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Your Love-Hate-Love Affair With Your Real Estate Agent

Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to

Following the same formula for general humans not involved in real estate, many real estate agents are fine, upstanding people—and many are not. Ergo, a good M.O. when searching for an agent is the same as dating: Start with personal recommendations and referrals.

The right agent should be someone you can trust, a person who will answer your questions and make you as comfortable as possible as you make the biggest purchase of your lifetime. But no pressure! It should be fun sometimes, too. Your agent should be a person who will do such a good job that when you press more hard-earned cash than you’ve ever spent in one shot in your lifetime into their cold, clammy palm, you’ll feel like a million bucks.

If you are looking to hire an agent to help you buy a property, they will be paid through the seller’s broker. They don’t get paid unless you seal the deal, so it is in their best interest to communicate with you effectively, help you clarify what you want, scour new listings like a hawk and then get your ass there in time before the ideal property is gone.

Sometimes real estate agents have a love/hate relationship with their buyers (and sellers too). Their clients are, after all, the source of their livelihood, and sometimes agents and buyers really do become friends and clink beers at Flag Day BBQs.

But of course, people can be assholes, and that includes agents, buyers and sellers.

Buyers need to empathize with the plight of an agent a little bit. Imagine if you went about your day at your job, say, at an advertising agency. You spend five hours setting up meetings with all of your associates to meet a very important client. Your associates are stressed because it’s a last-minute meeting, but they accept that it’s important for the company and they are willing to sacrifice their time to better the business.

Then, five minutes before the big meeting, the client cancels. Apparently, he’s going to a competitor. Or, the client goes to the meeting, and then a second meeting, and then ditches the deal. Executives at advertising agencies are paid a salary no matter what. As a real estate agent, if a client you worked with doesn’t use you to seal the deal, you could be out tens of thousands of dollars you put the time in to earn. You did the work, but didn’t reap any benefits.

This is why some real estate agents are very bitter indeed.

After years of this, the scales fall from their eyes. They no longer look at every potential new client as someone with whom to share chicken wing recipes at a BBQ. Fair or not, again, it’s a little like dating in your thirties: You need to prove you’re not going to be like the rest.

That’s why they may not make a huge effort at first to help you without asking for somewhat invasive information. If you go to a real estate agent without a recommendation from a friend, and that agent doesn’t know you at all, they have no reason to assume that you won’t just use them for a couple months, pump them for useful info and then disappear, without even a text message explaining why.

Bad vibes can go both ways, and agents aren’t always the angels of the morning, either. Maybe the agent is just a complete jerk, or lazy. Maybe the buyer thinks the amount of money that they’re paying for commission is insane, and that fact just sits there and festers inside, like a late-night Lorenzo’s slice burning up the esophagus of the soul (if you do not know what that means, you will when you live here). For the first two, it may be time to switch to another broker. If your pantaloons are in a bunch over the commission, you have three options: Ask the broker to take a point or so less, do the job yourself, or suck it up, kid. You get what you pay for.

Except, of course, in bad real estate deals.

If there are early signs it’s not going well, express your concerns and be out. Save the drama for your dolly’s llama: Buying a house is no time to play the victim. If you’re serious about buying an apartment, stick with one broker you really trust. Respect each other’s time and goals. Remember the golden rule. Summon all your most annoying friends’ positive motivational Facebook messages all at once and squeeze them tight right there between your eyebrows. Your relationship is likely to function lots better is everyone is calm, deliberate and focused on the business at hand.