22 Red Flags To Watch Out For When Picking a Real Estate Agent

8 Min Read
Published June 14, 2023
A woman looks concerned after a real estate agent exhibits red flags.
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If you’re looking to buy a home, having a good real estate can make all the difference. You can find a real estate agent by browsing online directories, reading reviews, and asking your network for recommendations. 

When you interview real estate agent candidates, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for warning signs that a candidate might not be up to par. First-time homebuyers may not know how to pick a real estate agent or detect these warning signs, which is why we created this list of 22 real estate agent red flags.

Real Estate Agent Red Flags To Watch Out For

If you spot these red flags during an interview with a real estate agent candidate, they might not be the best choice for you. Here’s what to keep an eye out for.

1. They don’t have many clients, or they have too many clients

You want to find a real estate agent with enough experience and who is in demand. However, you also want to make sure they have enough time for your homebuying needs. If you end up in a bidding war, you’ll want an agent who has the bandwidth to jump in and act swiftly. If an agent has a lot of experience but too many clients, that may be a reason to go with someone else.

2. They refuse to provide a list of referrals

When you interview candidates, you’ll want to talk to some of their previous clients to hear what their experience was like. If a candidate is hesitant to provide referrals, it could mean that they either don’t have enough experience or that their previous clients were unsatisfied.

3. They aren’t friendly 

If a real estate agent isn’t approachable or has an abrasive personality, you might not enjoy working with them. This is someone you will be working closely with for months, so it helps if they’re pleasant. Plus, an agent who isn’t very friendly could muck up your chances of having your offer accepted or winning negotiations.

4. They work for the seller

If a real estate agent also works for the seller, then you can’t trust that they’ll have your best interests at heart. This is especially true when it comes time to make an offer and negotiate the purchase price and terms. 

5. They give vague answers

If a real estate agent candidate gives indirect or ambiguous answers, that could be a red flag. You need an agent who is upfront and crystal clear — especially when it comes to their commission rate and fees. If they intend to charge additional fees for marketing or early termination penalties, they should tell you what those are from the beginning. 

6. They get negative or mixed reviews

Ideally, you’ll want someone who gets glowing reviews from previous clients. An agent’s record doesn’t have to be spotless, but if you notice a pattern of mixed or negative reviews, that’s something to consider. Reviews are a great way to vet candidates and find out whether they delivered for past clients.

7. They are bad at communicating 

Buying a home may be the largest purchase you ever make, so you and your real estate agent need to be on the same page. Once you find the right home and make an offer, the process becomes time-sensitive. If your agent is hard to reach, it can jeopardize your home purchase.

8. They have poor negotiating skills

The negotiation stage is when you really need your real estate agent’s expertise. Poor negotiation skills can result in you overpaying for the home or having your offer denied. If it’s a seller’s market — where demand outweighs supply — and your agent is stubborn about the price or asks for too many concessions, the seller may go with a more enticing offer. 

9. They are unprofessional

If a real estate agent is too pushy or displays unprofessional behavior, then that may be a good reason to go with a different candidate. Your agent represents you, so questionable behavior could make you look bad and jeopardize your ability to secure a deal. 

10. They aren’t a good listener

Your needs should be the agent’s priority. Make sure an agent listens when you discuss your budget and needs and that they respect your boundaries. 

11. They aren’t organized

A home purchase involves a fair amount of paperwork and documentation, so you’ll need a real estate agent who stays organized. An agent who keeps their life and paperwork in order also may be more attuned to the details of the deal.

12. They aren’t transparent

There are many “hidden” costs of buying a home, so transparency is key. If you get the feeling that they are deceptive — especially when it comes to costs — that’s a big red flag.

13. Their promises seem too good to be true

A good real estate agent is realistic, especially when it comes to your budget. An agent who overpromises can lead to disappointment and a situation where you’re paying more for the home than you can afford.

14. They don’t have many certifications

Real estate organizations like the National Association of Realtors offer continuing education and training to professionals seeking to build on their real estate knowledge and skill set. A well-credentialed agent can bring that training to help you and your homebuying needs, but an agent with basic training might not be as capable.

15. They are late to the interview, or they continuously reschedule it

If a real estate agent is late to the interview or reschedules it multiple times, that can mean that they don’t prioritize your needs. It also could mean that they’re just flaky and unreliable.

16. They pressure you to hire them, or make the hiring seem time-sensitive

You want a real estate agent who’s confident and capable — but you don’t want someone who’s too pushy. If a candidate pressures you to hire them on the spot, it could be a red flag that they don’t respect your decisions or schedule.

17. They don’t ask questions about your homebuying needs

You shouldn’t be the only one asking questions during the interview. Good real estate agents will be eager to learn about your wants, needs, budget, and target location so they know how to help you. 

18. They are a part-time agent

It’s helpful to have an agent who is actively engaged with the real estate market on a full-time basis and has their finger on the pulse of the latest developments in your desired market. You also want a real estate agent who’s readily available, so a full-time real estate agent may be preferable.

19. They don’t have experience in your desired neighborhood, property type, or price range

It’s important that your real estate agent is knowledgeable about your neighborhood and its proximity to features like schools, shopping centers, health care centers, and public transportation. You’ll also want an agent who’s experienced in the type of home you’re looking at, such as single-family homestownhouses, and condominiums

20. They don’t seem ready to lead

A good real estate agent can take charge and help you navigate the various stages of the homebuying process. If an agent seems timid or unsure, you may not feel confident with the major decisions you’re making.

21. Their face shows up on online listings

If you keep seeing an agent’s face on online listings, that means they’ve paid for that placement. This type of promotion can mislead homebuyers into thinking that agent is an expert with a well-known reputation when that may not be the case. In fact, it could indicate that they have low client volume and don’t have much a reputation.

22. It’s difficult to find out about their reputation

On the other hand, it’s also suspicious if a real estate agent has a ghost-like presence online. If you can’t find out anything about them when you do an online search, that could be a red flag that they don’t have much experience — or that they have something to hide. Many agents work off their reputation, so if it’s hard to find out anything about them, you may want to steer clear.


Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about hiring a real estate agent.


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