Investors: Think Real Estate Agents are Useless for Finding Great Deals? Consider THIS.

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It’s a controversial issue when it comes to real estate agents around here. One side says agents are lazy, corrupt, and useless. They just want to send you a few emails, show a house or two, write up an offer, and collect their commission.

On the flip side, I hear it all from the agents, too. They complain that investors are way too picky, too lazy, want the world but don’t want to pay for it. They also complain investors have no problem wasting their time or cutting them out of the deal. Investors have a bad reputation to most agents.

So who’s right?

For a long time, I sided with the investors. Not surprisingly — because I was one. I was constantly frustrated with real estate agents looking for deals for me. Then when they did send me deals, they clearly didn’t meet my parameters. When I asked how much a property would cash flow, it was immediately clear they had no clue what that even meant. See, I didn’t understand much of what a real estate agent goes through, and I didn’t understand their training. I didn’t know what they were conditioned to think, look for, or see when they looked at the same houses I looked at. Shoot, honestly, I didn’t even what their job was. I assumed they were sending me crap because they didn’t value me as a customer and must not want my money.

Man. I could have written a book with all the things I didn’t know.

Now I’m an agent myself. However, I’m still an investor. This gives me a unique perspective. I can see both sides of the coin. I know what it’s like to be frustrated by an agent who isn’t providing me much value, and I also know what it’s like to be jerked around by clients who have no respect for me or my time and are perfectly fine treating me like dirt.

And most importantly, I can finally see the playing field from a vantage point that shows me everything.

This gives me an advantage over other investors. And guess what? I’m about to share this advantage with you, so YOU can take advantage of how to develop a better relationship with your buyer’s agents and start finding more success in your quest for income property and flips. I wish I had someone like me back when I was trying to figure all this stuff out. This post sure would have been a whole lot less embarrassing to write! Haha.


What It’s Like to Be an Investor

As an investor, it’s your job to find the very best deal you can. Oftentimes (and especially if you are inexperienced or have a full time job), this is done through having an agent find you the deals and negotiate them for you. This is how I have found the majority of my deals, and I’m a big advocate of this system. For the last seven years, I’ve been a full-time police officer and I’ve worked between 70-100 hours a week. I just didn’t have the time to be looking for deals while I was eating donuts, directing traffic, getting shot at, and saving cats from trees. At least not the home run-type deals we usually see people bragging about. Those are the best of the best. I wasn’t going to be hitting many home runs; I had to settle for singles and doubles (but I learned how to steal bases, draw walks, and advance on sacrifice flies — that’s what you gotta do when you’re the little man, and I’ll teach you all about how to do that stuff later).

Related: Why You Should Stop Looking for an “Investor-Friendly” Real Estate Agent

Enter the real estate agent.

While I was busy at work, making and saving money, I had a small network of agents that would send me deals that fit my criteria. I would evaluate the deals, have my agent write offers on the ones I liked, and try to close on the ones whose offers were accepted. Now, the frustrating part was, I felt like:

  1. My agent was sending me a lot of deals that didn’t meet my criteria, and
  2. My agent wasn’t working hard enough to find me deals at all.

This led to a subtle and inner resentment towards the agents who I felt were making money from me but not doing much to earn it. They were a necessary evil in my opinion, and I begrudgingly continued to use them.

Many of you can probably relate.

While I was smart to use agents as a resource to find me deals, I was foolish to view them as someone working for me. Subconsciously, I saw them as an employee. And I was not satisfied with their level of service.

What It’s Like to Be an Agent

As an agent, it’s my job to find my clients a house that meets their criteria and assist them with the formalities of purchasing it. In a perfect world, there would be a line of people waiting for an agent to help them, and when it was my turn in the rotation, those clients would meet with me and we would discuss their needs. This, however, is not how the real world works. In the real world, I have to not only provide this service, I have to go out and actually find my own clients.

Imagine being a server in a restaurant. Except not only do you have to help your customers with the menu, recommend food and drinks, communicate their order with the kitchen, and facilitate the food being brought to the table in a timely fashion — but you also have to do all this while actively looking for new customers walking around the streets near the restaurant where you work.

