dcsimg
We research, you save.
Got Questions On Rates? (855) 610-2972

What's happening with home prices in the 100 largest metropolitan areas? See HSH's updated "Home Price Recovery Index" to find out!

A real estate agent's 5 worst practices

In these desperate times, some real estate brokers are using dubious tactics to sell more homes. They can vary from rushing you into an agreement to overpromising on prices.

The upshot: It's buyer -- and seller-beware.

Frequently, brokers compete to get listings, explains Erica Ramus, a broker at Realty Executives in Pottsville, Pa. And some are doing things they wouldn't have done five years ago.

Brokers are supposed to be self-policing, she adds. But really, they're guided only by an ethics code. So naturally, some conflicts of interest can rear their ugly heads. For example, brokers may weed out homes that are priced lower and which don't pay high enough commissions.

"Black and white can bleed into gray," she says.

Ramus and other experts stress that most agents are honest and hardworking. For the rest, we got experts to spill the beans about a real estate agent's five worst practices.

Worst practice No. 1: Brokers may overpromise things to sellers

To snag your listing, brokers may tell you to list your home for a higher price than the market will bear. Or they may tell you there's a real buyer, when there isn't, says Sam DeBord, a broker at Coldwell Banker Danforth in Seattle. After you sign a broker's agreement, you may realize the selling price is too high -- or there's no buyer. But by that time, brokers have already locked up the listing.

Remedy: Ask your broker for proof of your home's worth, such as comparable sales from at least three homes. And know that you don't need to sign a listing agreement even if your broker does produce a buyer. "You can sign a single-buyer listing contract instead," DeBord adds. (A single-buyer listing contract is a listing agreement limited to just one named buyer. If the deal goes through, the agent gets to broker it. If the deal doesn't go through, the contract is over.)

Worst practice No. 2: Listing agents may sandbag a seller

This happens when listing agents actually have bagged a buyer, but delay adding the home to the MLS or putting up a "For Sale" sign. In such cases, the broker wants to get both the buy and sell commissions -- doubling their wages for the sale. The trouble is that the buyer's bid may not be high enough, says Ramus, and so it lowers the home's potential worth. "By competing for a home, sellers might get a better price," she adds.

Remedy: Go on the agency's website -- and other good local sites -- to see if your listing is included. "Know what's out there," she says.

Worst practice No. 3: Brokers may try to choose a seller's team

Brokers want to offer one-stop shopping, such as choosing your lawyer or inspector. But don't put all your trust in one agent, says William Decker, a home inspector in Skokie, Ill.

Remedy: Choose your own team. The most important player is the real estate attorney, Decker adds. "That's the first person to hire, because they understand fiduciary responsibility and can sue," he says. Sellers should also hire their own independent appraiser to get solid ballpark figures when selling a home. "The more objective information you have, the better off you are," he says.

Worst practice No. 4: Short-sale prices are unrealistically low

First-time homebuyers are most susceptible to being pulled in by too-low prices, says DeBord. They may spend six months trying to buy a short-sale home, he says, only to find that the bank won't sell it at that price. "But seeing these flashy prices is deceptive," he adds. "And the listing agent usually already knows the price is too low. But they want to get the contract process going because banks won't negotiate until they have an offer."

Also, short sales may take a long time to wrap up. Some can take two years since mortgage lenders are swamped, he says.

Remedy: Don't rush to buy, says DeBord. Take time to research all the short-sale angles. And work with brokers you trust, he says. Ideally, brokers should also live in areas you've targeted for buying.

Worst practice No. 5: Brokers may divulge crucial buyer information

Sometimes, brokers want to close a deal quickly. So, they'll reveal the buyer's lowest bid rather than negotiating even lower prices, says Ramus.

Remedy: You can't control your broker, but you can state your terms upfront. "Don't tell brokers the bottom line price you're willing to pay until you know how they operate," says Ramus. You've got to protect yourself, she adds.

Related articles :

More help from HSH.com

  • 10 metros where a home costs about $1,000/month

    HSH.com identifies 10 metro areas where you can afford the principal, interest, taxes and insurance payments on a median-priced home for only around $1,000 per month.
  • Home price recovery index: Which metros have improved the most, least?

    Have home prices in your area fully recovered from the declines suffered during the Great Recession, or are they still struggling to make it back to the peaks they reached before the crisis?
  • How do I know refinancing will be affordable?

    After to determine the goal of your refinance, deciding whether that goal makes sense (or not), given your personal situation, depends on a combination of factors.
  • The salary you must earn to buy a home in 27 metros

    Here’s how much salary you would need to earn in order to afford the median-priced home in your city.
  • VA Funding Fee: 5 facts you need to know

    One slight drawback of securing a VA loan is that borrowers often have to pay a fee, known as the “VA Funding Fee.” Here are five facts you need to know about the VA Funding Fee and how it works.