What should I do if an agent is unethical?

I am an agent looking for a personal residence. I have offered on 2 homes and have lost them both because the other agent doesn't return phone calls or emails. Both homes were unable to be shown but I wrote an offer anyway. I received confirmation of the offer but nothing else. Now home is sold to someone else.

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February 25 2011 - Natomas Park
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Answers (46)

I work mostly with Buyers and cannot tell you how many times I have run into this problem of not being able to get through to the Listing Agent, escpecially when dealing with REO agents, usually from out of area, that have many more listings than what they can actually handle.

Often the problem is that they have listed the property low and have been swamped with offers and inquires beyond their capacity to respond. Other times, the property is already pending but they did not update the MLS.  Yet another situation I have sometimes encountered on short sales is that the Seller does not really want to sell the property.
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May 31 2012
Profile picture for sunnyview
True, you never know what happened in a situation, but just walking away feeling empty or cheated is rarely the right answer.

Memorializing the concern in writing and letting the appropriate person or agency look into it gives each side opportunity to explain more.
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May 31 2012
Although the events took place a long time ago, I am submitting this as a "postmortem" response to the question, because it still shows up in Google searches and some curious visitors (like me) will want to follow up on it.

There is not enough evidence provided in the writer's letter for anyone to come to a conclusion about the "other" agent's ethical or legal conduct. For the writer to say she "...lost (the offers) because the other agent doesn't return phone calls or emails" just doesn't cut it.  Perhaps the offers were ridiculously low, or offered unacceptable terms and conditions -- who knows? 

It may be true that the other agent was rude, but the Code of Ethics does not address rudeness.   Some state laws do require that licensees be fair, so the agent may have some questions to answer about his/her behavior if the offers were indeed "live".

We really don't know what happened, do we? 
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May 31 2012
Well, the link that Dunes provided to the Code of Ethics Arbitration Manual now requires a user name and password and will no longer let the general public access the text.
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February 02 2012
You can call the agents broker and make them aware of your concerns. You should also be able to file a complaint with your local board. Most boards have a procedure for handling agents complaints, and you can report this agent so that if they are doing something unethical, it can be handled appropriately to avoid other agents encountering the same issue in the future.
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January 30 2012
Profile picture for Pasadenan
Another person that just posts without reading the date of the question nor the responses already provided????

It is a pity...  especially how they give responsive agents a bad name.
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January 30 2012
Profile picture for LindaG007
It would be prudent to contact the broker directly. In this profession, it is the duty of the agent to respond to an offer within 24 hours. It is a pity that agents such as those you worked with, give other very hard working agents bad names. I sincerely hope you find the home you are looking for, and are able to work with a true proferssional. Best of Luck,
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January 30 2012
Profile picture for Pasadenan
Baffled why it takes some Realtors about a year to answer a question.

Also baffled about why they don't read the answers already provided to see if they are adding anything useful or different.

I think ethics is not the only thing buyers and sellers pay attention to when they chose someone to represent them; they take notice of attention to detail and responsiveness.
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January 30 2012
If there was a silver lining to last 6 years as a Realtor it was that many of the Realtors and Mortgage companies that were not ethical and serious about providing good service have gone away...but not all of them. I would complain to the broker but not sure how much time I would waste, don't blame you for being upset but if a contract is now signed on those properties I don't think there is anything you can do about that. I would move on. Good luck on your home search.
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January 30 2012
I would contact the agents broker and at least waste some of his time complaining. The problem is the broker likely will not do anything because he makes a living off that agent. You could also call the state but they make a living off the annual fees of that agent. Your best bet is to save your time and stress and move on with life.
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January 28 2012
Your buyer's agent should have their broker contact the other broker. In our state, if the agent does not respond in 24 hours we can call the seller directly. Many complaints can be filed depending on what state you are in.
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January 10 2012

I would call their broker directly, be professional and polite and just ask what's the deal, explain your experience and ask him what he would like to do next; if anything. Brokers dont like these calls but it keeps them up to speed on their agents, remember agents are human and sometimes have personal issues going on that are more than they can handle and sometimes they too just need a little help.



