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By Tara-Nicholle Nelson | Broker in San Francisco, CA

The 5 Most Expensive Ways Buyers & Sellers Sabotage Themselves

It’s easy to see the experience of buying or selling a home as an adversarial one: you vs. the people on the other side of the bargaining table, with one chess move by your opponent potentially costing you thousands of dollars.

In my experience, though, the average real estate consumer’s biggest potential enemy is him or herself. Buyers and sellers routinely take approaches, make moves and make omissions that cost themselves much more than anything the other side could ever do.

The first step of any cure is diagnosis. Here are some clues to detecting the costliest cases of real estate self-sabotage so you can stop them in their tracks, get out of your own way and get back to the business of buying or selling your home:

1.  Hesitating.  I’m a big proponent of buying or selling - making any real estate move, really - on whatever time frame makes sense for your life, your family and your finances, rather than trying to time the market. That said, once you’ve done the math, saved your pennies, prepped your property and otherwise decided to move forward on your home buying or selling plan of action, hesitation can cost you.  

  • Buyers who hesitate to make an offer can lose out on a home entirely - or can wait so long another offer comes in, forcing them to offer more to beat the other folks out.
  • Sellers who hesitate to take an offer can lose out on a buyer, when a new listing comes on the market that catches their eye or better meets their needs.
  • Mortgage borrowers who wait too long to lock their interest rates can end up paying more when rates creep up instead of down.

And here’s one more for buyers: hesitating to move forward after you get into contract can also cost you untold stress and deal complications if it snowballs into a situation where you run late removing contingencies - having to ask the seller repeatedly for extensions can cost you negotiation goodwill that you could otherwise have leveraged into repairs or closing cost credits.

I’d say 90% of hesitation is a result of fear, and fear most often arises when
  • we second-guess our life decisions connected to the real estate transaction,
  • we don’t understand or are intimidated by a subject, or
  • we feel powerless to make a wise decision because we don’t know our options all the factors we should be taking into account.

Accordingly, you can eliminate hesitation-related self-sabotage by:
  • working through the life and financial decisions that are intertwined with your real estate matters completely and on paper before you start the process, so you can revisit them if and when you’re tempted to hesitate

  • getting as educated as possible in advance about your local market dynamics and neighborhood home values, as well as the home buying or selling process in general, and
  • diving head first into the discomfort and uncertainty that everyone experiences when they make these major decisions, sitting down with your agent and other pros involved to get every question you have answered in a timely manner so you can move forward, rather than putting decisions off and “sleeping on it” night after night.

2.  Not taking expert advice.  Have you ever taken an indecisive friend out to dinner, watched them hem and haw over the menu, ask the server what their favorite dish is and then order something totally different than the server’s choice? That same phenomenon takes place every day in real estate. Many smart buyers and sellers invest much time and energy into agent-finding, asking around for referrals, checking agents out online, interviewing them and even calling around to check references, only to completely disregard their advice!

If you have a reputable, competent agent, you might be surprised at how often they can save you money with simple nuggets of experience-laden advice specific to a given scenario, like:
  • act fast
  • list it lower
  • offer less/more
  • counteroffer for more
  • be aggressive
  • take the bank’s terms
  • don’t buy that house
  • get one more inspection/bid
  • don’t remove contingencies yet/remove contingencies now
  • ask for X, Y or Z repair, price reduction, credit, free rent-back, furniture, or longer time to close.

Experienced, local agents have a strong sense for some of the precise things that are so tricky for a buyer or seller to wrap their heads around, like pricing and negotiations. You should definitely ask your agent for data and the logical rationale behind their advice, and should keep asking until you understand and are comfortable with the decision that you make (whether or not it agrees with their recommendations). By no means am I suggesting that you blindly take every piece of advice you are given by any agent, trusted or not.

That said, if you’re having a hard time getting satisfaction or making progress on your home buying or selling aims
and your typical reaction to advice from your agent is to reject it, at least consider that being more receptive to that advice might actually help you get out of your own way.  

