If your home is listed for sale and it just won't sell, it may not be your real estate agent's fault - after all, home sales were down more than 40% in August over the same time last year. However, there are many ways to gauge if your agent is doing a good job. Here we look at some of the top signs of a bad real estate agent. (For more on real estate agents and whether you need one, read both sides of the argument: 5 Reasons Why You Still Need A Real Estate Agent and Why You Don't Need A Real Estate Agent.)

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  1. Lack of Communication
    If you haven't heard from your real estate agent in a few weeks, it's time to find a new one. Even if no one has called for a showing of your home, or your agent hasn't found any homes that meet your requirements as a buyer, he or she should be touching base with you regularly to keep you up to date on the work that has been done on your behalf. After all, there's no doubt you're thinking about your home transaction almost daily - as an agent acting on your behalf, shouldn't your real estate agent be keeping you in mind?

  2. Lack of Leadership
    If your real estate agent agrees with you on every point, this is the sign of someone who's eager to please - not someone who's committed to doing the best possible job at representing your interests in the real estate market. When it comes to pricing a home for sale, insist that your agent produce the research that was used to arrive at that price. An agent who asks you what you think your home is worth and lists it for that price is a sign of trouble.
    Your real estate agent is supposed to be an expert, so look for one who can take the lead and provide you with well-reasoned advice. That said, your agent should also be acting on your behalf, and must take your final word in the end. (For related reading, check out 10 Tips For Getting A Fair Price On A Home.)

  3. Unused Resources
    Many real estate agents will use all of the tools at their disposal to market your home to the public and help you find a new one that meets your needs. Some, however, will do next to nothing and rely on other real estate agents to market your home to their clients. Expect your real estate agent to take good photos and descriptions of your home if it's for sale, and list it anywhere that may draw more interest to it, including putting the listing onto real estate websites, into local newspapers and even distributing flyers to homes in the area. Sure, your home might sell without this extra effort, but is that really the kind of person to whom you want to pay a commission?

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  4. Too Much Pressure
    While you should seek out a real estate agent who is knowledgeable enough to have an educated opinion and confident enough to (respectfully) voice it, if you feel your agent pushing you in any particular direction, this should send up a red flag. Particularly when you're buying a home, there is no real reason why an agent should want you to buy any particular home over another. If you get the feeling this isn't the case, you could be being steered toward homes listed by your agent or your agent's brokerage, which can produce additional commissions for your agent. (Learn more in Finding A Good Real Estate Agent.)
    Most state laws force real estate agents to reveal this conflict of interest to buyers, but if you feel your agent isn't being entirely open, beware. Your real estate agent's job is to act in your best interest and ensure that you're happy with the outcome of your real estate transaction. If you think your agent is preoccupied with his or her own interests, it's time to find another one.

  5. Lack of Follow-Up
    Whether you're buying or selling, many real estate agents think their job ends on the home's possession date. This is the day upon which the transaction is considered complete, and the real estate agent is paid. An agent who calls beyond this date to address any follow-up questions you might have and ensure that you're happy with his or her work is going above and beyond what is required and showing a commitment to customer service. After all, at this point your agent's commission check has already been signed, so this level of care is a great sign of an agent who is willing to do what it takes to make you happy and keep your business in the future.

The Bottom Line
As in every line of work, there are great real estate agents and there are terrible ones. However, in a tough real estate market like this one, you might have to gauge their performance on more than just a speedy transaction, which for home sellers, may be all but impossible. (For more tips, check out Do You Need A Real Estate Agent?)

Find out what happened in financial news this week with Water Cooler Finance: Mergers, Hostile Bids And SEC Probes.

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