Can You Trust Real Estate Agents? What to Look for and Red Flags (2023)

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|10 min read

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real estate agents i trust showing couple a house

When working in real estate, you want to be sure you partner with someone you trust. The business of selling your home or purchasing another can come with a lot of stress and having a realtor you trust can go a long way with giving you peace of mind.

There can be a stigma with anyone in a sales top role that they are just working for the bottom line. So, are real estate agents trustworthy? How can you find and hire a licensed real estate agent you can trust? And how do you know if a realtor is legit?

Let’s start with the first question, are realtors trustworthy –

In short, yes, many are. Real estate agents, realtors, and brokers are like most professionals working directly with clients. They know 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 had used realtors, but tragically, many found the wrong ones.

When it comes to a sales profession, many see their trustworthiness questioned. Clients are wary, from car salesmen to local real estate agents, usually because of a few bad eggs.

When dealing with something as big as a house, you must have a realtor you trust and feel confident in. In a competitive real estate market, it’s even more important.

The real estate profession requires individuals that are hardworking and willing to put a lot into their careers.

However, in most professions, 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 realtors 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 realtor. 

This means if an 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 primary marketing tool, which urges them to be honest with customers and build positive relationships with clients.

If others are willing to refer this agent frequently, you’ll be sure that this is a trusted realtor 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. Interview 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 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 agent’s trustworthiness.

Most local 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 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. 

agreeing to work with a real estate agent

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. And when a customer is happy, they like to tell people about it. Profiles on FastExpert include reviews from past clients and 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 good 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. Check if They are Registered

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 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 realtor 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, look 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.  

Exposure/Experience

Having a large amount of experience and exposure may mean they look for a higher commission than you would like, but this does have the 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.

person working on a computer

How Realtors Should Respond

If you have narrowed down your prime real estate candidates to find a realtor you trust, 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 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 to ask about their certifications, methods, or previous clients like we mentioned above. 

Confidence is Key

If at any point you think their confidence is shattering because of a fundamental 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 you can trust won’t hesitate to confidently answer your questions.

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 – that 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 agent is obliged to market a property’s cons before a real estate transaction.

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. They may still be a good agent, they just weren’t made aware of everything.

As a seller, you shouldn’t count it as bad that your agent mentions this to a buyer. Transparency is a sign of a good agent. So are good negotiation skills – 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 situation 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 their level of experience (Check in with previous clients if you think this is the case)

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

One thing to remember is that, as with many professions, realtors may have differing approaches to getting you the best deal. It isn’t necessarily unethical to tell a seller that a buyer is concerned about something minor in the house to get them to consider a lower price. Sometimes buyers threaten to walk away but stick around even though their requests aren’t met.

Many people in the industry consider this a strategy on behalf of a client. You want your agent to do what they can to get you the best price. There is always a line that shouldn’t be crossed, and if you feel your agent is too close to that line, you have a right to say something.

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. 
real estate agent selling house

The Bottom Line

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. You want a real estate agent you trust – 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, 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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