And if you have a truly hard time trusting your agent’s advice for whatever reason, consider that you might simply not yet have found the right agent for you.

3.  Overpricing or lowballing.  It might run contrary to conventional wisdom, the idea that asking for more money or offering less can be acts of self-sabotage, but ignoring the damage that these acts can do to your real estate plans is unwise. In real estate, pricing is just more nuanced than that. It’s not the case that you can simply pick your price, ignoring the financial complexities involved and the psychologies of the folks on the other side, and expect for good things to magically happen.

Those nuances include these truths: setting a list-price that is significantly above what other, similar homes have recently sold for will not only not get you that price, it poses the potential to turn buyers off, keep them from coming to see your home, make your place sit on the market longer than it needs to and ultimately, it can result in low or no offers. At the extreme, overpricing can force you to cut the price, sometimes dramatically, to activate buyers who have learned to disregard the obviously overpriced listing in their online house hunt search results.

And buyers beware: making lowball offers significantly below the fair market value of target homes has a similar impact. Sellers ignore them or counter them up higher or they get beat out (often repeatedly) by more realistic buyers. I have seen the tendency to lowball cost buyers thousands over the months they are trying to get a fantasy-land deal, in terms of home price increases or money that same buyer ends up throwing at their eventual home, out of desperation and frustration.

Don’t let your emotions be the ruler of your pricing or offer decisions. Motivation is one factor to consider, but the data on recent, comparable sales should be given much more weight, to keep the threat of price-related self-sabotage in check.

4.  Cutting corners.  Getting a home ready for sale is a marathon endeavor, not a sprint - especially if you’ve been living there for a number of years. Same goes for working on your credit, savings and financial plans in advance of making your first buy: smart buyers-to-be start years in advance. So, it’s tempting to get near the end of your preparation action plan, lose patience and start cutting corners on staging, property preparation, even vetting your own financials and family wants and needs.

Don’t submit to temptation - well, don’t submit without the input of your agent and loan officer.  

Depending on your situation, there are some corners that might be okay to cut - the ones that will have very little impact on the eventual outcome of your real estate endeavors. But give the pros you ‘hired’ the opportunity to give you their input before you unilaterally skip steps on your original action plan. If you tell your agent you need to cut your property preparation budget down by a bit, they can help you decide where the corners you cut will have the least impact on your home’s overall presentation to buyers. If your loan officer says that paying a particular credit account down by $4,000 instead of $5,000 won’t really do too much to your qualification status, you might be fine kickstarting your house hunt a few months before you had planned to.

Unfortunately, it’s all too common to see homes where the sellers have poured cash into great, fundamental repairs and neglected some essential, inexpensive cosmetic items - or buyers who have fallen just a tad short on cash or credit and end up scrambling to boost one or both under pressure. Bring your professional team into the conversation before you cut any corners, and ask them to help you understand and minimize any consequences of cutting costs.

5.  Failing to read documents all the way through. Hundreds of your signatures will be requested and required during the process of buying or selling a home. But perhaps the single-most expensive way real estate consumers stab themselves in the back is by failing to read and understand nthe documents they are given - from contracts to disclosures to inspection reports and even closing/loan documents - all the way through.

Many a condo owner has been surprised to learn that they are being assessed a hefty special bill for common area repairs, when that “surprise” was predictable from a few of the hundred pages of HOA disclosures they received before closing escrow. Seller disclosures can be cryptic and boring, but also often contain red flags to guide buyers and their inspectors to the real areas of concern. (Their guiding power is nil if you don’t read them, though.)

And the same goes for sellers - your agent should read and help you understand offer(s), buyer’s inspection reports and requests for repairs or credits, estimated closing statements and everything else, but ultimately you are responsible for reading and understanding all of these influential, binding documents before you sign them.  

