7 Realtor Red Flags for First-Time Home Buyers (And How to Find a Top-Tier Agent)

7 Realtor Red Flags for First-Time Home Buyers (And How to Find a Top-Tier Agent)

Your uncle you haven’t seen in 15 years. Your upstairs neighbor’s best friend. Your mom’s high school pal.

Sometimes it seems like everyone’s a real estate agent.

Finding an agent isn’t the hard part. Making sure they’re the right fit for you? That’s a lot tougher.

With over three million active real estate agents in the U.S., there are a lot of fish in the sea. But as a first-time homebuyer, you have a lot on the line. And you’re new to the process.

How can you tell if a real estate agent is good at their job if you’ve never worked with one before?

Sometimes it’s about knowing what you don’t want. Here are seven red flags that indicate you haven’t found “the one.”

Want to avoid these 7 headaches altogether? Join Gravy to be matched with the best-of-the-best local real estate agents that 97% of their clients would recommend to friends and family.


#1: You know more about the local market than they do.


A solid real estate agent takes the time to understand where you want to buy, the why behind your goal, and brings you insights from the neighborhoods you’re targeting.

If you’re finding it’s often the other way around and you’re doing most of the educating (thanks Zillow!), there’s an issue. Don’t settle for less than a local expert when you’re searching for your first real estate agent.


#2: They’re just a messenger, not a guide.

What you do need when you’re buying your first home: someone to explain the head-scratching terms, fill you in on what’s next in the process, and help you not panic while you put together your first-ever offer.

What you don’t need: someone who simply acts as a go-between.

If all your real estate agent does is pass messages back and forth to the seller’s agent, you aren’t experiencing the true value of what a great agent can bring to the table.


#3: They don’t have an opinion.

An experienced agent has been there and done that before. Because of that, they may have an opinion. And if you’re smart, you’ll listen closely to an agent’s time-tested advice.

Tammy Campbell, a realtor from O’Fallon, Missouri, says one of the most important characteristics of a quality agent is the willingness to be completely honest, and tell it like it is. “(You have to) be able to speak the truth even if it makes the client uncomfortable. Steer clients clear of potential obstacles and discuss the path to the front door at every step."


A lack of an opinion in an agent either means they aren’t experienced enough to give you the trusted advice you need, or they don’t care. In both cases, find a new one.


#4: You feel pressured.

An agent with your best interests at heart is going to scour the market with you, get excited with you when you think you found the one, and then be a stabilizing presence if you go through the emotional rollercoaster of realizing maybe it’s not the home for you after all.

They are by your side through it all, because their ultimate goal is: you, happy and thriving in your first home.

One of the biggest warning signs you have a bad real estate agent? They brush away your doubts. They tell you to go above budget without helping you figure out if you can actually afford it. They act like a used-car salesman that needs to make a quota. They care only about getting a deal done.

Scott Stevenson, Realtor and Gravy partner, says choosing the agent is one of the most critical decisions for a first-time homebuyer. “They should look for someone who will take the time to explain the process to them and be patient with them throughout the transaction. This is a very stressful time for any buyer, but especially for a first-time homeowner.”


#5: You have to push for communication.


They don’t have to respond in less than one minute to every text, but if you’re waiting days for your realtor to call you back? What a drag. A few days is a lifetime when you’re in the middle of buying your first home.

Find a realtor that takes an active role in your back-and-forth communication, even if it’s just a casual check-in. Ditch a real estate agent that makes you feel like they forgot about you.


#6: You’re one of only a few clients.


There are always exceptions to every rule, but don’t go to a part-time, new agent if you’re in the market to buy a home for the first time.

You need someone who’s had years to build up a portfolio of wins and learnings. You don’t want a “nights and weekends” agent that is involved in only a handful of transactions a year.

Real estate agents themselves will tell you: it’s time spent in the business that matters the most for a first-time homebuyer looking for their ideal agent. When you’re vetting an agent, ask to talk to a first-time homeowner they represented through the buying process – checking references is always a good idea.

“You want an agent that has been [buying and] selling homes for a long time, not someone just learning the ropes. Look for an agent that specializes in the area(s) that you desire.”

– Scott Stevenson, Realtor and Gravy partner, Minneapolis, Minnesota


#7: You’re not sure whose side they’re on.


Does it feel like your agent wants to be best friends with everyone involved in the transaction? They don’t want to make waves. They don’t like confrontation. They aren’t up for extended negotiations to try to get you the best deal possible.

It’s better to have no agent than a lukewarm agent who you don’t feel is going to fight for you. You deserve better.

How do you find a real estate agent?


There are three main ways most people choose a real estate agent today:

  1. They show up at an open house without an agent representing them, and the seller’s agent becomes their agent too.
  2. They send a message on a home buying platform like Zillow and their information is sold to a broker who then contacts them and assigns them to one of their agents.
  3. They listen to their mom’s recommendation and work with the best friend from high school who does real estate on the side.

But it doesn’t make sense to depend on just anybody. That’s why Gravy exists.


Get matched with an agent who’s an ideal fit for you.

Use Gravy to set a house savings target and a timeline. Choose the neighborhood you want to buy in. Then we match you with the perfect agent based on your goal.

Whether they’re effective or not, all real estate agents are going to be paid roughly the same. Wouldn’t you rather work with the best? The Gravy realtor network only includes agents that specialize in helping first-time homebuyers and meet our high service standards. In fact, 97% of their clients would recommend their agent to friends and family.

Join Gravy for free today and tap “Find an agent” from the main menu to talk to your personal home buying concierge and start the matching process.

Stephen Freudenberg
Stephen Freudenberg
Head of Homeownership at Gravy
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