Are Real Estate Agents Trustworthy? | Red Flags for Bad Realtors

By Andrew Te

|10 min read
What to expect from real estate agents - Realtors on Wooden Table - Fast Expert

If you are about to buy or sell a home, you may be asking yourself a common question, “Are real estate agents trustworthy?” and “How can I find a real estate agent I can trust?”.

In short, yes. Real estate agents, realtors, and real estate brokers are like most professionals that work directly with clients. They know in order to build a strong career they need their clients to trust them. For this reason, most agents are trustworthy – but not all of them. 

A survey conducted in 2018 showed that almost 86% of US citizens in search of homes have used real estate agents, but tragically, many found the wrong ones.

When it comes to a sales profession, many see their trustworthiness questioned. From car salesmen to local real estate agents, clients are wary, usually because of a few bad eggs. When you’re dealing with something as big as a house it’s important to have a real estate agent you trust and feel confident in. In a competitive real estate market, it’s even more important.

Real estate agents are hardworking people. However, in every profession, you can find a small, unethical group out for only themselves. These people are willing to cheat and lie for your signature. Once you’ve signed a contract with a brokerage or an agent, it can be hard to get out of scathe-free. 

We’re here to help you find the most trusted real estate agents and trustworthy real estate brokers so you can be sure you’re in good hands. Follow these tips and rest easy:

1. Learn About Your Real Estate Agent to Build Trust

The National Association of Realtors has reported that 42% of buyers found agents via referrals. Friends and family are the most typical referrer for agents. These referrals are powerful because they are more concerned with their loved one’s well-being than the commission of a real estate agent. 

This means, if a real estate agent gets most of their leads from referrals, it’s because they provide great service and leave their clients satisfied as a standard. Many top realtors and local agents rely heavily on referrals as their basic marketing tool, which urges them to be honest with customers and try to build positive relationships with clients.

If others are willing to refer this agent frequently, you’ll be sure that this is a trusted real estate agent and a safe person to do business with. 

When you research and interview agents or brokers, ask them how many of their clients come from referrals and ask them about the other ways they bring in leads – this will give you a good sense of the character of your prospective business partner.

2. Ask To Meet Past Clients

One way of determining whether a real estate agent is trustworthy is to ask “Can I meet one of your previous clients?” 

When you ask the agent this question, gauge their reaction to your inquiry. 

You may be given the opportunity to meet their past clients, you don’t actually have to go out and schedule a meeting if you don’t want to. The agent’s reaction to the question will be the most telling part of this interaction. 

If they try to put you off the idea or generally avoid the question, it could be a major red flag regarding the trustworthiness of the agent.

Most local real estate agents won’t have a problem with setting you up with previous clients because it’s a win-win for you and the agency. If they are hesitant this is a red flag that you might be dealing with a bad real estate agent who is trying to hide something.

A broker’s past clients will be in the same area as you and their agency. They’ll typically recognize this as an opportunity to build trust with you as a prospect. If they have satisfied clients, offering their contact info is an easy way to build trust and seal a deal with you. 

A Man and a Woman Shaking Hands - FastExpert

3. Check Out Reviews

If you can’t or don’t feel comfortable meeting with past clients directly, you can always go online. Many trusted real estate agents will leave a trail of happy customers in their wake. And when a customer is happy, they like to tell people about it. Profiles on FastExpert include reviews from past clients as well as traits that those reviews called out. If having a real estate agent you trust is high on your list, you can filter for trustworthiness.

Top realtors receive a level of trust with their clients because of years of reputation building. They have worked the way to the top of their field, and any real estate agent can tell you that is nearly impossible through lying, deception, and unethical behavior. They have to be seen as a trusted real estate agent with all clients

4. Trust Your Gut

Only you really know how a person or an interaction makes you feel. If you don’t feel excited or confident after an interview with a potential real estate agent, that isn’t a good sign.

There are so many agents out there that are working hard to build their business that it isn’t worth giving yours to someone you don’t feel good about. Keep interviewing, eventually you will find an agent you can trust and feel good about.

5. Ask if they are Registered Agents

One sign of a trustworthy real estate agent is that they’ll be registered with the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Not all trustworthy agents choose to join the NAR, but if they are registered, it will signal that you are working with someone who is qualified, connected, and reliable. Registered real estate agents have a code of ethics to follow; failure to do this might lead to the cancellation of their membership.

Simply type their name and other information on the NAR website to see if they are registered. 

There are plenty of certifications and licenses that realtors can also have in order to better their reputation and show that they are honest, reliable, and ethical realtors. Be sure to ask them about their certifications and credentials when interviewing potential agents.

6. Conduct Your Own Research

Customers are much more likely to share bad experiences than good ones, making research easy.

A little bit of research can shed light on bad habits or shady actions. Look for previous feedback on a real estate agent and interview several agents before committing to anything.

There are a lot of signals to be mindful of when you conduct your research. When you start finding reviews and data about your agents, be on the lookout for the following factors…

Realtor’s licenses and certifications: 

There are specific licenses for each state and most are separated as for sales or brokers. Each for different positions in the real estate industry.