So read them. And don’t be afraid to ask questions or insist on clarifications and corrections, if indicated. If you were quoted a certain interest rate or monthly payment, make sure that matches up to what you see in your closing docs - or that you understand and accept the reasons why it doesn’t, before you sign. This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at the major lender-borrower disputes and buyer-seller legal dramas that have arisen over the years because of errors in loan or closing documents that could have been detected and resolved simply, easily and inexpensively before closing.  Don’t be one of them.

ALL: How have you sabotaged yourself - or seen others do the same
- in the process of buying or selling a home?

All: You should follow
Trulia and Tara on Facebook! 


By Mario Lozano,  Wed Nov 14 2012, 15:54
Great Blog Post!

Mario Lozano
Harvest Realty II
By Icarus,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 09:59
sometimes it's not the buyer or seller's faults. Sometimes the realtors and/or Mortgage Broker are deficient in the common sense and critical thinking department and they blow the deal.
By Clark,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 10:21
I'm surprised you didn't mention how the realtor can sabotage the deal. My experience with realtors is that they are simply showing a house and really not trying to sell it. Unless they are the listing agent, they tend to agree with the buyer and not offer solutions to any objections. As sellers, we know we need to stage our homes as best we can. However, the group-think among realtors is that all buyers want move in ready homes. The real truth is that I have yet to meet a buyer that didn't do some work ( painting, carpet cleaning, tearing down a wall ) on the houses they buy. The realtors seem unprepared, or unwilling to make logical, reasonable suggestions to the concerns of the buyers. Realtors are always asking sellers to do more work or lower the price no matter what the competition is doing. Let's put it this way: If I have the best house, at the best price in the marketplace, then why would I need a realtor. The best realtors I have met know how to "sell" a house. They are not just tour guides.
By Ann Hye,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 10:22
Very helpful advice, especially for first time home buyers.
By Helen Oliveri,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 10:49
Great tips, Tara.
By Jeffrey Simon,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 10:54
Reading all the documents is important, even if it means the notary handling the close of the sale sits with you for hours... Even today, buyers are not given all the documents until the very end; this practice should be ended and buyers should have 3 days to review all documents, including the loan package.
By Susan Risbon,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 10:59
Clark - spot on! It takes more than the MLS to sell a home. I asked for but never received a marketing plan for my home. I had to ask for an open house which the agent declined to do, no brokers open, no farming, what followup was being done and how were objections handled. Maybe the association of realtors should look into making it harder to be a licensed realtor and ensure that demonstrated Selling techniques are a requirement. One bio I read actually stated that they "moonlight" as an agent. Why would I hire someone who moonlights?
By mklimek70,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 11:02
Great advice, I'm actually starting my first home search and have wonderred about a lot of this. Thank you.
By Mike Nicholas,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 11:35
Any seller who ignores a lowball offer is passing on a free chance to sell their home, even if it's a small chance. Counteroffers are free and easy - at least give it a shot.
By Joshua Miller,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 11:35
Great advice. I'm going to share it.
By Diane,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 11:36
Thanks for all the advice! I am in the process of searching for a house in upstate, NY, and it is not an easy task. There is so much to consider, but I agree with Clark about Seller's Agent's so the best way to go is with a Buyer's Agent if you are purchasing a house. I guess that you should put on your thinking cap, but do not wait too long, go with your gut feeling, if it feels right, purchase the house!
By Paul Lore,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 11:38
be in the market,lowering your asking price is the key for selling your home.you may think that it is worth more,but to be real about the price is the key to selling.three bedrooms is more attractive than two and is probably worth 25k more. it took me two yrs to find this out.
By Clark,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 11:42
It's not only that Susan, when I list a house for sale the realtor is required to provide feedback after the showing. This is a form letter that should address the deficiencies. What I usually get is a one sentence ( sometimes two word ) response: Like " too big " or "didn't like the neighborhood" or "needs work". This is useless to me. If the house is too big or the buyer doesn't like the neighborhood, then why is the agent showing them the house in the first place. This speaks to the realtors qualification process of the buyer and understanding what the buyer is really looking for. To me, it is in the realtors best interest to provide me as many details as possible to make the house more sell-able. They sell houses faster and make more money and I get my home sold. I've been in sales all of my life ( not real-estate ) and have taken many courses on how to overcome objections. I agree that maybe some realtors need to take these courses too.
By Jeanne Palumbo,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 11:46
Excellent information!
By kellieetal,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 11:50