Oh, and not only that, but the restaurant doesn’t pay you. Instead, you pay the restaurant 30% of everything you make for the privilege of bringing them business. You are also responsible for all your own advertising costs and the labor costs you have to pay the bus boys, hostesses, cooks, and bartenders (can you tell I was a waiter at one point as well?).

THIS, my friends, is how real estate works for agents.

They have to find their own clients.

They have to pay their brokers a large part of their commission for oftentimes not much help or value.

They have to do all the work themselves or pay someone else to help with it.

Oh, and that commission you’re paying them? If you’re a buyer, you’re likely not paying them at all. The seller of the property is paying them, not you. And do you think they get to negotiate their cut of the pie? Nope. That is predetermined before they ever bring you the property. And let me tell you, people are getting more and more stingy about the commission they pay the listing agent. This, in turn, means the listing agents pay a smaller and smaller commission to the buyer’s agents. Which means your agent, the one you’re not actually paying, is making less and less money on the deals.

And we haven’t even gotten to the worst part yet.

These buyer’s agents have to do their job of looking for a property for you, while at the same time looking for more business for themselves and also juggling whatever issues they have in their personal lives. It’s not easy. Now, considering this, you would think most clients would be understanding. That’s rarely the case.

Clients want their phone calls answered immediately. Their texts responded to right away. They send addresses and pictures they want checked out right that minute, oftentimes just out of curiosity — not because they actually want to make an offer on the house.

I could go on and on. The important point to take from this is, agents get jerked around. And underneath it all, many, if not most buyers they come across, won’t actually pull the trigger and buy something. The buyers won’t feel bad about this either.

The Breakdown in Communication

What we have here is a failure to communicate. Investors treat their agents like employees they don’t have to pay. Agents. in return, have learned to be skeptical, cynical, and defensive. They turn off their effort at the first sign the buyer is a flake.

Both sides end up frustrated, and things usually fizzle out. This ensures both sides lose and move on to new relationships that start the same cycle.

I would like to share some insight on how to change that. If you’re an investor, a good agent is the lifeblood of your business. Any successful investor will tell you that finding deals is the most important part. All the other aspects can be worked out, but if you’re not finding deals, you’re not making money.

One of the single most important aspects to success is learning how to make sure all parties succeed, not just you. The people who figure this out sooner rather than later go on to do big things. The ones who can’t quite get it usually spend their time frustrated, discouraged, and disengaged.


The Necessary Paradigm Shift

Allow me to propose a different way of thinking. Rather than looking at your real estate agent like an employee that you “hired” or someone who works for you, start looking at them like a partner. It’s a paradigm shift that will no doubt lead to more success for you in your investing business. Honestly, it’s a more accurate way of looking at the relationship anyway. You’re not paying your agent for the work they do for you. Heck, if you’re the buyer, you’re probably not paying them at all. In all honesty, both the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent are both working for the seller to find them a buyer that is willing and able to purchase the property. Your agent just happens to be responsible for representing your interests in this transaction, while the listing agent represents the sellers.

It’s important to understand this because you treat a partner much differently than you treat an employee. The expectations are different. With an employee, you expect them to do work for you whenever you ask because you are paying them. With a partner, work is split up evenly depending on the responsibility each partner bears.

This is all obvious. You guys are smart. You already know all this.

But think about it — your agent needs you to keep your word that you will buy a house if it meets your criteria. You need your agent to keep their word they will find you a house that meets your criteria. Both of you lose if both of you don’t keep your end of the bargain. Both of you win if both of you keep up your own end. But if one of you does and one of you doesn’t, you both still lose.

This is a partnership. Not an employer/employee relationship. You need each other. I need my agent to give a crap that I make money. He/she needs to know that I give a crap about them making money. Let me give you some examples of how things started working out for me once I figured out this little secret.

Real World Examples From the Life of David

I’ve mentioned before that if I tell an agent I will buy a house, I buy the house, even if I later wish I didn’t have to. Sometimes something better comes along; sometimes I want to use the money for something else. Doesn’t matter. If I give my word, I do it. Period.

Related: The New Investor’s Guide to Hiring a Real Estate Agent

People appreciate this, especially in real estate. I recently said I would purchase two townhomes for an agreed upon price. I later found out my wholesaler was making more than I thought. I could have squeezed another $5,000 out of them, which would have made the deal considerably better. However, I didn’t feel right about that. So I let them make a killer commission, and they knew it. I closed like I said I would.

