Just like any other profession, there are amazing real estate agents, merely competent agents, and truly awful agents. There are agents who’ve been doing this job for decades, and agents who just got their license a week ago. And there are agents who pride themselves on their honesty, and agents who will tell you absolutely anything to get your listing business — even if it’s not strictly true.
Here are some of the most common lies you’ll hear from listing agents who want your business. We’ll start with the statements that are always (always!) lies, and then look at some that could be true … but might also be a hint that your agent exaggerates.
“The initial listing price doesn’t really matter.”
There’s a reason this lie is at the top of the list — it’s the biggest, most harmful lie that you’ll encounter. In this age of digital everything, most buyers find their homes shopping online, and many of them have an alert set up to ping them when a home that meets their criteria for price hits the market.
So what happens if you price your home above the fair-market value? Well, the buyers who can afford homes in that price range are going to bypass yours (because it doesn’t measure up very well against other homes in that range), and the buyers who can’t afford it won’t even see it.
An agent might tell you that those buyers will see the home after the price is reduced, but there’s no guarantee that they will, and you’ll have completely missed your chance to get your house in front of the qualified buyers who are most interested in a house like yours.
“Your home is worth more than those other agents said.”
This is another very common lie that listing agents might tell, and it should put you on alert. If you’ve interviewed several agents and all of them have given you a price range that’s in the same ballpark — then someone comes in and gives you a price that’s five or six figures higher than what the others said — that person is probably hoping that telling you what you want to hear is going to get them the listing.
The question you need to ask yourself: Is that really the person who you want managing your listing? It’s always nice to hear things that make you smile, of course … but if they’re not true, and that’s your agent’s best tactic for making you happy, then don’t expect to hear much truth out of that agent while you work together. And definitely expect to have to drop your price.
“My commission rate is set in stone; I really can’t adjust it.”
Agents get paid on commission, and it’s understandable that many of them don’t want to consider letting any of their potential paycheck go. When you ask about the commission, a good agent will explain what they plan to do to earn that commission instead of trying to convince you that you can’t even have the conversation about their pay in the first place.
Commission is always negotiable. And in real estate (as in many other areas), you’re often going to get what you paid for.
“A bigger brokerage means more exposure.”
Some agents who work for the biggest name in town are going to try to convince you that you’ll be better off listing with them because of the brokerage’s size. Although there might be other advantages to listing with a big brokerage — marketing resources, for example — listing exposure is not one of them.
All listings go on the multiple listing service (MLS); every brokerage has equal access to the MLS, and once a listing is on the MLS, every agent at every brokerage in MLS can see it and ask buyer clients if they’re interested in it.
“Using the same agent on the buy and sell side will save you money as the seller.”
Some agents like to try to “double-end” a real estate sale — where they are representing both the buyer and the seller. This really isn’t a great deal for either the buyer or the seller, though, because there’s nobody in the transaction representing their interests.
Agents who like to do this will try to present it as a benefit for the seller by telling you that you’re not going to pay as high a commission rate as you would for a normal sale, and that might be true; for example, some agents might charge a 4% or 5% commission instead of the more traditional 6% (3% for the buyer’s agent and 3% for the seller’s agent). But there are hidden costs to doing this: That agent is probably going to try to get the deal through even if the buyer is asking for the sun and the moon in addition to the house, because he or she doesn’t want to lose the commission. Are you prepared to fight for your own interests with your own real estate agent?
“Buyers only look at real estate portals, so other web tactics are unnecessary.”
Most buyers do begin their sales journey online, and that’s usually happening on a real estate portal, but portals like Zillow or realtor.com are far from the only resources that buyers use to learn about a home. If your home has a dedicated page on the agent’s or brokerage’s website — with videos and photos and an extended description and details about the home — then savvy buyers are going to find it as soon as they see and like your house on a portal.
Agents who don’t know this or who pretend that it’s not the case have their own reasons for not wanting to spend time and energy making a dedicated landing page for your home. That’s their prerogative, of course, but you should be fully aware that you’re dealing with someone willing to mislead you.
“An open house is guaranteed to help your home sell.”
Open houses can be useful, but often they’re more useful for the agent than the client. Unrepresented buyers who stop by your home and aren’t qualified at all for the purchase price are fresh meat for an agent who might be able to help that buyer find a smaller, cheaper home somewhere else — so open houses can be a really good way for agents to pick up new clients.