When we bought our house, the SELLER'S agent was almost totally ignorant of anything regarding the property beyond the paint color or basic features we could have seen for ourselves. She had to call and ask the seller the answer to our EVERY question. Finally, we (and OUR agent) were disgusted and refused to work with her. We insisted she call the seller over to the home to give us a tour himself so HE could (since he was the builder as well) answer husband's construction/boundary questions. The seller was TICKED OFF! Though he did answer our questions, in retrospectively GREASY fashion, we were appalled to hear him YELL out his drive-side window as he drove away, TO OUR agent, "Well I did YOUR job for you!" I was so angry at this on her behalf, that I almost refused to even consider buying his house--the nerve of him to think that OUR agent should be acting in any way on HIS behalf, when infact it was HIS agent who was USELESS! Incidentally, we still see her name/picture up on for sale signs around town, and NOT surprisingly, these houses take forever to sell. --gee, I wonder why?!
By Fred Fahrberger,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 11:54
Great commentary and all the information in the world is only of value if the buyer or seller are fully informed and understand all the paperwork involved in the process of buying or selling.
By Melonie Dappie,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 11:57
I would also add that when buying a house, if you are getting the home inspected, do your homework on the inspector. We learned the hard way that some inspectors don't do any better of a job than you could have done yourself. A bad inspector can overlook pertinent issues a home has that could cost you thousands. Been there, done that.
By Chip Decker,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 12:12
Clark, in all fairness, as an agent, buyers do not always know what they want until they start looking. They know a few things but they also discover things in the touring process. Also a house may not have seemed "too big" online but then felt more so once inside. I understand its frustrating not to get good feedback though. Take care!
By Maja Butler,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 12:17
I can only speak for myself, but as a realtor and consumer, if I'm not happy with a product or service, I refuse to settle, and will keep on looking until I find and get what I want. First, do your homework, so you know what questions to ask, expect, and demand if need be. Next, find the person or product that is going to give you what you want and/or work with you. Set and communicate your expectations, goals, and budget immediately, whether you are buying or selling. Yes, there are plenty of realtors out there. Your job is to find one that is passionate, dedicated and will give you exactly what you want and deserve. They are out there!
By Ric Mills,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 12:23
Really great advise. It still amazes me when clients totally disregard our advise and list properties too high or won't make the necessary changes to make it sell.
By Mom,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 12:25
We ae currently trying to buy a home in Kingman, AZ..... but it seems there are sooo many "what if's" that happen along the way! And as some one said before, sometimes its hard to get pertinent info from realtors, such as on FHA or Hud homes because the original owners are long gone ! Be Careful!!
By Clark,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 12:33
Chip. I agree that many buyers don't know exactly what they want until they start looking. But as a realtor I would ask three simple questions: Where, what and how. Where do you want to live. What are you looking for in a home. And how much can you afford to spend. There is no sense in showing a Cadillac when the buyer can only afford - or only really wants - an Escort. The days of wanting a Cadillac at an Escort price are over. If you show a buyer 30-40-50 houses and they haven't bought, IMO you are not doing your job. Sure, there are professional "lookers", but after 3 or 4 showings you should know exactly what the buyer expectation is and provide the houses for them to choose from. Otherwise, you're wasting your, his and my time.
By Lea Ann Dorsett,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 12:33
As a 23 year veteran in the industry selling homes and land in Texas, I am quite disheartened to read the comments here from buyers and sellers unhappy with your experience with an agent. I wish the types of people you describe didn't exist in my profession, but unfortunately, they do. I share the same unfortunate and frustrating experience when I encounter an agent who doesn't care to do their fair share of the work involved in getting a property sold or simply aren't knowledgeable enough to bring anything to the table. On the other side of it, I have had the pleasure of working with many very professional and hard-working individuals and it sure makes a difference in the overall transaction for the buying and selling client and everyone involved. I agree that there is much, MUCH more to selling a property than simply opening the door and walking around, or as a listing agent to place a sign in the yard and throw the listing on MLS. It is important for REALTORS to strive to be experts and to stay informed of current market events & inventory so that we are well-suited to assist our clients, meet their needs and exceed their expectations. I encourage you to ask for a referral from someone you trust and interview the agent to make sure they will meet your expectations as a buyer or seller. That in itself will go a long way in weeding out the "moonlighters", which none of us wish to encounter during such an important event in our life. Don't give up on using a professional to assist you! The right person can and should be an invaluable asset to you! Again, interview agents, ask the hard questions! Make them step up their game!! :)
I wish all of you a better experience, whether this is your first real estate endeavor or your 100th!

