Did I Ask Too Much of a Real Estate Agent?

We are thinking very seriously about moving to a smaller city two hours south of Calgary (Lethbridge), and I’ve been looking at MLS listings online for Lethbridge. I saw a house that we’d really like to see, so I contacted the listed real estate agent. We made arrangements to see the house in question, and he sent me a list of other listings he had that would fit our requirements. I looked at them and saw two other houses that we’d like to see.

Since we’re still in Calgary, I asked if we could see all three on Saturday, next weekend - we’d make the trip down there and see a bunch of houses at once. The real estate agent came back with, he’s busy, but he has an associate who can show us a few houses, but we have to pay her for her time.

I’ve never heard of this before - my understanding is that real estate agents get paid in commission - if we do decide to move to Lethbridge, he would have gotten our purchase commission, since even if we didn’t buy one of these houses, we would have continued on with him finding us a house.

I can see from his point of view that we weren’t a guaranteed sale, since we haven’t even decided to move there yet, but that’s the nature of the beast for real estate agents - you do lots of showings before you get one sale.

What do you think? Should we not be asking any real estate agents to show us any properties until we make a definite decision? Just go to Lethbridge and take a chance on any open houses that are available at the time?

No, that’s crazy. Charging for looking at them? I’d go so far as to report it to the local Realtor board and their managing broker, if you can find out who that is. It’s probably not a violation, but if I were the managing broker, I’d freak out on the agent, as it would give us a bad name.

Call someone else - they should be happy to show you the homes. I’ve had lots of clients that didn’t pan out, whether due to jobs or financing or any number of things. It’s a sales job, and you end up with a lot of unpaid time, but that’s usually more than made up for referrals from the client and future business.

It’s not at all weird to look at several houses in a day for someone who is moving in from a distance. I once looked at 21 houses with a couple who was changing jobs and moving into our area. Turns out, husband got offered a promotion, and they never moved. Sucks, but it’s totally a part of the biz.

Never call those people again, and check out an online website for other agents - they usually have reviews that you can look through. Feel free to trash the other agents for being dicks.

I don’t live in Canada, but I’d call a different agent. I’ve never encountered a pay-as-you-go agent. Alternatively, suggest to that agent that that arrangement is fine, but you won’t be paying him a commission if he arranges a sale. Watch how fast he hangs up on you.

I’d venture a guess that he mentioned paying her for her time because he is assuming that his associate will be giving up hours of her day with no chance of earning a commission because you are “his” clients. I’m willing to be that if you used the associate as your realtor there would be no charge mentioned as she would then have a shot of getting the commission.

In the US this what you describe is unthinkable. In the US you ask a broker to show you a house or several and if you buy it in the next six months you owe the broker a commission, even if you don’t buy through them. Your mileage in Canada may vary, especially if you use liters or the imperial gallon.

I’d reply back with “I’m sorry, you seem to be too busy, we’ll find someone else.”
Then look for a new agent.
It would probably be easiest to contact one or all of the homeowners and ask them to put you in contact with their agent and go from there. Set up all of your visits and buy whichever house you like from that agent.

That’s really not the OP’s problem. The homeowner then buys the house the the two agents figure out the commission behind the scenes. I can think of a couple different ways to split it up but NO extra cash should come out of the OP’s pocket unless it’s going to be deducted from the commission at the end of the process. But even that might not work out because they’ll still be out money if they decide not to buy anything from that agent.

I have never heard of a real estate agent in the US “charging” to show homes!

They get their commission and that is that. Part of the game is showing homes to people who may or may not buy any of the homes they show.

Geez - when we bought our house, the poor agent had shown us at least 40-50 houses before we finally selected ours.

The issue here is that he is not the one showing the house. If he was to be showing the house then there would be no charge. As it is his associate showing the house and the associate has no chance of commission regardless of the outcome of the showing that associate is telling him, “I’ll do it for $20 bucks an hour.” or something along those lines.

Now, there could be lots of things going on behind the scenes. Perhaps this particular realtor is fobbing off house showings to his associates on a regular basis and not returning the favour to them, maybe he is an ass and is hated by all his colleagues, maybe they were having a fling and it ended badly. I agree 100% that this cost should not be borne by Cat Whisperer. If the realtor is too busy to show the house then he should work to find a time that fits for both her and him, pay someone out of his pocket to pick up the slack, or make an agreement with his associate to split the commission in the case of a sale on any of the houses she shows.

Personally, I’d take this as a big glowing sign that this isn’t the realtor for you and give someone else a call.

That may be the case, but the OP’s agent should pay him for his time, not the OP.

Assuming there isn’t more to the story that we don’t know, I’ll reiterate what I said before, just reply with “You seem to be too busy, we’ll find someone else, thanks anyways”.

I would stay away from this person, but watch how fast he/she comes crawling back with an apology when the prospect of commission disappears.

Look at it this way, if he’s not even willing to show you houses that you picked out, how much work do you think he’s going to put into you? Do you think he’s going to see another house on the market and email you pictures on Wednesday night and see if you want to come down on Saturday because he’s got that one and two others lined up for you that aren’t even on the market yet…probably not.

