For most people, real estate agents are a necessary part of buying or selling a house. They know the industry inside and out and make the task a lot easier for you.
But as with any special service or skill you pay for, what you don’t know can cost you. Some real estate agents are terrific. But others can be a bit sneaky.
Here are five things you should know about how at least some real estate agents behave.
1. They use creative wording
Real estate agents word their advertisements in a way to cover up flaws and get you to view a house, possibly wasting your time. For example, “charming” may really mean “old,” while “cozy” means “small.”
Always read between the lines, and search online for photos.
2. They promise more than you can get
Some overly eager agents might be willing to stretch the truth a bit to get you into a contract. For example, they might say your house will fetch more than it actually will. Then, once you sign with the agent and the house doesn’t sell, the agent will blame the market.
Do your own research before you sign up. Compare recently sold and for-sale homes in your neighborhood to get an idea of pricing. If an agent says you can make $20,000 or $30,000 more than the average you find in the neighborhood, he may be stretching the truth. Ask him to explain how he arrived at the higher price.
3. They might make referrals that are not the best
The referrals you get from an agent might not be the best deal available to you. For example, agents may refer you to a mortgage broker they know, or connect you with a home inspector who may not be as objective and thorough as one you find yourself.
Consider any referrals your real estate agent provides, but look for professionals on your own to make sure you’re getting the best service and price.
4. They don’t disclose commission details
You probably know that a real estate commission is split between the seller’s and buyer’s agents. What you may not realize is that the commission is negotiable.
Bring it up in your discussions. While you’re at it, know that everything else in your contract is negotiable too. So, haggle a bit to get the best terms.
5. They aren’t always working for you
Real estate agents are loyal to whomever they’re working for. If you meet a nice agent at an open house and strike up a conversation, keep in mind that the real estate agent is working for the seller, not you.
Don’t tell the seller’s agent anything you wouldn’t tell the seller directly — such as how much you plan to spend, how soon you need to move or what you’re willing to overlook in the way of needed repairs.
6. They stretch marketing truths
Some agents inflate their marketing plan, making it seem that your house will get a lot more exposure than it actually will. Then, once you give them the listing, you rarely hear from them and can’t find much about your house in advertisements or online.
Before you sign up, ask to see the marketing plan in detail, including which websites will be used and how much time the agent plans to spend. If you don’t think your house is being marketed enough, say so.
7. They don’t always offer full disclosure
Dozens of states require a seller’s disclosure, but what the seller and the real estate agent must disclose can vary depending on the state. For example, some states require disclosure of common natural disasters in the area like earthquakes or mudslides. Others require disclosure of noise pollution problems.
What if you’re not getting the full picture?
Before buying a house, research the area and see whether any previous natural disasters could have damaged the house. Then, ask a home inspector to look out for warning signs. For other problems, visit at different times of the day to get a feel for the location.
For more tips, check out “10 Steps to Finding Your Dream Home.”
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