The wholesaler was appreciative, as they got to make their money and didn’t look like a flake to the client who was selling. I explained why I went through with it and confirmed they could expect the same in the future.

A month later, they had a deal someone else wanted. They went out of their way to hold it for me. Then, they sold it to me for 20% LESS than the other guy was going to pay. I got a steal at 50% of the appraised value, more than making up for the last deal. All because of how I treated the wholesaler.

I have an agent in Arizona who rocks. He’s on a great team. I told him to spread the word to his team I’m looking for ugly houses to flip. If a team member of his brings him a home and I buy it, they get the commission, but he gets a $1,000 bonus. This can be 40-50% of his average commission out there. Not only does he get the bonus, but he also gets to list the house after it’s ready for sale. Now, I don’t have to pay him that bonus. He doesn’t expect it. But he knows I’m concerned with making him money. That’s important to me. And he respects that. Do you think he sends his best deals to the new guy from BiggerPockets who treats him like an employee and wastes his time? Or do you think the deals go to the one he knows cares about him as a person?

I know that the vast majority of agents make their money from first-time home buyers or residential real estate. Taking this into consideration, I know that most agents will send me homes that they have been conditioned to think most home buyers will love. You know, the gorgeous cabinets and open floor plans and landscaped yards. Problem is, for an investor, these properties are functionally useless to us. No meat on the bone. So with the agents I know, I tell them I want them to only send me houses that make them cringe. I want the stuff they can’t sell. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free — you know, all that stuff.


I also make it a point to check in with them every few weeks to remind them I’m looking for ugly houses. These are my partners — I want to help them sell a home no one else will buy. When I communicate with them, I ask them what I can do to help them sell houses, what kinds of referrals they like, and how I can help promote them on social media. Sometimes I even write blog posts I let them use. I am working together with these people so we can both benefit, and sometimes I have to help them learn my world, what I want, and how to find it.

I hope this article has provided some new insight for you on how to have a better relationship with your real estate agents. It is an emotionally heart breaking world in real estate — agents are constantly lied to, disappointed, and have the rug pulled out from under them by clients who don’t keep their word. Additionally, most agents don’t have a clear delineation between their lives and their carers. This means clients double as friends. Make friends with your agent. Let them know you care. Look for ways to help make them money. Then watch the power of reciprocity bring you back deals for your troubles.

Always remember, people will do the minimum amount of work necessary to not get fired by their boss, but they will go out of their way for their friend or partner. Recognize that your real estate agent is a partner in your success, and you in theirs — and watch your investing momentum really take flight in time.

Investors and agents: What is your experience working with the other party? What message would you send for a better working relationship if you could?

Let me know your thoughts with a comment!

About Author

David Greene

David Greene is a former police officer with over nine years of experience investing in real estate that includes single family, multifamily, and house flipping. David has bought, rehabbed, and managed over 35 single family rental properties, owns shares in three large apartment complexes, and flips houses. He also owns notes and shares in note funds. A nationally recognized authority on real estate, David has been featured on CNN, Forbes, and HGTV. Now the co-host of the BiggerPockets Real Estate Podcast, David has a passion for teaching and helping others grow wealth through real estate. In 2016, David started the "David Greene Team" and became the CEO of the top producing Keller Williams East County team as well as the top producing real estate agent. The author of Long Distance Real Estate Investing and Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, Repeat, David has won several awards including second place for real estate book of the year awarded by the National Association of Real Estate Editors (Long Distance Real Estate Investing).


  1. julie o.

    David, I love this! It’s exactly what I’ve been telling people, but you said it better than I have. My agent and I “grew up” in the investing business together. She was my residential agent, I asked her if she was up for a challenge when I decided to start investing, something neither of us had done before. We both learned as we went along, and since I was always very respectful of her time, it worked out great for both of us. Not only has she helped with all of my deals, I always refer her to friends who ask me who I use for my business. So even though she’s slogged through the stinky cheap house trenches with me, she still gets to list a nice house now and then. 🙂

  2. Huiping Sheng

    Thanks to share this very real, experienced thoughts. I am a new agent, new investor and realized how hard to work on this double roles.

