Is Your Real Estate Agent Legit? Watch Out For These Warning Signs

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By Thomas O'Shaughnessy Updated October 21, 2021


Real estate agents can be a real asset when you’re selling your home — but not if they’re not totally honest with you! Here are some common lies a bad agent may tell potential clients and ways to check up on them.

By and large, most real estate agents provide trustworthy and helpful service when selling your home. But, you may run across some that will do anything to get the sale — even if that means being less than honest with you about how much your home is worth or their experience. Here are some of the most common ways an agent may mislead a seller and how to know if your agent is legit.

Dishonest about listing price or home value

At one of your first meetings with a real estate agent, you’ll likely discuss the pricing of your home. A good agent will be candid about the fair market value of your home and base this value on good comps and research about the local market. They won’t sugar coat if your home needs certain repairs that may bring down the price, or if it may not sell for as much as you’d like it to.

On the other hand, an agent who is just trying to land you as a client — or buy the listing, as they say in the real estate world — may inflate how much your home is really worth. Once they get the listing, you’ll likely end up lowering the listing price because of a lack of buyer interest, or have to concede to lots of repairs and thus reduce your profit.

When interviewing agents, don’t go with the one that suggests the highest listing price. Review the agent’s comparative market analysis to make sure it’s accurate and use good judgement when pricing your home.

Lies about brokerage fees

Brokerage fees — or commissions — are how real estate agents get paid for providing their services. Some agents offer low commission. Others say they do, but they may not be comparing apples to apples or you might see other fees included to make up the difference.

When interviewing agents, don’t always go with the lowest cost. Consider what services you need to be successful in the sale, try to compare agents side-by-side for similar services and choose accordingly. Then, carefully review the commissions and fees to make sure there’s no fine print and you won’t be charged extra.

Lie about negotiable commissions

Many agents will tell you that commissions are non-negotiable, but it simply isn’t true. The average real estate commission that sellers will pay is 5–6% of the final selling price, but it’s not always this way. You may be able to negotiate the realtor fees down a bit, especially if you’re willing to forego some services.

Just know when negotiating that half the commission usually goes to the listing agent and half to the buyer’s agent, and it’s typical for a seller to pay for both agents. Again, this is negotiable, but if a seller refuses to pay a buyer’s agent, that could negatively impact the buyer pool.

Lies about experience or expertise

You may especially see this lie in inexperienced agents, as it can be tough to get started in real estate. But lying won’t serve them well in an industry where most clients are gained through word of mouth. To determine if they have the experience and expertise you’re looking for, check out their profile on Zillow or do an online search to get a good idea of sales volume. You can even call the local real estate association to see how long they’ve been selling and how many homes they’ve sold. If you’re willing to work with a newbie, you may be able to save on realtor fees. They may consider a reduced commission in exchange for your business and positive referral.

Lie about their network

Since a network can be an agent’s greatest asset, not having one built up yet can be an issue for a new agent and a reason they may lie about it. It’s best to choose a seller's agent or find a buyer's agent based on a recommendation from someone you know and who has had a good experience. But there are other ways to test their network. Most agents will have online profiles through Facebook or LinkedIn, and through them you can see how many connections they have. While this won’t provide the full picture of their network (since they may be connected with everyone through social media), it should give you a decent idea.

Lie about needing an agent to sell your home

It’s in an agent’s best interest (and good for their bank account!) for you to hire them. Thus, they may give you the impression that you have to use a full-price agent in order to sell your home. But you could use a discount real estate agent. Or, if you have the skills and time to do so, you could avoid paying a listing fee by selling your house without a realtor.

Of course, there are many good reasons to use an agent, including the fact that those who do generally sell faster and for a higher price.

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