Lea Ann Dorsett-Dye
Texas Land Group
By Sharon Stover,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 12:44
I'm currently in the process of buying a home, had the inspection, and va appraisal, just to find out now that the seller didn't disclose to us the house had a fire in 07. That explains the new roof, garage, and complete main level remodel including siding. Problem is the house has two below grade levels with no real inspection access, ie. No crawl space or attic access or views into wires or plumbing. Very frustrated right now and don't want to lose my money.
By Lynne Hannifan, GRI, SRES,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 12:48
Great article!
By F1fan44,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 13:04
Consider this...When you drop the price of your home it cost you the full amount! It only cost the realtor 3% to 6%. Let say the realtor asks you lower your asking price a mere $10,000. Hmmm...that costs you the full amount but it only costs him or her $300.00 or at best $600.00. Quite a difference. A friend of mine actually raised the asking price on his home by $50,000 after his realtor suggested dropping it a mere $20,000.The asking price was $620.000 so lowering the asking price to $600,000 did not seem to extreme until he did the math. He ended up selling the home for $670,000 and pocketed an additional $50,000. This may not be an average scenario but before lowering the price for a "quick sale" look at who is taking the "hit".

I for one use a "flat fee" realtor who, for $200.00, will list your home and post your pictures on the MLS for the entire planet to see, including local realtors. You do have to take care of negotiating the price and handling the paperwork. However, for an additional fee, the same "flat fee" realtor will also handle the paperwork for you. In addition, local realtors who have come across your listing on the internet will call and offer their services. At that point you can negotiate their fee.

