Real Estate Agents: Advocates, or Deadweight?

Rain City Guide, once a strong source of interesting locally-relevant real estate discussions, has been a lot less locally-focused since the housing bubble began to deflate, but lately things have been heating up a bit over there with some firely discussions about the value (or lack thereof) provided by real estate agents.

Way back in 2009, Craig Blackmon (of WaLaw Realty, a Seattle Bubble advertiser) ran a four part series (Part 1, 2, 3, 4), laying out his argument for why lawyers provide better representation than real estate agents. Since then he has dropped in with some regularity to hammer home his point that real estate agents typically are not providing real value to consumers.

In his most recent volley (Representation by RE Agents: Is That an Oxymoron?), Craig used a real life example of what he describes in the comments as a “trap” laid by agents in the way the MLS rules are set up:

The listing agent indicated that s/he was busy but that s/he would send another agent to provide access. My clients assumed this was an associate of the listing agent, and the listing agent was taking steps to provide access as part of the job of selling the home. The clients were interested in two homes listed by the same agent, and the “associate” provided access to both, only one of which was suitable for my clients. Total time: Approximately one hour. At the end of the tour my clients informed the showing agent that they intended to use my services if they wanted to move forward. The showing agent did not mention that she was totally unrelated to the listing agent and would have a potential claim on the SOC [Selling Office Commission] if the clients purchased either home.

The “associate” was actually another agent working under a different broker in a different firm. The listing agent frequently refers new business to this “showing” agent. Because I cannot rebate a commission to which some other agent has a claim, I asked the showing agent if s/he was going to assert a claim on the commission (as the “procuring cause”). The answer? Yes I am! But as a compromise s/he offered to accept 30% of the commission, a typical referral fee. With a sale price of about $700k, s/he wanted $6k for the hour of work.

In the ensuing comment thread, Ardell seems to be taking the position that this opaque practice is perfectly fair, and it’s the buyer’s own fault if they aren’t familiar with the rules (or something like that).

Apparently in response to Craig’s posts, Ardell put up a post arguing the opposite point: Why Agents Are Better than Lawyers.

People don’t know what we do. because it is PERSONAL. What we do for our clients is never known until someone who thinks this business is EASY walks a mile in our shoes. THIS is what I do BEFORE I even START! The Listing won’t even be in the MLS until Wednesday.

[listing before and after photos]

Even staging the Linen Closet, the kitchen cabinets, the patio set out on the deck…you name it. Closets… anything a buyer will open and look inside.

And oh…


I didn’t see any LAWYERS in Joann Fabrics on 4th of July Weekend.

I’d like to place the question out there to the Seattle Bubble readership: Whose argument do you find more convincing? Craig or Ardell?

I know we’ve got a handful of other real estate professionals that frequently comment here, and while I appreciate your contributions, I’m more interested in the average Joe consumer’s opinion on this one (especially since most of the regular professionals have already weighed in over at RCG).

So what say you, is it a good idea to hire a real estate agent to represent you in today’s market, or does it make more sense to go with a lawyer or some other alternative model?

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


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