Q: Why is it that Realtors expect that if you use them once, you are obligated to use them for life? I find their expectations to be very odd, actually.

My husband and I bought a house 6 years ago and because we didn’t have an agent, the woman who was subbing for the listing agent at the open house represented us as the buyer’s agent. The listing agent also got her share of the commission.

The house wasn’t right for us and 3 years ago, we starting thinking about selling. I didn’t want to use the agent who helped us buy because I didn’t think she knew our neighborhood well enough. But when we were speaking, I realized that she would be highly offended if I didn’t use her as our listing agent.

We hired her to sell the property, but she made a lot of mistakes. She couldn’t afford to do a virtual tour or pay for newspaper ads. We talked her into the virtual tour and paid for our own advertising, but there were always problems. After three months, we pulled the house off the market and told her to forget it, we were not going to move. We saw her only twice since then at social events, so it’s not as if we were asking her to do a lot of running around for us.

Recently, we decided to sell again and got another Realtor who knew the neighborhood well, is a good salesman with a marketing plan, and works for a company that has money to spend. We got multiple offers the first weekend it was shown and he has done a great job showing us other places and negotiating with a difficult seller for the house we just bought.

Two nights ago, the previous agent showed up at our door crying and railing at my husband, demanding to know why we didn’t use her. When he said we had given her a chance earlier, she said incredulously, “And you blame me for that?”

Later that evening she sent me a vicious email saying twice that I had deliberately “chosen to harm her” and she wished me nothing but ill in my new home.

Now obviously, she’s nuts, but when I told my current Realtor to watch out for her, it was obvious that he, too, thought a Realtor should expect to have a client for life. To him, the only thing that would cause a client to leave him would be if one of their relatives got into real estate.

Where does this attitude come from? What do we owe a Realtor and what does a Realtor owe his or her client?

A: Thank you for sharing your story. Your question about what agents and clients owe each other is pertinent, and it speaks volumes about the changes going on in the real estate world.

What many agents and brokers don’t understand is that you just don’t get “clients for life” anymore. The Internet has made real estate a much more transparent business. You can see what other agents are offering, can view listings that are for sale, learn all about a prospective neighborhood, and look up your own crime statistics.

However, many good brokers believe that if they gave you great service, you should at least consider them in the future and that the consumer will be loyal to them. In some ways they are correct. If you got great service (and you say that you didn’t), it would not be a bad idea to start your next real estate transaction with the same broker. But just because you used the broker in the past does not bind you to using them in the future.

Agents and brokers who believe they “deserve” clients for life don’t understand that in today’s economy, you have to earn your business every single time you deal with someone. It’s true in many other industries and is now true for real estate as well.

If you had just a so-so experience with your agent, then you are perfectly within your rights to find another agent. It’s your money and you’re the customer. This prior agent has behaved very badly, did a lousy job of listing your property, and the vicious email she sent you reflects poorly on her and her company. She deserved to lose your business. I don’t think you owe her anything.

I would call the managing broker of her firm and discuss the situation with him. Let him know how unhappy you were with her prior services, but that this email has crossed the line and is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

I’m glad you were able to find an agent you like and were able to sell your home and buy another one. Just remember, you’re the customer and you need to drive the business relationship.

Published: Jul 23, 2006