    Frankly say, if I just want to be an agent, I would rather work for the regular home-buyer because they have limited knowledge and will not have so much requirements, and they buy not deal house which is move-in ready. That is much easier.

    As an investor, I believe no agent likes to work for me because I will so picky and take lots their times but want best deal. Find deal of house is really not easy compared to find livable houses.

    Good thing is experiencing both and be smarter on RE.

    • You said, “Frankly say, if I just want to be an agent, I would rather work for the regular home-buyer because they have limited knowledge…” I will also frankly say that this is exactly how a lot of agents feel. This article is talking specifically about the mutual resentment between agents and investors. As you imply a lot of agents would prefer not to work with a savvy homebuyer, either.

  3. Michael Dake

    A great post, David. Thank you for the suggestions on how the investor can set conditions for the real estate licensee to participate in the investor’s deals. Most real estate licensing training is geared towards serving owner-occupant consumers, not investors. I am still learning the methods of SFR investors who use residential / retail salespeople (as opposed to using a commercial RE advisor / broker). This was an informative post, and I look forward to the discussion that I sure will ensue.

  4. Barbara Steele on

    Great post! I’m a RE investor agent in training, and while learning new material and studying for the state exam, I’ve always tried to maintain the viewpoint of the investor. I think RE agents need to remember to sit down with investors and get a clear idea of EXACTLY what the investor’s goals are. Too many agents are conditioned to hone in on the emotional aspect of the sale. While that works for families, investors need numbers, and I’m finding many agents don’t understand the importance.

    • David Greene

      There is definitely a breakdown in communication between agents and investors. And frankly, there just isn’t as much money in it for the agent for the work that is required. If you want an agent to work extra hard for you, you really need to make it worth their while.

    • Barbara I couldn’t have said it better. I’m also a real estate investor agent in training in the Los Angeles area. A lot of RE agents don’t realize the difference between the two buyers. Investors need their numbers to make cents (a whole lot of them) and sense. A regular homebuyer, even a savvy one, just wants to like the house and feel at home in something they’re spending a lot of money on.

        • Larry Letizia

          Does the old expression “Buyers are liars and sellers are worse.” Ring from this? Relationships are always tested and retested everywhere in life and in business.

          As an old school agent, “I work for the seller”.

          As you say DAVID GREENE they pay my fee so always “Highest and Best price”.

          That said now we have Buyers Brokers, its plain no emotion “I work for the Buyer” this constant flip flop is what has always confused the general public’s view of RE Agents. In NJ and I believe nationally on a first meeting you a required by law to have Agency Disclosure rules provided for your review and signature. You also will acknowledge the agency role of your Realtor when signing the contract of sale.

          An experienced investor will get this; the average person, not so much. Most are not prepared for the conversation and get the “deer in the headlights look on.” then become weary if the explanation is mishandled.

          Weather and investor, buyer or seller; if you treat me, in the role of a Realtor, like a person I’ll never do the math and work for you. Give me a sense that you’re not pulling my chain, think of it like a first date if you never call again, well….. when I call again I’m considered a pesky salesperson or stalker, well……

          There are only so many hours in the day, and I’ve been trained read people then make my time productive. Relationships are always a two way street, too many people have streets named after them, ONE WAY.

          Good stuff DAVID GREENE.

        • Jeff Brown

          I get your question, Joseph. The answer is simple as pie. If the agent working for the buy, indeed ONLY represents the buyer, then he owes his allegiance only to the buyer. If, on the other hand he’s bounds by law and/or contract to represent the seller, even as an agent of the buyer, he must try to get highest/best. Make sense?

        • Tyler, I think you are right that homebuyers tend to pay less attention to whether the house price makes sense relative to its value, and agents not only know that but assume that. You can tell by the language they use when trying to close the deal. I started out as a homebuyer, and I had to learn to evaluate houses as an investor because my buyer’s agent sure was not helping me get the house for a fair (please, no quibbling about the word “fair”) price. Then I became an investor in earnest. Agents tell homebuyers that they need to trust the agent’s expertise and knowledge of the local market. But then buyer’s agents generally do not apply that expertise to the best interest of their client. It does not bode well for the relationship when the buyer apparently knows more about the market than the agent. Buyers in that situation either conclude that the agent’s expertise is wanting, or the the agent is playing them.