I hire a real estate attorney to peruse the paper work and scrutinize any buyer's offer. He charges me $500.00 for his time and I am assured that the paperwork is in order. This not for everyone, but it does work for me. It is not that difficult to sell your home using a "flat fee" agent and an attorney. Escrow will also help you with the myriads of disclosures that are very common in most states. It is well worth my time. I saved over $18,000 from the sale of our last home. Just an idea for those who like to save a buck or..................................!
By F1fan44,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 13:07
As an aside, there are a lot of "flat fee" realtors on the web...
By Arnold,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 13:21
Clark you are right on the money about everything. After being through two sales and a purchase in the last 14 months I can attest to your points. After being through a myriad of agents it seems they all have the same traits. They come across as lazy tour guides. In fact I think many people become realtors because they are not competent to do anything else.
Including my past three transactions and two more in my life, four out of the five transactions were concluded by me as both the buyer and seller. In every case I did the transaction I did better (sale and purchase price) than the best result the realtor was able to present.
I think with all the technology available buyers and sellers have a great deal of information at hand. Realtors that only conduct tours and neglect follow up, negotiating artfully and fail to educate themselves on properties and areas are systemic and amplify what is wrong with the housing market.
I guess they will either have to learn to work harder and smarter or go the way of the dinosaur.
By pammylbear,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 13:31
I agree with Jeffrey Simon. The docs we sign at closing are all standard. why shouldn't we get to see them, with the caveat that the numbers will change at closing? We've always perused any documents we put our signature to and have taught our kids to do the same. And if there is a big blank space we put a line through it and sign that line. That way no one can add stuff later above our signature.
By Regina Todd,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 13:33
I totally agree that all closing documents should be delivered to the buyer and seller three days before closing. This mad dash to the finish line is a recipe for being taken advantage of...buyer and seller, beware.
By Trinity Valero,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 13:38
I agree with Chip. As a Realtor, I know firsthand that clients change their criteria several times throughout the buying process. If a buyer is adamant about viewing a certain home that might seem "too big", it is my duty to show them that home. I have never had a client start with a certain criteria, and stick with it. Once the viewings begin, they start to develop a better sense of what their ideal home would be, and it is my job to help them attain it and provide as much knowledge about the process as possible every step of the way.
By Corosco,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 13:50
I have to agree with many comments regarding realtors. I just got through terminating my listing with my agent. I am searching for another agent as I type. I went with the agent that sold my house in a suburbn neighborhood to sell my rural property. Although he claimed to know the rural market, I did a better job of market analysis then he did. All he wanted to do was lower our price all the time, but he didn't entertain lowering his commission. His idea of marketing our property was to list it on the MLS, Trulia, and Zillow. I asked if he had a network of agents to market our property through and he didn't answer. He would send me a Market Analysis through SABOR, and this program didn't even consider the fact I have over 30 acres with the house. It based the price per sqft on the property taxed at the residential rate. Needless to say, I didn't put much credence into the SABOR report. I agree with ACHASE, Realtors today have to learn how to market a property otherwise they'll be out of a job.
By Dan Struble,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 14:09
In my opinion there are just way to many agents that only want to be the listing agent, by that I mean list it and wait for someone else to sell it. these people are happy just to make 1 percent and call it good. This leaves alot of hard work for the buyers agent, they get bad information from the listing agent, or none at all. 99% of the time its the buyers agents first time through the house too. I have been on both sides of the fence, buying and selling and I always wondered how you could possibly sell something youve never seen before, but they are out there! they are the ones that act impressed when they walk through and get you going. thats what sells a house.
By Lex6021,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 14:20
Sold a house nailing the sign into the front yard. Still had to pay the realtor.
By heylee,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 14:28
The proper noun REALTOR should always be capitalized. ·Never use the term REALTOR® or REALTORS® in lieu of the phrase "real estate broker," "real estate agent," "real estate salesperson" or in groups or classes of words which describe vocations or professions. Not all real estate sales people are REALTORS.

