My real estate agent is isolating himself after being exposed to COVID-19, but I need to find a new home ASAP. Should I break our trade agreement?


Dear MarketWatch,

I live in Fayetteville, NC and am currently selling my house and looking to buy another.

My real estate agent just told me that his daughter has COVID-19 and that he needs to get tested. He also said he would be in quarantine for a week.

I’m running out of time and need to go out every day to try and find a new home. He barely answered my texts and told me we would work it out. What can I do?


Confused in Carolina

“The Big Move” is a MarketWatch column that examines the ins and outs of real estate, from finding a new home to applying for a mortgage.

Have a question about buying or selling a home? Do you want to know where your next move should be? Email Jacob Passy at [email protected]

Dear confused,

I can understand your concern. Even though the real estate market has calmed down a bit from the frantic pace of sales a few months ago, there is still a very competitive seller’s market. There is still a great degree of competition for homes in many parts of the competition.

This might be good news for you when it comes to selling your home, but you face the same conundrum that worries many potential sellers: needing to find new accommodation. Indeed, I have several friends who sold their homes and ended up renting because they couldn’t find a new home to their liking to buy.

Still, for any buyer in the market today, it’s important to keep COVID-19 in mind and go with a cool head. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend a 14-day quarantine for anyone unvaccinated and exposed to someone with COVID-19. People who are fully vaccinated and have no symptoms do not need to self-quarantine, but are told to get tested five to seven days after exposure and self-isolate if they have symptoms.

It looks like your agent is taking extra precautions – or maybe they aren’t vaccinated and are trying to stop the virus from spreading. I know you’re stressed out, but I think it’s important to take a moment to recognize that he has your best interests at heart. He’s been ethical in avoiding making his clients sick – not to mention that his brokerage may have a policy of taking these steps to stop the spread.

At the same time, I recognize that time is running out. If he’s part of a larger brokerage firm, I would start by contacting them to see what they could do. “Usually in a situation like this where a real estate agent has fallen ill, it would be customary for the agent to refer their client to another knowledgeable agent within the business,” said Bill Gassett, a partner. RE / MAX real estate. Executive Realty in Hopkinton, Mass.

If that were to happen, that new agent would become your buyer’s agent and provide the same services to you, Gassett said.

“Usually in a situation like this where a real estate agent has fallen ill, it would be customary for the agent to refer their client to another competent agent within the business.”

– Bill Gassett, a real estate partner at RE / MAX Executive Realty

You mentioned communication issues, which makes me wonder if you’ve had a hard time getting in touch with your real estate agent in general while shopping for a house. If you are really unhappy with your service, you may want to consider switching to another agent. But beware: it may be easier said than done.

If you have signed an exclusivity agreement with this agent, you will find it difficult to break. In particular, if the agent had previously shown you a house that you were to buy with another agent, your original real estate agent might be entitled to a commission on the house anyway. For this reason, other agents may be wary of working with you as it could jeopardize any commission they might expect to receive.

You can ask your current agent to cancel your contract with them. If you choose to go this route, you should also submit the request in writing via email and give it the courtesy of a phone call. That said, he might choose not to cancel it, in which case you would essentially be stuck. These exclusivity agreements usually have a time limit, usually around six months, so you would have to work with him or wait until you can work with someone else.

“When there is no buyer’s agent contract in place, the buyer could decide not to wait and immediately go ahead with an agent from another company,” said Gassett.

My ultimate tip: if this is the only problem you’ve encountered while working with this agent, give them the benefit of the doubt. See if another agent from their company can help you while you wait. If you are about to sign a contract to sell your existing home, you might consider including some flexibility for yourself in terms of a moving or closing date to save more time.

And if you do choose to hire a new agent, I would recommend that you ask them if they are vaccinated against COVID-19. Unvaccinated people are much more likely to contract COVID, and you wouldn’t want to fire that agent just to sign with the one who gets sick later on.

I know in today’s market buying a home for sale might seem like a wild ride, but you don’t want to rush out and buy a home that isn’t right for you, either. Hope you can resume your home search soon and find your dream home.

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