        • David Greene

          Hey Joseph,

          The question was a little unclear because you mentioned “agent”, as in singular. Unless this is a dual agency situation, there are usually two agents. Each represents the interests of their own party.

          So that being the case, the buyer’s agent would typically work to get a lower price, and the seller agent’s would typically work to get a higher price.

          Now, I say “typically” because that’s not always the case. We are assuming in this discussion that price is all that matters.

          It’s not.

          It is the agent’s job to represent their clients interests and facilitate the process. In my market, it is scalding hot right now. Everything with four walls and a roof is going for above asking price. If I was to work for what you call “lowest and worst” price, my clients would likely never get a house at all. If my client wants a house, and it’s my job to represent their interests, that would indicate it’s my job to advise them on what price would likely get them the house, not offer a “lowest and worst” price that would ensure they do not get the house they said they really really wanted. I would be a terrible agent if I was shortsighted to the point I just kept trying to buy a great house in a hot market for less than what all the other clients were willing to pay. That would literally be the opposite job I am required to perform.

          Each client is different, so as the agent representing that clients interests, each agent’s job will be different for each client. It is naive to assume the only thing an agent does is work for a “price”. And we haven’t even gotten into the rest of the deal like contract terms, offer nuances, financing, contingencies, and all the other things that go into the purchase of real estate.

          If you would like any more clarification on this, feel free to PM me.

        • Perhaps it is in the buyer’s best interest to tell the buyer that selling prices are so disconnected to fundamental value metrics that it would be better to postpone the buying decision. But wait. That would not be in the agent’s best interest. Therefore there is a serious misalignment between the agent’s interest and the buyer’s interest which most agents cannot overcome.

    • The seller’s agent tries to get the highest price possible. The buyer’s agent says he is trying to get the lowest price possible, but usually he is also angling for the highest price as well because his commission is based on the selling price. The system is broken because the buyer’s interests and the buyer’s agent’s interest are not aligned. Buyer’s agents deny the accusation by pointing out if the buyer does not buy, then the commission is zero and who wants that. However, that is just empty rhetoric from the buyer’s agent. In addition, the buyer’s agent wants to keep good relations with seller’s agents, so they do not negotiate very strongly, even when armed with facts to support the reasonableness of a lower offer.

      I saw this phenomenon not long ago when I offered $600K for a house listed at $750K. I told my agent that I felt the right price for the house was about $550K, but I needed a quick close at that particular time, so I was willing to incentivize the seller a little bit. My agent pushed me to offer $680K which made me wonder if she was listening to a word I said. I reiterated that $600K was my highest and best offer, and why. A couple days later she pushed me to offer $620K. Then I did not hear anything from her for quite a while, but later I got a call that the seller accepted my offer. By then it was too late. Five months later, the seller sold to someone else for $560K. It seems to me that a good buyer’s agent should be able to present the rationale for the offer, and a good seller’s agent would be able to explain to the seller why the buyer’s offer is a good offer. Instead, my buyer’s agent pushed me to offer more, and according to her, the seller’s agent was advising the seller to hold out for that greater fool who would offer more.

      • David Greene

        Hi Katie,

        I can definitely sense some frustration from you on this post, and i’ve noticed that same theme amongst many of the people who have posted. I’ve touched on a hot button topic here!

        I think your post serves as a great point as to why communication between agents and clients is so important. When it breaks down, mistakes like this can happen. While I’m certainly sorry you had such a bad experience, I bet there is a lot to this situation your agent never was able to communicate to you. I would have to speculate, but in addition to everything you mentioned, there is also the fact that at the time you submitted your offer, the sellers might just not have been ready yet to accept something so far under asking price. Maybe your offer helped “loosen the lid of the pickle jar” so that the next offer that came in was able to open it.

        You can never really know all the nuances in each situation.

        I sure hope you can find another agent that you feel more comfortable working with that communicates better with you. I can assure you, while some agent’s may “conspire” to get the highest price, the vast majority of the ones I’ve met just want to find some way to get the deal to close.

        it’s hard enough navigating through all the obstacles that arise in a transaction, a lot of clients never even know what disasters are avoided by good agents.

        Good luck in your future investing!

