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Why Do Real Estate Agents Have A Bad Reputation?

bad reputation real estate agents


Thursday. I’m sitting at home putting the final touches on a HUB Marketing class I am teaching today in Mesa Arizona. I have facebook open. On the right there is movement. The newsfeed is alive. “I love my kids!” “Can’t wait to see you later!” This person and that person are now friends, so and so likes so and so’s link and on and on and on.

As I am adding statistics regarding consumer behavior around the Internet, an update catches my eye. Not sure why it did – there was nothing special about it, nothing overtly obvious that made me look at it, not sure why I did. Maybe it was fate? A higher power? Facebooks algorithm? The post was from a real estate agent. What did she post? An article from MSN Real Estate titled “8 ways the housing market has changed for 2013

I click on it. I’m not much for the national news when it comes to real estate. I’ve been in the title industry industry long enough to know that real estate is local, not national. So local that the real estate market can be completely different in one nearby city from another (Chandler –> Gilbert), from one subdivision to another (Germann Country Estates –> Ocotillo), from one type of transaction to another (Bank Owned Homes –> Traditional Sales) – nothing NATIONAL about that. I started reading.

“The real-estate recovery is now in full effect in most areas, and that means more of you are hopping off the fence to buy or list a home. Do you know what you’re in for?…..” yada yada yada yada. I start skimming. What I am really looking for is the comments. The comments will tell me if the article is good, of value, bad, false, controversial, if there were any “a-ha moments” etc. The comments are really all that matters. Not the information but how we as consumers responded to it. Who cares what the national media believes if local consumers do not – right?

The Comments

Right away… “Real estate professionals are at large mistrusted by the public. I had a horrible experience with 2 realtors. Not because at the core, they weren’t good people, but becasue the industry is so irregular, especially since 2005. They have a responsibility to their industry to drive prices up..its a part of farming(as in cultivating the neighborhood and controlling price)”

then another

“watch out y’all real estate are extremely DESPERATE these days.. and WILL LIE to YOU LEFT AND RIGHT once they get your listings you WILL NEVER SEE OR HEAR FRM. them EVER..They are douchbags..”

and another!

“And once again ms(nbc) produces a laughably inaccurate article. Wonder how much the national association of realtors and various realty related companies that advertise on these sites have paid ms(nbc) for the last several years worth of this exact same drivel.”

yep – another

“who’s is worst the Realtors or the used cars salesmen? they both lie and pressure YOU to sell some WORTHLESS Cars or houses…”

I’m noticing a trend here.

I keep skimming. Negative comment after negative comment – Real estate agents are this, real estate agents are that. The public ATTACKING the article, ATTACKING real estate agents, ATTACKING the real estate industry, NAR, MSN, Lenders, Banks, etc.

Why Do Real Estate Agents Have A Bad Reputation?

My question is this: WHY do real estate agents have a bad reputation? Forbes Magazine says real estate agents rank 23rd on the list of most admired professionals below actors, stockbrokers and politicians.

This is my 12th year in title. I have 2 kids. AGE 9, My daughter “G”, as we call her, plays soccer. At the soccer games, the parents make small talk “Oh are you Gabriella’s father?”“How long has she been playing?” “What school does she go to?” Ultimately leading to “What do you do?” I can not tell you how many times I have seen a MEASURED change in someones behavior when I tell them I work in the real estate industry or with real estate agents and, {when I dig a little}, the horror stories some consumers have told me about past real estate agents. No calls returned. Lazy. Self centered. Incompetent – the woman that lost her earnest money because of her real estate agent (at least that is what she believes) was a LONG conversation. I’ve had real estate agents tell me they got INTO real estate BECAUSE of the past real estate agent!

Why do real estate agents have a bad reputation?

12 years in this business. I’ve worked with some great real estate agents, salt of the earth people. Caring. Sensitive, Altruistic, Professional. And I’ve met some real estate agents that this article may have been written about. Hair on the back of your neck stands up if you know what I mean. Yet – I don’t believe all real estate agents are bad, far from it. Why do real estate agents have a bad reputation?

Perception Vs Reality


Growing up in Upstate New York, I hated my 2 best friends. HATED them. Didn’t know them. Didn’t want to. I knew who they were and I didn’t like it. One walked around like he was the cool one. The other, would never look me in the eye. I didn’t like either one. Before I got to know them anyway. I thought they were one way, and they turned out to be another. Even funnier, after we got to know each other, I realized - they thought the same things about me! We still laugh to this day about how much we didn’t like each other. Funny how they are 2 of my best friends now. 24 years and counting.