I’m a US commercial RE agent I’m not sure how things work in Canada but I think they are fairly similar. The agent’s request was insane. If you have someone cover houses for you (the listing agent) works out a compensation arrangement with the other showing agent. It sounds like this person is very stingy, very greedy, or very arrogant none of which bodes well for you getting your best deal.

Having said this, in brisk markets if the agent (especially a busy agent) gets the notion you are a minimally motivated, tire kicking waste of time and effort, or are not all that financially qualified you will sometimes be dealt with brusquely, and they will fob you off on other agents so they can spend time with people they deem to be more serious. I have heard there are places in Canada where the RE market is very tight and it’s a seller’s market. I do no know if this is true for the location you reference.
I don’t know how your conversation went down, but if you expressed a lack of urgency in your conversation with them or that the decision is a long way into the future they probably got the vibe that you are unlikely to be a good investment of their time. Having said this even if they are busy and greedy, asking you to PAY the assistant to be shown houses is something I have never heard of in over 27 years in real estate. It’s not the way business (in the US at least) is done.

Thanks for my reality check, guys - I realize we are “a minimally motivated, tire kicking waste of time and effort” at the moment (you made me laugh out loud, astro :slight_smile: ), but we do have the potential to be a real commission if we do decide to move to Lethbridge. I have already responded to this agent that we will look into other options, and thanked him for his time (he must have spent upwards of 20 minutes on a couple of emails!).

I got a bad vibe from this guy from his first email (when he spelled my name wrong and wrote like someone who is functionally illiterate) - should have listened to my gut.

Call someone else. Lots of red flags: first he’s fobbing you off, second he’s asking for money. Plus you don’t want to use the listed real estate agent for a house you are interested in anyway, you need your own agent in order to do any kind of negotiation if you do decide to buy that property.

Don’t know about Canada disclaimer but…

  1. If your agent is pawning it off on another agent, that guy works off commission. Not hourly.
  2. If your agent is pawning it off on an unlicensed associate, he would be paid hourly but by the agent/broker that hired him - not you.
  3. Unlicensed associates afaik, can NOT stage open houses or do showings. You could report him.

Like others have said, lots of red flags. Find someone else. In fact, if you’ve found houses you like, you could just call the listing (selling) agent yourself and say you’d like to see the houses and work it out that way. If you’re looking for representation, you could ask for dual agency.

This is my guess as well - the person who will get the commission from you eventual purchase is not available.
The person who is available will never get a commission from you, so said “yeah, I’ll blow my Saturday showing some out-of-towners around - for $50”.
The agent is just relaying the terms imposed by the one person who is willing to to an all-day showing with less-than-guaranteed “buyers”.

How’s the market where you are? Are they scraping to keep up the lease payments on their “show” cars? Steal a glance at the fuel gauge - it can tell wonders.

It sounds rather shady, and I’m glad to hear that you did not agree to pay the associate. That’s not the way things work here in Lethbridge.

My first advice would be to make some more calls to find a realtor who will fit your schedule. If you want to see homes on the coming Saturday, you should be able to find a realtor who can manage that.

Next advice would be to find a realtor who represents you, and not necessarily the sellers. MLS access would be ideal; as then, they can show you houses that they do not represent. You have someone working for you, in other words; and who is not working for the seller. Never mind commissions; the realtors will divide those up.

And finally, PM me details of your visit. No reason why we cannot get together if you’re in town. I’d like to hear about the properties you saw and the neighbourhoods you visited.

But overall: find a realtor who fits your schedule and does not charge you for an associate’s time. That’s not right, and it’s extremely unusual here.

Thanks for the input, Spoons. I was pretty sure that this isn’t how things were done in Lethbridge, but I wanted to make sure - different city, different rules and all that.

I JUST bought a house in Edmonton. We had a week for house hunting - our agent picked us up, drove us to every listing, and bought us lunch twice.

What the agent is suggesting is weird.

If you’d like, I can ask our agent to suggest someone in Calgary. If so, shoot me a PM.

There is one possibility that just occurred to me that can sometimes make agents squirrely, but again, this is a US scenario so not sure how applicable to Canada. It was my impression that Canada was not hit as hard by the foreclosure crisis that carpet bombed the US residential market.

In some (not all) scenarios with bank owned foreclosure properties the bank pays a very meager commission and in exchange the agent gets all of that bank’s the REO volume in that market. An agent doing this pretty much has to dedicate 70% of their time or better to these properties as the paperwork and reporting requirements banks have are ferocious. It’s a true grind and agents can only make any real money in these cases by selling lots of volume.

In some of these scenarios the agents aren’t nearly as cooperative as normal residential agents would be who usually share commissions 50/50 and have no issues paying associates a referral or straight cooperating commission to show properties they cannot. Doing foreclosures is kind of a world onto itself in these cases and agents aren’t always as cooperative as they should be.

No, we weren’t hit as hard by the foreclosure crisis - we didn’t really have one at all, since Canadian mortgages were always required to be properly qualified and insured by the CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation). There is the odd foreclosure on the market here, but it’s pretty rare. It’s possible that’s what happened here, but unlikely. :slight_smile: