If you are using a real estate agent to buy, sell, or rent an apartment, you will need to come to peace with the fact that agents earn their living at your expense--and probably to a greater extent than you think is appropriate.

That said, you do not, and should not, work with an agent more focused on their commission check than on customer satisfaction.

Customer-focused agents aren’t saints or even necessarily someone you might want to grab dinner with when your business concludes.  They just happen to grasp three related facts:

  • Careers are longer than a single deal.
  • New York City is a lot smaller than it looks (the Internet, Facebook, and StreetEasy’s Talk forums have only made that more true).
  • While a single commission check is nice, client referrals are the gifts that keep on giving to the bottom line. 

If you are feeling more like an ATM than a person lately, check to see whether any of the descriptions below fit your agent.  It may be time for a switch.

  1. Missing in action:  Skipped appointments, full voicemail boxes, and unreturned messages are red flags that your agent is too busy or has written you off as unlikely to complete a transaction in the near-enough-for-your-agent future.
  2. Uses high pressure tactics:  Your agent constantly pressures you to sign a lease yesterday, make an offer on a place you’re not in love with or accept an offer with little negotiation.
  3. Omits critical information:  Neglects to mention that, say, the apartment for which you’ve just negotiated an offer to buy is actually a short sale. (This actually happened to one buyer, who promptly sought a new agent through BrickUnderground's Agent Referral Service.)
  4. Suffers from search-related amnesia: Your agent can’t seem to remember (see #5 below) the fundamental requirements of your search, such as price range, neighborhood, and minimum bedrooms/baths.
  5. Stacks the deck: You suspect your agent is showing you a lot of awful apartments in order to get you to like the only decent one in the bunch.
  6. Agrees with everything you say: Your agent who acts like your employee rather than a trusted advisor who is concerned as much or more with your longterm satisfaction (and, consequently, his/her reputation) as in closing a deal.
  7. Cuts your appointment short to go to an audition: Agents who works part time are more likely to come up short in time, knowledge and experience. They also tend to be more focused on the short-term payoff of the commission check.

Related:

Selling? Here's how to interview a real estate agent

Find a great agent with BrickUnderground's Agent Referral Service

8 things buyers shouldn't tell their broker

Why your broker wears a $5,000 Panerai

How not to be a real estate agent (the sequel)

Note: BrickUnderground articles occasionally include Featured Partners and Resource Directory members when their expertise is relevant to the story.