I’ve learned that people are “meaning making machines”. We see something, assign meaning to it and THEN – look to gather evidence to support our position. AND WE ALWAYS FIND IT!. “That person looked at me the wrong way – they don’t like me”. “This person did a double take at my shirt, pants whatever – they don’t like them”.


I think consumers, some of them anyway have had bad experiences with a real estate agent. Or at least they think they have. And IT’S NEVER their fault. It’s the American Way. Assign Blame. But I see an opportunity. An opportunity for some real estate agents. You see, if the general public does feel this way about real estate agents, AND I am NOT saying they do, just generalizing to the whole, you have an opportunity. They expect you to be one way. Some have already made up their minds of who you are. Just like I did with my best fiends. Just like they did with me. They expect you to be one way – and you show up the complete opposite.

I remember the “a-ha” moment when I realized I was wrong about my friends. I felt bad. All the wasted time I could of had with them. I was wrong. Make consumers wrong. Show up and educate. Inform. Be professional. On time. Ask questions. Dig deeper. Find the motivation. ┬áIf they think all real estate agents are bad and YOU change their perception – aren’t they that much more likely to sing your praises to EVERYONE they know?

I don’t think you – we – can do anything about the general perception of real estate agents. BUT I do think you can grow your business significantly if you are EVERYTHING they expect you NOT TO BE.

What do you think? Why do real estate agents have a bad reputation?


Hi I'm Stephen Garner, I'm just a guy in the title industry {in Phoenix} trying to change how real estate agents market themselves and their services. To that end, I teach my clients HOW TO leverage sales technologies like WordPress, Content, Video, Camtasia, Final Cut X, iMovie and indexable IDX solutions to convey value and help your ideal client find you online when they are most interested in learning about you and your services. I work for escrows. Hire me!

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  • Deborah Powers

    Stephen I would love to say the comments in your post surprise me! But unfortunately they don’t. I personally have lost count how many times a buyer or seller has said to me, “my previous agent was unresponsive”, “my agent doesn’t answer their phone”, “my agent doesn’t explain the buying or selling process” – and the list of comments continues…. As Real Estate professionals it is our responsibility to make ourselves available to our clients and respond to their questions and/or concerns in a timely manner – in my day to day practice / timely = within 2 hours – NOT days or weeks. It is very easy to change public opinion of Realtors – BE responsive to your clients needs, BE engaging, BE knowledgeable and most importantly BE honest! Buyers and Sellers have options – and if you can’t BE all that —- your clients will find someone who is!

    • Stephen Garner

      What a great comment Deb and you are ABSOLUTELY correct. But I suspect that you not only don’t have those problems (I know first hand) but that other real estate agents NOT doing their job, allows for a contrast that lets your abilities shine through. While a home is a product, something tangible, what real estate agents provide is a service. The process of buying or selling a home is nerve racking enough not to have the expertise of a knowledgeable REALTOR┬« or real estate agent explain what is happening, when and why.

    • Dan

      I, too, have heard this from mostly buyers. In the last two years I have had four buyers come to me and say their agent was either unresponsive and/or tried to talk them into buying a higher priced house. I told my buyers not to worry and that I would take care of them. I’m one of the few that are not in it for the commission; I’m here to serve clients in the best way possible!

  • Andrew Mooers

    Public relations grasshopper says any negative online broad brush of our industry wearing the blue and gold R where everyone can pick up a stone and toss it into the fray just perpetuates public opinion. The one you want to shake but won’t with I wear a white hat, there are black ones to watch out for in the landscape of list, market, sell (repeat). You could substitute the “real estate agent, broker, REALTOR” with any other industry and what’s new? It happens across the board in society and just eyes on your own paper. Do a better job, have fun and stay focused.

  • Joyce Yeung

    I am joining this conversation 2 years late, but here are my 2 cents. In the state of Texas, the barrier to becoming a licensed agent is extremely low. All you have to be in 18 years old (don’t even need a college degree!) and be a US citizen. So of course our industry is contaminated with bad apples. I sincerely wish the licensing requirements were tougher nationwide but NAR really likes their fees.