  5. Kevin Polite

    Great post. I call myself an investor with a license and I couldn’t agree more with your article! Also, I think investors working with an agent should be honest with their level of experience. I’ve had newbie investors call and I send them deals with cash flows and ARV etc, but often they are new and need help with determining that part along with needing contractors, title company suggestions, etc. more often than not the commission isn’t very high on those homes either so if they are not promising you to list the rehab it’s often not worth my time as Agent is a small part of my business.

    • And yet in my town, where tear-downs cost at least $300K, the agents feel the same way about the commission. They do not think $18,000 is worth their little bit of time to open the door and present the offer.

    • David Greene

      And another thing I didn’t mention, when the “killer” deals come along that every investor is looking for, why would they assume that the agent wouldn’t buy it themselves, or send it to someone in their office? Some of the expectations are a bit out of whack and I’m hoping more education on Bigger Pockets can help set that straight. SO MANY frustrated and angry people out there when it doesn’t need to be so.

  6. Catherine Gellert on

    As an agent, I work really hard for my clients and your article hit the nail on the head about how clients treat RE agents. I’m always surprised at the unreturned phone calls, no replys to emails or texts and general lack of respect for my time and effort from buyers. When I have a qualified buyer who actually communicates with me regularly and treats me as an equal, I am highly motivated and they have my undivided attention. There’s nothing that I want more than to be successful for my clients, but it’s a symbiotic relationship and most buyers don’t understand that.

    • You might be a rare hard-working agent, and I might be a rare respectful buyer. My most recent experience is extremely common. I was in the market for a new buyer’s agent when a certain broker was recommended to me. I was assigned one of the agents who was very responsive while cultivating me. However, as soon as I signed their required 90-day exclusive agreement, he stopped communicating. I finally sent an email to his broker who responded within 30 minutes that it was his fault because he gave that particular agent a project that took all his time, and promised the agent would be focused on me from now on. Minutes after that email I got a similar email from the agent…and then crickets again. I finally sent an email notifying them that since they had failed to fulfill the agreement, I would be looking for another buyer’s agent. They instantly responded that they would hold me to the agreement, but set me up with another agent in the office. Uh, no.

  7. George Hermann

    You certainly have written an honest account of many of the issues separating Investors and Agents as well as an approach to making the relationship work. As in most business situations, you have to like and trust the people you do business with to get the maximum from the work you do together.

    • David Greene

      Couldn’t agree more George!

      The older I get, the more I learn to walk into a new situation, or new relationship, the more I focus on worrying about myself and what I can offer, rather than what I expect from them. When I catch myself getting frustrated with someone else’s effort, I’ve learned it’s wiser to think about who I would be better putting my effort into, or how I can serve this person better.

      Things have a way of working out for you when you focus on what you can do for others, rather than what you expect them to do for you.

      Thank you for the kind words. They are much appreciated George.

  8. Letitia Harris

    I’m a fairly new investor, with only 4 flips under my belt. I found this article very interesting, and the replies equally interesting! Katie, I just went through a situation similar to yours, regarding trying for a house.
    It’s frustrating, feeling like you’re not being listened to.
    I’m glad I never signed an exclusivity agreement!

    • David Greene

      Congrats Letitia! Sounds like you’re off to an awesome start!

      One thing I would mention about realtors to the realtor bashers (as a reformed realtor basher myself).

      If all realtors were as bad as some people think, all it would take is one good realtor to get all the business and dominate the market. This isn’t what we see very often though. Kind of makes it obvious that working with buyers isn’t an experience every realtor is bending over backwards for. The wise person asks themselves why this is, and makes an effort to prove they are NOT like other buyers.

      It’s one thing to be frustrated by the system. It’s another to take it upon yourself to bear the burden of responsibility to prove you are the exception to the rule. That is the point of the article I was hoping to make. If you expect top notch quality from your realtor, hold yourself to the standard of being a top notch client. You’ll find the best want to work with the best, it’s true.

      And this was the point of my article. I really hope people will realize an agent is a unique relationship and if you want it to flourish, there is a different way of approaching it. I hope more people can find what I found, because it’s awesome when it works!

  9. margaret smith on

    David, Greetings from sunny Sarasota! Such a sensitive subject among all members of our local REIA’s, no matter which side of the house you are working from. And so sensitively dealt with, on your part. Thank you for clarifying this issue!

