I know a lot of realtors. I know some socially through church or other organized events. I know some through friends of friends. There’s also the realtor that sold me my condo. There are a few who have latched onto me from an open house or one-time viewing of a listing. They keep me on their newsletter mailings in hopes that I will use them. Every once in a while, even I am surprised by a new realtor connection.
When we started seriously looking last spring, we didn’t want to commit to a realtor. I figured I might come across a house where the seller wanted to sell but couldn’t because he owed so much on his home that he couldn’t unload it for market value and maybe if we didn’t have those pesky realtor commissions a deal could be worked out. Or maybe I’d find the house I liked then use one of those discount brokerages that give you part of their commission. After all, I was planning on doing the lion share of the work. I wanted to keep my options open, especially since I was going to be doing the work of searching the MLS for the house we wanted.
Ultimately, we didn’t go that route. It’s hard to see a house without an agent. Not every listing has an open house and agents typically won’t schedule a private show a house unless you are with another agent.
If we said we had an agent, some would get quiet and stop “highlighting the home’s features.” If we said we hadn’t settled on an agent yet, they would pounce on us like a closeted theologian on a cabana boy.
Redfin has this option where you can tour homes with no obligation. Now, there’s no such thing as no obligation but this is probably the next best thing. After a certain number of home viewings, you are expected to commit to an agent. So we signed up and picked a few houses to see one Sunday.
We selected five homes to tour (maximum allowed per tour is six) since there were a lot on my favorites at the time. Of those, the agent could only get us in to see two. No one returned phone calls for two listings and another didn’t match the comps and she wouldn’t show it to us. The biggest surprise was the agent’s name. Layching Quek. I went to high school with a Layching Quek and I wondered if it was her. [While both common Asian names, I recall from high school Layching pointing out that the combination wasn’t that common].
Turns out it was her! She didn’t recognize me, or appear to recognize me so I didn’t out myself. Just played it straightforward. We saw two homes and they did not impress. One was in a new subdivision behind a bus terminal and the thought of people getting lost trying to find it was enough to put us off. Plus it was a short sale, which is anything but. The second was one of those homes in a great neighborhood that would have been worth asking price during the boom. However, the owner had overleveraged his mortgage and put no money into the house, which was quite frankly a dump.
The interesting thing is that after the tours, Redfins sends you an email with the agent's comments. She said something very positive...about the wrong house! Her comments were clearly about the first house we saw, but she attributed them to a house we didn't even get to see. I emailed her about it and she said she would correct it, but one year later the comment is still there. I guess we must have been in different curriculums in high school.