Ask your agent about the strategy around the open house. Sometimes it makes a lot of sense, especially in a very hot market, to list a home, announce one open house on a Saturday, and add in the listing that you won’t be taking any offers until the Sunday or Monday following the open house. The idea with that tactic is to drum up some “fear of missing out” in the hopes of generating several offers at once (and potentially start a bidding war). But if your agent doesn’t have a similarly thought-out reason for the open house, then maybe you need to consider his or her honesty.
“You don’t need to offer a buyer’s agent full commission.”
Everybody wants to save money … and everybody also deserves to get paid for their work. An buyer’s agent spends a lot of time working with clients to make sure they’re qualified, taking them around to different homes, writing offers, and negotiating the sale. If a buyer’s agent finds out that you’re planning to stiff them on part of their commission, they might just leave your home out of the mix entirely. (And why isn’t your agent offering to cut his or her commission if the full 6% is too prohibitive?)
“Discount brokerages still provide full-service sales.”
Have you ever heard the sales truism that you can pick two out of three: fast, cheap, or high-quality? There are many times when a salesperson is going to try to tell you that it’s actually possible to have all three — be very wary of either the “fast” or “high-quality” parts of that statement if you’re guaranteed a discount.
There are very few people in the world who are willing to provide the exact same services as a competitor for significantly less. A slight break here and there is one thing, but if you’re being told that you can pay 1% commission and get the same level of marketing, advice, negotiation, and service as someone who’s paying 3% — you’re probably being sold a lie.
Now let’s look at some statements that might not be outright lies, but that you should be very wary of believing without asking for (and receiving) proof.)
“I’ve sold dozens of home in your neighborhood.”
Of course you want an agent who’s experienced with homes like yours — who wouldn’t? But as you may have gathered, agents who really want your business might be willing to inflate their level of experience just so they can list your home, figuring that you’ll never know any better if they do a decent-enough job.
It’s always fair to follow up statements like that with questions of your own. “Which ones, and can you put me in touch with those clients so I can ask them about how the process went?”
“I have a buyer already lined up.”
Sometimes an agent might say this in order to entice you to list with them (and see the point above about double-ending a real estate deal), but it may not always be true. There are lots of excuses the agent could give for why the buyer didn’t follow through, like “the loan didn’t clear” or “they changed their mind,” so it’s never a good idea to list with an agent just because they’ve promised to bring a buyer to the table immediately.
“I’m a specialist in your area/for your type of home.”
Again, this could be true, but it could just be so much blown smoke. There are a lot of certifications available for Realtors, which require continuing education, so it’s always safe to ask if the specialty is certified and ask the agent when they were certified and how they’ve kept up with their training.
“I’ve been doing this for years.”
It’s pretty easy to become a real estate agent, and some people who are just starting out or who haven’t been in the business for long might be tempted to inflate their credentials. This one is pretty easy to check: The state regulatory agency that licenses agents keeps records of all the licensed agents in the state, and you can ask for your agent’s license number and call the agency (or look on the website) to see if they’re telling the truth.
“I’m the only agent in the area who uses ________.”
Agents use every sales tactic under the sun, and it’s highly unlikely that your agent is the only one in the metro or neighborhood who uses social media or the internet. If they’re giving you a lesser-known tactic — like maybe free balloon rides for buyers? — then maybe that’s true, but in general, take this statement with a big boulder of salt.
“My website gets more traffic than any other.”
Some agents do have popular websites that get a lot of attention, or social media profiles that have a wide reach. But unless they’ve done extensive research on the competition, this statement is also questionable. How do they know how much traffic the other websites get otherwise?
If you hear an agent say this, ask how many unique visitors they get every week and every month. Then see if you can look up the answer yourself on one of the many websites that offer website traffic estimates, and decide whether you think this agent is trustworthy.
Mother. Singer. Runner. Dog Parent. Realtor. Speaker. Cape Cod Local Expert. When I want the freshest oysters, I don’t go to the fish counter at the grocery store; I go to John, the East Dennis oyster guy. When my husband wants a perfectly tailored suit, we don’t go to the mall; we go to Puritan Clothing in Hyannis. When I want the best chocolate this side of the Alps I don’t go to the candy store, I go to The Hot Chocolate Sparrow in Orleans. A Cape Codder since I was a kid, I can find you the right house, bank, builder, school, auto mechanic, and yes, even the right oyster guy.