I recently purchased and sold a home through Tim Bird of Legacy Realtors of Texas and I wanted to provide a review of the services received so that others can make informed decisions regarding who they choose as a realtor. Just as some back-up information, we selected our realtor based on a recommendation from a friend; we didn’t do any research, so I was unaware, as I recently found out, that there isn’t a lot of information on the Internet about Legacy Realtors, which starts my review:
- WEBSITE: I made the mistake of not checking out the “legacyrealtorsoftexas.com” website to ensure that such a site actually existed. Tim Bird, the realtor, was contacting us through the email email@example.com, so we ‘assumed’ that he actually had a website. We were given a nice sign to post in our yard that listed Tim’s website prominently. Since Tim posted our house on the MLS website, we never bothered to check out the Internet address that we thought he had. It wasn’t until a neighbor came by one day and informed me that he was trying to look at my house on Tim’s website but couldn’t get the Internet address to load up that I found out that Tim doesn’t actually have an Internet site. That leads me to wonder how many potential buyers might I have lost because they could not find my house on Tim’s site. Even though MLS filters down to some of the more well-known real estate sites, the fact that the realtor himself doesn’t have an Internet site became a big concern for me.
- PRICING THE HOME: When listing our home for sale, Tim recommended a price of $155,000, which was lower than what my wife and I felt our home was worth. My wife and I gave instructions to Tim to price our home at $159,900. One of the reasons, which we told to Tim, was that we wanted to build in room for negotiation, which we saw as inevitable. Having some pricing concessions built into our home price was a strategy that my wife and I chose. Later, when nearing a point of sale on the home, in talking with Tim about an HOA issue (see below for that topic), Tim mentioned that he was highly disappointed that he had no say in setting the price of our home. We felt it highly irregular and strange that a realtor would tell his customer that he was disappointed in them for not letting him price their home at a lower price than they wanted. We could only imagine that Tim’s strategy may have been to price the home lower so that he could sell it more quickly, which doesn’t seem to take into account the desires of the customer or the financial impact that such a strategy would have on his customer. After Tim expressed his disappointment in not being able to price our home lower, we reminded him that the house received an offer at the higher price that we had set AND the house appraised for that value or more. Due to fees and concessions to the buyer, we walked away with around $7,000 from the sale; he we priced our home at Tim’s recommended dollar amount, we would have walked away with $2,000, all things equal. I don’t see how Tim’s strategy was in the best interests of his customer.
- MARKETING THE HOUSE: I personally took the photos of my house – the photos that went up on the MLS website – because I spend a lot of time taking architectural photographs (www.flickr.com/dangrdave) and I wanted to not only have a personal hand in marketing my home, but to have the best photographs of my home. This act helped Tim in one of two ways, it either saved him from taking low-resolution photographs on his own or it saved him the expense of hiring a photographer to come to my house and take the photos. I also provided Tim with the original specifications and amenities sheets from the builder of our home for the listing on MLS so he didn’t have to try and figure out all of the amenities that our house had. In fact, Tim didn’t actually look too closely at our house before listing it on MLS because he cited a couple of amenities on his original listing that were not in our home (we had to send him a message telling him to correct those items). So, at this point, one can see that Tim was given photos and Tim was given a listing of all of the amenities of the home; he didn’t have to take or pay for photos and, because he had the listing, he didn’t really do a walkthrough himself to look at the home. So, we fast-forward a couple of weeks and I’m at the house packing up some items when an agent and her client arrive (they had been scheduled to arrive earlier, but were late). I stopped my packing and talked to the lady about the house, about the amenities, the neighbors and the school and I thanked her for stopping by. A half hour later the potential buyer showed up with her best friend and told me that she loved the house and I would be receiving an offer the next morning. Before I left that evening, the buyer drove back by the house and took some photos (I was loading things up outside and said ‘hi’ to her again). So, the offer did come in the next day. Tim called me up and said “We’ve got an offer. I’ve been busy selling your house.” Prior to that, we hadn’t heard anything from Tim, other than him telling us that our price was too high. So, on our call about the HOA issue (see below for that topic), Tim mentioned to my wife and I that he wasn’t feeling a whole lot of gratitude for all that he had done. Not once when I had taken the photos, provided amenity sheets or walked the buyer through the house answering questions, did I ever demand gratitude from Tim; yet, here was a man, being paid a percentage of the sales price of my home, demanding gratitude from me, a customer.
