The relationship between real estate agents and the clients they represent is based on trust. Most professionals honor that obligation, but agents are only human.
“While the vast majority of Realtors operate with integrity and prioritize the best interests of their clients, it is important to acknowledge that there may be a small subset of individuals who engage in unethical practices,” said Mike Qiu, owner of Good as Sold Homebuyers in Seattle. “These Realtors might intentionally keep sellers and buyers in the dark about certain aspects of a property or the market to manipulate them into making decisions that may not be in their best interest.”
Whether you’re selling or buying a home, here are some signs that it might be time to call a new agent.
Real estate agents spend their days assessing the value of homes. They know a lot about properties, and the good ones can spot hidden flaws that buyers might miss and share that information with their clients. But for others, the temptation to close the deal at all costs can be too much to resist.
“One common tactic employed by unscrupulous Realtors is to withhold information about significant property defects or issues,” said Qiu. “By concealing such problems, they can create an illusion of a more desirable property and potentially justify a higher asking price. This can lead buyers to make uninformed decisions and end up with unexpected expenses or repairs after the purchase.”
Good Realtors tell buyers when they’re competing against many other interested parties for a hot property so they can act swiftly and bid accordingly. The not-so-good ones sometimes give that impression regardless of if it’s true.
“Some Realtors may exaggerate the demand for a property or downplay alternative options available to buyers,” said Qiu. “By creating a sense of urgency or scarcity, they hope to pressure buyers into making quick decisions without thoroughly considering their options or conducting proper due diligence. This can result in buyers paying inflated prices or settling for a property that may not fully meet their needs.”
Listing Agents Misrepresenting the Number of Offers
Just as buying agents can overstate the demand for a property to the buyers they represent, so can listing agents working for the seller.
“When multiple offers come in, the listing agent will almost always ask for each potential buyer to make one final highest and best offer so that they can be presented to the seller,” said Braden Chandler, licensed broker and owner of L&L Property Solutions. “Because the listing agent can’t share the details of the offers with other agents, buyers are often guessing at what would make their offer the strongest. But here’s where it can get tricky and allow a listing agent to get more money for their client. The listing agent doesn’t have to share how many offers there are, and if they’re even strong offers to begin with. You might only have two offers, with one being very weak and the other being strong. Since the strong offer won’t know what they’re competing against, they might raise their purchase price well beyond what was necessary.”
It is not illegal or unethical for an agent to represent both the buyer and the seller in most states, but they must disclose their status as dual agents and, in most cases, receive written consent from both parties. However, not all always do.
“Some real estate agents may not readily disclose they are representing both the buyer and seller in a transaction,” said Joel Efosa, CEO of Fire Cash Buyers. “This can lead to conflicts of interest, as they may not be able to fully advocate for either party’s best interest.”
Agents don’t get paid until the deal is done — and they sometimes transfer that pressure to their clients to speed up the process, even if they might benefit from more time to consider their choices.
“Agents often push for a quick close, but this may not be in the best interest of the buyer or seller,” said Efosa. “A quick close can sometimes mean less time for due diligence, inspections and negotiating the best price.”
Good agents lay out the entire financial picture for their clients so they can budget and prepare for the true costs of the property they’re considering. Those willing to cut corners might worry that financial facts could scare the buyer off and spoil the deal.
“The costs of buying or selling a home extend beyond the price tag,” said Efosa. “Agents may downplay or even omit mentioning closing costs, home inspection fees or potential repair costs to make a deal seem more attractive.”
Finally, beware of agents who spoon-feed you only the showings they want you to consider.
“Real estate agents are not required to show all available properties in the area or on the market,” said Sarah Momsen, CTO of Jit Home Buyers. “This means that buyers may be deprived of seeing some of the best homes for sale if their agent is not prioritizing them.”
When this happens, it’s usually because the agent stands to make more money from the properties they push while keeping quiet about lower-priced alternatives.
“Agents may only show properties where they stand to make a higher commission, instead of properties that best suit the client’s requirements and budget,” said Efosa.
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