    I see an emphasis on buying here. However, there is an equally strong discussion regarding selling a home once the rehabber has finished it and wants to sell it on the retail market. As a rehabber with a finished product, I must decide whether to use a seller’s agent, and “give away” 3% x 2 (6% total) of the actual selling price of the home, or to sell it myself, or use a discount broker to at least get it on the MLS, and then do the rest myself, or some combo of these strategies. After all the blood, sweat and tears, it is very hard to heftily skim my profit to an agent who pops in at the end and puts in a few hours of clean work to market the house.

    Lets say I have a $200K selling contract, with a reasonable 15% profit in that, or $30K for me. A buyer and a seller’s agent take 6%, or $12K. I am left with $18K. The agency fees took 12/30, or 2/5 of my profits! Compare my hours/skills/hardship/risk vs the time put in by the combined agents. Honestly, I just can’t work for that kind of ending.

    I am looking for great agents who know that for me to be their client is nothing like the difficulty of “retail” sellers as clients. If you represent the average seller, my mom, say, to sell her home of 40 years, it will be seriously lived in even now, with laundry and garage junk, smelly pets, neglected yard, ancient decorating, beloved and dusty personal effects, worn out or fuddy duddy interior and exterior features at best. Mom will have to schedule with you to leave the premises to show the property, or worse, she’ll hang in there with the fam while you show it. She will not understand the process, from staging to negotiating to contracts to title work- maybe be defensive at your suggestions, and may balk at any stage of the game for the (to my mind) dumbest of reasons. Oh yeah, she “knows” the market– from zillow or her next door neighbor– and expects top dollar for her one big investment of many happy years. LOTS of ‘splainin’ to do for the agent with this one, my friends!

    I, as a savvy investor, know my stuff. You put the house on lockbox, it is clean, bright, user friendly, ready to move in (staged or not)- and I am decisive, ready to deal, and close quickly. I pretty much do your job for you– writing the description, color flyers and tube outside, house info in a tidy manual on the counter, regular open houses, etc– and am pleased to do it! Is this not a dream sell for an agent? With such a business-to-business deal (me-to-you), shouldn’t that mean that I get an inter-business discount from the selling agent- and am free to add that amount as a bonus to the agent who we hope will bring in the buyer? How many of these can you do virtually, in your sleep? This is how I try to do it. Many of my favorite agents just refuse to budge on that discount, though.

    Interested in how you, as well as your readers, sell your finished houses…!

    • David Greene

      Hey Margaret,

      I understand your thought process. You feel that your a low maintenance seller so you should get a discount on the listing commission.

      One part of the problem is that most agents share 30-50% of their commission with their team leader, broker, or both. So their are already many hands in the pot. Agent’s also spend a lot of their own money advertising the property, answering the phone when people call, putting the info in the MLS, zillow, trulia, Facebook, etc.

      Considering that actually showing the house is something the buyer’s agents primarily handle, and holding open houses is something an agent does to find new buyer clients, not actually sell the house, you doing the work you mentioned isn’t going to save the agent much time.

      However, with that being said, if you’re still looking to save on the commission, you could also use a site like redfin to list the property. Redfin gives you pretty much zero service or help, but they are cheaper.

      Or you could get your license and see how crappy it can be at times to be an agent! haha

  10. Sarah Shockley

    Love this article – very timely!
    I’m also an investor/agent, so I understand the frustrations on both sides of the fence.
    When I first started out investing it was pretty frustrating working with an agent accustomed to traditional (non-investment) sales – I learned pretty quick that I needed to do my own “deal analysis” -couldn’t count on much help determining rental rates, renovations needed, renovation costs; eventually I was even pulling my own sale comps.
    Investors look at properties very differently from traditional sales agents.
    Eventually I got my license so I could do my own deals. These days I also work with investor clients and it’s soo true – the partnership mentality is what works best, when you have an experienced agent that really understands what you’re looking for.
    On the flip side – being true to your word is SO important for investors – agents send the best deals to their best clients!!! If you flake out on deals, agents learn that you aren’t worth their time.

    • David Greene

      Couldn’t have said it better Sarah!

      You have hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly what it’s like. I found success when I started treating people as partners, not employees. I would never go back to the way I used to do things. So much easier like this.

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