, though, it’s important to observe some etiquette ground rules. Your agent will work best with you if there is a balance between the two of you based on respect. If you don’t show your agent the respect you would appreciate for yourself, his or her motivation to work as hard as possible for you may be undermined. Some of these easy ground rules are as follows:

Remember your agent is a human being. Humans are capable of amazing accomplishments, but they are also capable of mistakes. Don’t hold it against an agent if he or she makes a small honest error, unless it’s one that costs you a lot of money. Forgetting to return a casual email is an honest error, but missing a deadline to cancel a contract is a biggie.

Also remember that humans need to eat, sleep and have a life aside from real estate. Unless you have previous arrangements with your agent, or unless it’s truly urgent, try not to call your agent before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m. Don’t fault your agent for taking a weekend off every now and then, or taking a vacation, even when you’re in the middle of a transaction. Just make sure your agent lines up a support system for you while he or she is away so you aren’t completely on your own.

Don’t cheat on your agent. Agents work long hours without the guarantee of a paycheck and often without even the guarantee of your business. It’s only fair, then, that you stay committed to an agent who has already worked hard for you. When you choose to engage an agent in your home search, sign an agency relationship agreement, even if it’s for a short duration. That gives your agent the confidence that you will give him or her a fair shot at keeping your business long-term and will encourage the agent to work hard on your behalf. Extend the agreement term when you’re confident that your agent and you are a good fit, and in the meantime, don’t ask other agents to work on your behalf. Technically, you should only call your agent with questions about any property, too.

If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Nobody should be expected to get married on the first date, so if you’ve worked with an agent exclusively for long enough to know it won’t work, it’s OK to say goodbye. Just make sure you honor the terms of your agency relationship, and if you want out early, just ask nicely to be released. If things get hairy, call your agent’s office manager to discuss your options.

Agents need to have more than one client to survive. Unless you’re buying an embassy, it’s unlikely the commission from your paycheck would be able to sustain your agent’s livelihood on its own. Be understanding when your agent can’t accommodate your schedule every now and then due to other client obligations and try to be flexible with times that work for you. Most agents work such that they may be called at a moment’s notice for a showing, even after hours and on weekends. Every now and then they may have another client when you wish to see a property, so be patient if the plan must be postponed or be willing to get up early or take a lunch break the next day for a viewing, rather than seeing it one evening earlier.

These ground rules may make it seem like you should be completely accommodating if your agent makes mistakes, won’t show you property and doesn’t have time for you in general. On the contrary, it is simply a reminder that if these things happen every now and then, they should not be deal breakers.

You have rightful expectations as well, and if ever you are working with an agent who is less professional and more lazy, you should feel no compunction asking to cancel your arrangement and moving on. Ultimately, your standing in the transaction should be benefited by the role of your agent, but if it’s not, it’s OK to cut the cord.

David Bediz is a top-producing agent at Coldwell Banker, a founder of the Dwight & David Group, and director of the board of GCAAR. He can be reached at 202-352-8456 or dwightanddavid.com

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