By Kaykrueger,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 14:33
I have been trying to sell my home )Mobile Home) for going on three years. Not getting anywhere.
One Realtor I had brought some people thru and they stood right in front of me and told me how much they loved my home. What did the Realtor do instead of trying to get a bid from them. they took them to other homes and told them she could get them a better deal. My friends and family can't believe that my home as not old yet, and I blame it on the REALTORS
By Gamillan4ever,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 14:37
You don't need a broker when selling your house. Rule number 1, clean and paint the house. REMOVE ALL THE CLUTTER, it makes a house look smaller. Make the house spell good. Hide the dog, and the all the kids toys. Remove all the tacky souveniers and excessive pictures off the wall. Hire your own appraiser, and go on Zillow.com and REALESTATEABC.COM and PropertyShark.com. These 3 sited will provide basically what your house is worth, then increase the price by 15%, gives the buyer the concept that he was getting below the asking price. IT ALWAYS WORKE FOR ME. Finally by the same size sign the realtors place on your property to generate traffic and interest, the numbe is 1-800-373-5330. YOU'RE WELOME
By Wol,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 15:08
Don't leave your biggest personal financial decision (most likely) in the hands of a realtor! A 6% commission is pure and simple GREED!!! In the UK a typical estate agent charges 1.5-2% commission and they work harder for the money. If you are the type of person that does not want to leave money on the table then use a flat fee realtor to list your property on the MLS as F1fan44 suggested above.
By Janet Butler,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 15:08
I have a problem depending on Zillow to confirm the value of a home. We live in a rural area where some homes are nice, some aren't so nice. Ours happens to be very well-built, clean, and attractive but is only 1500 sq feet (3b/2bath) so Zillow values it at $110K (on 2/3 acre). Our neighbor is on a like 2/3 acre lot with a 2000 sq foot house and it's a total wreck -- leaks, was built by someone who used windows and plumbing from other sources, rooms have been added on here and there (one was even built over the septic tank) --- it's ugly, overgrown and needs a total overhaul inside. But it's valued at $135K because it is taxed on the sq feet. So Zillow may give you a base price plus/minus accuracy -- but please don't turn down making an offer on a house because Zillow has it valued at less than what the seller of said house may be asking.
By Nancy Demarkis,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 15:57
Clark and others with same thought process - I AGREE. I want someone to SELL my home but mostly if you notice the nuance in their speech, they use the word SHOW a lot. This is telling. Yes, I agree that first you need to have people SEE the house but liking my home and not being able to afford it, or the neighborhood or other objections is not helping anyone. Agents need to do more buyer homework and when I finally get finishing repairing and redecorating and sprucing up in two months I will be actively interviewing agents who demonstrate good selling skills not just those trying to get a listing. The profession in some areas is out of control. Actually we could see the bright side of this housing crisis - it probably allowed the market to divest itself of casual agents and those less dedicated. At least I'm hoping so. Also, one of my pet peeves is this "lower your price" stuff where you take the hit and they take just a small reduction on commission. Or, overpricing to start with "to build in the commission" so you realize the same money. That practice is what gets us into housing escalation in the first place. How about "lower your commission" a bit so everyone gets a fair shot.
By Arnold,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 15:59
A real estate agent is just someone who went to law school and failed the bar exam. Low life liars trying to make a quick buck with as little effort as possible. Some moonlight because they have other skills. Full time real estate agents are too inept to do anything else. Maybe I am going overboard, but is this no different than Tara's article targeting buyers and sellers while completely overlooking the plethora of real estate agents that are dolts that perform no value added function.
By Arnold,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 16:02
Great comment, Nancy.
By M,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 16:13
I suspect some of the realtors are fronting for investor groups. I have not been able to bring myself to put any effort into finding a house to buy for more than a month now because I don't understand an offer I was tricked into making. I began to suspect fraud and don't know who to trust.
A realtor let me think I could buy a house for about $4,000 less than an offer the listing agent already had. With in minutes of filling out the offer at the real estate office the listing agent informed me of the other offer. The buying agent works for the same agency the listing agent does. I should have known better. But other realtors didn't return my phone calls and at last I thought somebody might sell me a house. I think they used me to make an offer so they could bully a buyer into going ahead with a purchase he might not have been sure of. A way of letting him know he can't get the price any lower. It reminded me of something out of a mafia movie. There was about five or more people in a room looking at me like they thought I was stupid for making such a low offer. Then later that day or was it the next day? I got this weird phone call from an agent of a different agency.
I think some realtors are just putting the properties on the MLS and pretending to market them and then after several months go by, send in their investor buddies to practically steal the property by offering to buy it for thousands of dollars less than fair market value.
Also, who is stealing the plumbing, furnaces, house siding? I think the majority of it is inside jobs. Why would an investor want to buy a home that needs hundreds of dollars worth of new plumbing? A new furnace, a new this a new that? come on what is going on? I bet the investor who ends up buying it, has his contractor go in there and remove anything of value and then when he "buys" the property from the distressed seller sneaks and put all the original stuff back in. How come so many houses are not selling and getting torn down when their insides are gutted by thieves but others get sold?
By Dustin Lema,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 16:21
Call me a negative nellie, but most of Tara's articles are pablum. For example:
1. Hesitating - you're not buying fast enough for the realtor.
2. Not taking expert advice - you're not listening to the realtor telling you to lower your price
3. Overpricing or lowballing - see # 2
4. Cutting corners - you're not doing the realtor's job...sometimes this might be legitimate though
5. Failing to read documents all the way through - If you hire a realtor, they should be protecting you with the standard documents. Again, the realtor not doing their job especially on simple engagements.