The NAR has a comprehensive list of certifications and what they are for to help you better understand what each certification means.

Customer feedback 

By looking at websites that rate realtors, like FastExpert, Yelp and Google, you can see how other people felt about their experience with an agent or agency. 

Neighborhood expertise

If they are a local agent, they will know a lot about the area. They should be able to tell you the positives and the negatives about where you want to live. You can learn about their local expertise by asking the agent and their previous clients about it.  


Having a large amount of experience and exposure may mean they look for a higher commission than you would like, this does have a benefit of trust in them because of their experience and reputation. This does not mean that all agents with smaller exposure are not trustworthy, it just means they might not have had the same time in the industry. 

General Commission Rates:

The nationwide average commission in 2021 is 5.46%. More experienced agents may ask for more, but realtors trying to build their reputation may be willing to take a lower commission.

How Realtors Should Respond

If you have narrowed down your prime real estate candidates, you should prioritize having a one-on-one meeting. Your first meeting can be a  simple introduction or an interview, but your first meeting will reveal important information that you’ll want to know.

The prime focus of your first meeting shouldn’t be to negotiate a price range for selling or buying a house but to determine whether the agent is a good fit for you. 

In your first meeting, your broker or agent should give clear answers and try to develop a relationship with you. Ask direct questions about them. Don’t be afraid of asking about their certifications or methods or previous clients like we mentioned above. 

Confidence is Key

If at any point you think their confidence is shattering because of a basic question, understand that there might be something shady going on.

It may feel odd interviewing an agent for the first time, but it is appropriate and expected by most realtors. You are hiring them for their skills and how they can benefit you. A dependable and honest real estate agent won’t hesitate in answering your questions with confidence.

Showing Concern For Your Needs

If you are selling a property, the agents know your priority is to sell at the highest price in the shortest time frame. As a home buyer, you may have more specific expectations you’ll need to be met to feel good about your agent’s service. 

Top realtors and reliable real estate agents are more concerned with your requirements and wants. Some common questions that are commonly asked of the buyer include:

  • Purpose of purchase or sale
  • Your price range
  • Your requirements
  • Any extra wants in the property
  • Any properties you have in mind or the ideal property

These factors can help develop a framework for the agents so they can give you the best options possible. If an agent begins suggesting properties right off the bat without knowing what you need or want is a major red flag. They most likely have an ulterior motive to sell that property.

Discussing the Pros & Cons

A reliable and trustworthy real estate agent won’t try to hide the negative aspects of a home from sellers or buyers. However, no real estate agent is obliged in any way to market the cons of a property.

As a buyer, you shouldn’t label a realtor as deceitful just because they didn’t market that the house gets extremely hot in the summer or has plumbing issues.

As a seller, you should not label your agent for mentioning this to a buyer. Transparency is a sign of a good agent. So is good negotiation skills – that comes with knowing when to talk and when not to. 

Common Lies Unethical Agents Tell

Some realtors are not trustworthy and will lie to have you sign a contract with them. The most common lies given to you by realtors are:

  • Inflated Prices.
  • Having imaginary buyers (This can force you into a bad decision and makes you react quickly. We recommend asking the agent for contact information so you can approach the buyer.)
  • Falsely stating they have the lowest fees or commission.
  • Lying about experience (Check in with previous clients if you think this is the case.)

If your agent is telling you these things during your interview, then you may want to consider other options. 

Real Estate Agent Red Flags

We covered many red flags already in this article. So for your benefit, here’s a quick list of red flags to keep on your radar when evaluating the trustworthiness of real estate agents: 

  • The agent gets defensive or angry when asked questions about previous clients.
  • When the realtor does not answer questions head-on or avoids giving an answer at all.
  • The real estate agent is not registered with the NAR.
  • Whether the agent is unfamiliar with your area.
  • If the real estate agent lies to you.
  • Whenever the agent seems hesitant to answer or seems like they are making things up
  • If the agent shows properties that do not meet requirements, especially when you first meet.
  • If the realtor is unfamiliar or forgetful of your price range.
  • The realtor has poor communication and organization. 

The Bottom Line

The idea of working with realtors doesn’t sit well with many people. The cliché of a real estate agent or brokerage is much like the cliché of car salesmen or stock traders. Television paints a picture that they enjoy lying and taking your money. Luckily, for most agents, this is not the case. 

The reality is that most real estate agents are ethical and are trying to do their best. Shady agents are few and far between, and the good ones work hard to build a reputation of trust. 

Unethical real estate agents can scare sellers or buyers away from working with trustworthy realtors. That is why we suggest conducting research, interviewing multiple agents, and speaking to them before committing. There are good agents out there, and they are easy to find. If you have a bad experience with one, just try another. 

If you are looking for a reliable real estate agent near you, FastExpert might be a good fit for you. Check out our database of real estate agents near you and meet the top agents in your area.  

Andrew Te

Andrew has 7+ years of experience in Real Estate and working with Real Estate Agents. He is passionate about the housing market and solving problems.  

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