Real estate agents see and hear a lot, and while there are shockingly few things that surprise them, there's a fine line between need-to-know and TMI.
But the more transparent a client is during the buying or selling process, the better the broker can meet his or her needs. Luis D. Ortiz, associate broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate and star of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York,” equates the nitty-gritty details of a seller’s personal life to a doctor visit. When the doctor asks how often you drink, “everybody says ‘socially’ when really they drink every night," Ortiz says. "The more transparent you are of a person, the more they can get to the core of the problem.”
To get the most out of your relationship with your real estate agent, avoid these red flags that can end up landing you with the wrong broker or the right one running for the hills.
Telling an agent you’re not sure about selling. Agents typically don’t collect a fee until their client either sells his or her current home or purchases a new one. Any time and money spent before then on marketing and other services is out of the agent’s pocket. Simply dipping your toes in the water to see if your house generates interest and then pulling back, isn’t going to be very enticing for a broker.
“I’m not sure I’m going to take that seller on as a client … The process costs everybody time and money, so why waste it unnecessarily?” says Greg Cooper, manager and broker at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Indianapolis.
And as Ortiz points out, putting your house on the market experimentally can have adverse effects on other homes that are actually for sale. “It gives the buyers [a] perception that the apartment is not sellable [or] that the market may be turning into a buyer's market,” Ortiz says.
Saying you don’t have a time frame. Not having a deadline can leave brokers unsure of your commitment. Agents understand when their clients have a strict time frame, and can appreciate a few extra days or weeks to close a deal on the right home, but being told they have no target date to sell or purchase a home will leave them wondering if they’re wasting their efforts.
Cooper says serious homebuyers will typically have a reason, such as a growing family or move for a job, that brings about the change in living situation. A lack of deadline puts up a flag that you may also lack commitment to carrying out a deal. "My question for them would be, 'Why do you have all the time in the world? What are you trying to accomplish?' That goes back to, 'We're not really sure what we want to do,' and that's just not a situation, in all candor, that's beneficial 98 percent of the time to the client and the broker," Cooper says.
One of the first questions Ortiz asks on any listing appointment is "Why are you selling?" “You have to know if this person is real or not," Ortiz says. "I want to know because that sets the conversation and what my expectations should be.”
Lying about why you’re selling. Your real estate agent will have to know a lot about you – your financial health, your needs and wants in a living space and any life-changing events that could cause you to buy or sell at a specific time – to do his or her job properly. In order to work successfully with your broker, honesty is the best policy.
Cooper says one of the first questions he asks potential clients is why they are looking to sell, primarily to get a full understanding of the clients' needs throughout the process and how he can best fill them. “If I’ve got a seller who is changing jobs or who is going through a divorce, those things clearly affect the motivation level they have to sell the home,” he says.
An agent you’ve carefully selected and can trust will keep your personal life private, and by knowing your reason for moving, he or she can better meet your needs. Joe Manausa of Joe Manausa Real Estate in Tallahassee, Florida, says full disclosure can also help prepare brokers for what they may face down the line. He gives the example of spouses left in the dark: “There are times we’ve been hired to sell a home, and after they sign the documents I get a call from one of them saying, ‘Hey, he doesn’t know it, but we’re getting divorced, and that’s why we’re selling.”
Overpricing your home. You’ve hired a professional to help you throughout the process, and it’s important to give the agent enough breathing room to be the pro, particularly when it comes to pricing. Starting the process with nonnegotiable expectations is a good way to get off on the wrong foot.
Manausa explains overpricing your home will often leave it on the market longer because the right buyers won’t see it. “People go online and the first thing they do is they shop by price range. If you’re overpriced, the people that do see your house [are] comparing it to nicer houses – they don’t want to see yours,” Manausa says.
Asking your friends what they think your home is worth. The only thing worse than coming up with your own unrealistic number could be having your friends come up with the number for you, especially when they’re not in the real estate business.
Ortiz says a friend’s pricing recommendation often show how kind the friend is, but has nothing to do with the actual value of the home. “They’re all your friends and they’ll tell you for the sake of telling you your house is worth $20 million [when] it’s only worth five dollars,” Ortiz says.
Rather than having the agent compete with other opinions, keep your friends’ kind valuations of your home to yourself.
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.