- SALES FEE: We purchased a house through Tim prior to selling our existing home. Before buying the home, Tim presented us with his offer: if we were to buy a house through him, he would charge us his standard three percent (3%) fee, and then if we decided to use him for the sale of our existing home he would only charge us a two percent (2%) fee. He said that he gave a one percent (1%) fee to clients who use him for both transactions. That sounded like a good deal to my wife and I and we accepted his offer. Later, when questioned about the HOA issue (see below for that topic), Tim brought up the two percent (2%) fee when he was talking about not feeling gratitude from my wife and me. In my opinion, Tim was trying to hold that discount over our heads as a way of letting us know that we should be grateful to him becuase he voluntarily offered to provide us with a discount that was part of his business model. Tim had already made about $8,400 when we bought our new home and he was about to make $3,200 from the sale of our existing home. It seemed strange that a real estate agent who was making around $11,600 should hold any discount over the head of a customer and demand gratitude. We originally agreed to let him be our realtor based on the recommendation of a friend and we allowed him the opportunity to earn $11,600 and we never demanded gratitude from him. He never thanked us for giving him the opportunity to earn money through us and we never asked him to thank us.
- HOA ISSUE: We assumed that the real estate agent is supposed to be an expert and is supposed to inform his customers of things while selling a home. We figured that the real estate agent’s fee includes things such as looking out for the customer’s best interests and letting them know about potential pitfalls. So, my wife and I were unaware that, apparently, one has to pay HOA fees in Texas to sell a house and leave a homeowner’s association. The offer on our house had something about the seller paying excess over $100 to the HOA. Tim said that $100 was pretty standard and, in our opinion, just glossed over what it really meant. He never told us to go check with our HOA to see what the fees really were before we agreed to a $100 number. We took his word that he was looking out for us. We ended up finding out that the fee to leave our neighborhood was $400 and the buyer was only paying $100 when the title company representative (more on that below) called to tell us that we needed to pay the $400 fee (the title attorney also wanted us to pay a $100 “rush fee” even though he had been in possession of the paperwork that he needed for a couple of weeks. The attorney ended up paying the fee himself when we protested). We had to find out about the fee from someone other than our realtor. And, this fee would have been a pretty good negotiation point that we totally missed because Tim didn’t inform us of what it really meant, or to go to the HOA and ask questions about potential fees. When my wife and I asked Tim, over the phone, why he didn’t tell us to check with our HOA, he got defensive and callous and was neither empathetic nor gracious towards us. We wanted nothing more than for him to say something like, “I’m sorry, guys, I didn’t realize that you didn’t know”; instead he flatly told us that we could “void the sale and deal with the penalties”. We expressed disappointment that he didn’t appear to have looked out for our best interests and he responded with an uncaring “I’m sorry you feel that way” before telling us how he didn’t feel any gratitude coming from us and how he was only getting a two percent (2%) fee.
- EMAIL RESPONSE TIMES: There were multiple times when Tim would not respond for a day or two to simple email questions that I had for him about the sale of our home. A prime example is when I asked Tim about whether the house had appraised at or above the asking price, since that was a condition of the sale. I had to follow up my original email twice (three total emails) asking for him to provide me with any information that he had. He ended up responding via text message to my wife with something as simple as “it appraised”. I would have appreciated an email as simple as “the appraisal hasn’t yet occurred” or “I don’t know if it has appraised, but I’ll check on it”, instead of having my emails ignored. Customer service, in my opinion, means answering emails in a timely manner. I would imagine that the fee that a seller pays to a realtor includes having emails answered, and not just answered, but answered timely.
- TITLE COMPANY CONFLICTS: As a first-time seller of a home, I did not know that I, as the seller, had the option to choose a title company to handle the sale. Tim told us who the title company would be and we showed up where he told us because we knew no better. The title officer/attorney was actually a personal friend of Tim in Southlake, Texas. Later, we learned that sellers get to choose the title company. This would have been helpful to know because we have three (3) children under the age of five (5) and now live an hour away from Southlake, Texas. The closing was set for 9 am, so we had to start getting our children ready very early, pack them up and then drive an hour to close on the house…only later to find out that we could have done that closer to our home instead of near Tim’s house with Tim’s personal friend. When we learned that we could have chosen the title company, we called and asked Tim why he didn’t inform us that the choice was ours. Tim said that he didn’t ask because they officer/attorney was his friend and was trustworthy. We asked Tim to see it from our point-of-view: all we know is that he, as an agent, did not inform his customer of a right that we had, and then he gave our business, which involved our money, to a personal friend of his. We told Tim that it looked suspicous and, as a customer, we had been inconvenienced by the location and how were we to know that we were being dealt with in good faith. Tim’s response, via text message, was that he needed to pull his car over and “pray against these accusations.” Tim never apologized for not informing us of our right, for inconveniencing us by making us drive an hour away, or by giving our business to his personal friend. Instead of a simple apology for not telling us about our right, he told us that he needed to pray against our accusations.
That’s pretty much it. We are in a new house now and we have sold our older house. My only words of wisdom to anyone considering the sale of their home is to do research on your realtor, don’t take a word-of-mouth reference, and ask other people the same questions that you are asking your realtor so that you can guage whether or not you’re getting the information that you need. And, finally, if you feel like you aren’t getting good customer service or aren’t being dealt with in a fair and equitable manner, call a time out and consider going with another realtor.