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January 10 2012
Contact in writing the agent's broker and explain the situation to him. Hopefully he will jump in quickly and see if the issue can be resolved satisfactorily.
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January 02 2012
Profile picture for sunnyview
It is not the norm of the business, Family connection or not, I would submit a complaint in writing to the broker with a return reciept. Give the Broker the choice of doing the right thing by having a come the Jesus conversation with that agent or sitting in a Board hearing next to them for making the wrong choice.

You do not have to deal with this situation and play nice. Sometimes playing mean is what is called for when the parties are doing the wrong thing.
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December 09 2011

Cathi,
It seems that you are dealing with very unprofessional agents and in the future you will have to account for the way they do business. Like it or not it is their business and as long as they stay within the rules they can conduct their business as they wish.  I know it can be frustrating but you did not loose 2 homes you never had them. In the future you will have to take what ever steps necessary to present your offer up to delivering the offer to the seller yourself when you have exhausted all other efforts to get your offer to the agent or his broker family or not.  Just calling will not cut it.  Email with read receipt, text to broker and agent, certified mail to broker and agent, mail to owner, go to agents home.  You need to exauest all avenues.  That is a lot of extra work and if it were me I would just not show his properties and let my buyers know that if it is going to be this hard just to get the offer in front of the seller the chances of completing the escrow and sale will be very small and or very difficult.  Most buyers will move on the next home.  Good Luck



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December 09 2011
I'm so sorry to hear this happened.  It really makes me appreciate the Board Office I'm associated with.  Is it  illegal? NO it's not illegal to not call someone back if their clients offer was not the one accepted,  as long as the transaction was handled the correct way and the offer was made.  It's not normal and it's not professional but not calling someone back is not a violation.  I would just keep calling them no matter what or show up on the doorstep. Best of luck.
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December 09 2011
Well said ConnieK of OK
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December 09 2011

You might want to try going to the office in person, if calls aren't going thru. Sometimes meeting the other agent face to face works.

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March 29 2011
It's  not the norm and shouldn't be accepted.  but...it happens- so just plan how you'll deal with it in the future. and don't be afraid to hold them accountable.  Not sure about your state but here we have the right to ask to be present when the offer is submitted.  I've played that card a time or two.  I asked the agent, "are you a single party broker or a transaction broker" and are you deciding for the seller what to present because I am concerned that my customers will think you are deciding for the seller and bring an issue of it...(bla bla bla) and they are the type that will demand i follow through with mediation if it's not clear their offer was presented,.... it's amazing how well it works when you hold the letter of the law or the absoluteness of rules up as a threat.  some are lazy some are just doing it because there is an advantage on their part to ignore you, some people are just disorganized and or something happened (flu example earlier).  the key is...don't fear being pushy with them.  if they are an honest agent that didn't mean harm they will appreciate the reminder, if they are pulling something or are just lazy that will be clear soon and you have avenues to combat that.  (of course with REOs...there is no thing to be present at for the offer since they email or fill out an online form...but still- you can ask for proof it was submitted accurately)
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March 02 2011
Cathi, I feel for you because, as a buyer's agent, my calls in regards to listings also often go unreturned, or returned after it is too late. You're right - it's NOT unethical - it is unprofessional at the most or at the least, inconsiderate. Since the days of texting began, more and more agents refuse to even speak on the phone. Unbelievably, some Listing Agents even state in their listings "Don't call because your call won't be answered." In the case of REO listings in a multiple offer situation, 99% of the time you will never hear back from the listing agent unless your offer is accepted. Sometimes it takes a week for the bank to mull over all their offers, and typically, only the "winner" will hear back. If you didn't get the house, it wasn't meant to be for you at this time, so be patient and you will find the perfect one for you eventually. Good luck with your search!
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March 02 2011

The broker of both agents are related to each agent so I can't call the broker. My fault for using the term unethical, maybe I should have used the term unprofessional.

Thank you all for you advice.

I've been in Real Estate for only 5 years so maybe this is the norm of the business.

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March 02 2011
Profile picture for Pasadenan
Why are pages 84-115, 165-179, and 349-369 missing from the Ethics Arbitration Manual?  And why is the table of contents wrong, referring to the wrong page numbers?

Standard of Practice 3-10
The duty to cooperate established in Article 3 relates to the
obligation to share information on listed property, and to
make property available to other brokers for showing to
prospective purchasers/tenants when it is in the best interests
of sellers/landlords
. (Adopted 1/11)

Unless there was information not shared with us, I'm baffled about what the ethics complaint could possibly be.

As for "phone calls", only Standard Practice 16-2 mentions phones at all, and it is in regards to "general canvasing" and has nothing to do with returning phone calls.  Similarly with Mail.  And E-mail is only mentioned in relationship to hearing notifications.  Of course Standard Practice 1-2Standard Practice 9-2, and Standard Practice 12-5 mention conducting real estate transactions Electronically which includes internet, fax, phone and E-mail.

If someone is going to take an "oath", it would help if they at least know what was in it.

Amazing, the manual states that many Realtors® are ignorant.  The word "ignorance" occurs nine times in the manual.

Now, why would someone chose an ignorant Realtor® instead of a Licensed agent that is not a member of NAR?

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March 01 2011
You can't fix it, you need to focus on your client's needs.  Sometimes it takes more offers to find a selling agent you can work with.
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March 01 2011

 It can be frustrating with agents that don't return calls, we all know of a few like that but appointments can nearly always be made with their office.  You haven't explained if you contacted the office in addition to the agent or how long you tried-we are just assuming your efforts. 

When worse comes to worse with an agent that doesn't return calls, Show up at their office to request the appointment.  As an agent its part of our job to overcome the obstacles presented by the unprofessionalism of others so that our client still get the best service, in this case, you were the client.   I don't believe I would find it acceptable if my agent just told me they wouldn't return my calls, I would be asking my agent, what else did you do and if my agent wouldn't do more I would find another one that would because there are plenty of hungry agents out there waiting for a good client. I would strongly encourage you to look at this as a lesson learned...yes maybe they were unprofessional, but if you let that get in the way of your making a sale you're gonna have a long struggle ahead.  We all have a responsibility to respond quickly but life happens to us. I know I've been out with the flu recently and didn't muster the energy to have someone else return my calls/emails  until day 2 fortunately. The truth is that there are several agents out there that corner the market in their little niche and they don't work with buyers and don't respond quickly- if you don't follow through with their office you're the only one that is suffering- someone else that will do that will get the sale.  I know my tone sounds negative- it's not meant to be.  They haven't broken a rule, so while you can be upset, the most value in this experience is learning something from it so it doesn't hurt your future business.  Good Luck to you.

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February 27 2011
i am interested to hear the follow up on this one--did you find out if the 2 homes sold for more than your offers? and if they sold for less, were the terms more favorable? (ie cash/as-is vs. financing/inspection contingencies?) in our area, rejections do not have to be in writing, and often times REO agents clearly post their preferred methods of contact (usually email/text) it is a high volume game, not a high quality service game :)
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February 27 2011
Profile picture for SoCal_Engr
Wow, 369 pages - including where people are supposed to sit - just to say "Don't be unethical"?
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February 27 2011
Profile picture for hpvanc
From reading your posts, the only thing I see, that may have been unethical was that you were not allowed to view the properties.  Do you have reason to believe that it was because your agent didn't want to show them to you?  As I see it that is the only potential ethics complaint you have.  Your offer was definitely submitted, you received confirmation.

Is it possible that the sellers were in the process of reviewing offer(s) when you asked to view the property?  They may have already been well along in the negotiation process, and your offer was not compelling enough to start over.
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February 27 2011
Profile picture for wetdawgs
Which Article of the NAR code of ethics is triggered by failure to return a phone call?    After scanning the link generously provided by Dunes TE, I can't find one, but can't say I've read it in detail.
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February 27 2011
Profile picture for Dunes....
Maybe reading Material like this would help.
2011 Code of Ethics Arbitration Manual

I don't think most Realtors have a clue or an interest in what's in the Code of Ethics they just love to use it for their Superior Marketing fodder...

"We have a Code of Ethics so hire me...call me"

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February 27 2011
I'm with So_Cal Engr on this one.  I don't see how the described behaviour is 'unethical'.  Unprofessional, sure.  But not unethical.
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February 27 2011
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