When you engage an incompetent real estate agent

Reader Question: We used an incompetent real estate agent. We bought a home subject to obtaining a mortgage. Our Realtor drafted the contract with a twenty-day drop-dead date on the inspection and the appraisal. She pointed out we could jeopardize our ten-thousand dollar deposit if we missed these dates. Then she delivered the documents to the bank five days late. She denied it, but the lender verified she had lied.

We didn’t want to order the inspection and appraisal until the bank approved us, subject to satisfactory results on the two investigations, so as not to spend the money until we had the loan. But because of the fear of losing our deposit, we ordered them. A week later, the bank turned us down. We canceled the appraisal, but they had completed the inspection.

She wouldn’t return calls or emails looking for our deposit and a refund for the inspection. Her broker and the banker helped us get our deposit, but no refund on the inspection. The banker told us he had never seen such an incompetent agent. Will a complaint result in a home inspection refund and a warning to other home buyers about this agent?

Monty’s Answer: While you have provided much anecdotal information, there must be hard evidence to demonstrate this transaction took place in the fashion you describe. Contracts, emails, voice mail, and written notes you scribed. Did the lender comment in writing? Will he? The broker is responsible for the acts of their agents. Did you ask the broker to reimburse you?

The best chance to warn other customers is to file a complaint with the licensing authority in your state. They are there to protect consumers and enforce the rules to prevent the public from licensees that do not know or follow the rules. Most states have web sites that allow you to file a complaint online, or you can submit a claim in person or by mail. Additionally, many states have consumer protection agencies separate from the license law authorities that will also investigate complaints. Web sites such as Zillow and Trulia offer a venue for customers to comment on the service they received.

An investment in time and energy

Consider these options

  1. Assemble a clear and concise document that explains the details and the timing of the events. Include in your complaint a request for the return of your money for the inspection. File the charge to every venue and then follow the steps of each organization. This path will take time and energy, and depending on the results of any investigation; it may have minimal consequences.
  2. Walk away from the home inspection fee and chalk this nightmare up to experience. Focus instead on learning how to ensure you will not pick a poor agent the next time. There are good agents, but they can be hard to find. Here is a link to an article that describes a method to find an excellent real estate agent. If you take the advice, your experience will likely be positive.