See the pattern here? Blame the seller/buyer.....NEVER blame the realtor. Get it?
By Joyce Nall,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 17:40
How can you fire a Realtor? Mine (Don Lee Realty Evansville and Newburgh, IN ) says "I have you sign for one year and you cannot get out of your contract for anything!:" I am paying monthly maintenance for a year on my condo that he has not even brought me one offer. I have showed it myself to two people who want it but I have to wait until the Realtors one year is up to sell it. ???? What can I do? 270=639-5314
By stiehl.dale,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 18:01
after my contract with realtor is done, I'm going to contact we buy houses, then maybe I can get some results, as far as I'm concerned realtors are a thing of the pass, dinosaurs in the space era
By Cindy Bell,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 18:03
Excellent, realistic advice. Communication is the key in any real estate relationship. Everyone has a pertinent part to play. Simple, but true...
By bacataru,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 18:06
Tara!!Tara!! What are you saying?
Sellers Want to sell. Buyers Want to buy. very simple no?!?
real estate company hire dummy(tour guide,sales people,ect..)they call them realtors.In a good market cycle a house sell itself (but we dummy give charity to "realtor") in a bad cycle market that when we need a profesional sale persons they call them "realtors" with the market saturated with idiots is very difficult finding the right sales person"realtor" ,due to real estate company competing for $$ by saturating internet,airwaves,newspapers,magazines,ect..So instead of blaming sellers&buyers blame the idiots,lazy,scamers,easy money makers & B@LL S%ters so called "REALTORS" so TARA reprint your article by giving apologies BUYERS &SELLERS &BLAMING so called "REALTORS"thats where the fault is according to the response of your article. JOJO**
By Jennifer,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 18:37
I recently went to an open house and knew more than the agent. Not a good way to impress potential buyer.
By Heather C Martinez,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 18:41
Tara Great article, fools really do rush in & cutting corners can really become costly! I think listening to expert advice and making educated decisions is very important as well as taking initiative to sell a home properly! I hope this article will help all those who are presently contemplating buying and/ or selling. Thank you, I will definitely share it!
By Dad,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 18:52
In real estate, the loyalty of the agents is to the deal, not the buyer or the seller. So their natural tendency is to do whatever it takes to move the deal along, not what is in the interests of the principals. There is no such thing as a buyer's agent, in my opinion.

I have been frustrated because the first agent I listed our house with basically showed me the comps and then asked me to set the price, which turned out to be a little too high. Comps are hard to evaluate because none is exactly like the house you are selling. She agreed with it and then later we lowered it.

As a buyer, you asked to make one of the biggest investments in your life based on two or three visits and an inspection report. If the house is in an area you don't know, you can't really evaluate the fairness of the price. If you try to use $/sq ft or the appraisal, the realtor will have ten reasons why neither one reflects the real value of this house. You are expected to take on faith their opinion of what the seller will accept.

I disagree with the advice to act quickly, for a buyer. There will always be more houses for sale, maybe some nicer and a better deal than the one you are interested in. You lose nothing by waiting and looking at a lot of houses, even in an overheated market, because if you wait you may avoid paying too much or getting sucked into a bidding war. For the seller, quick response to an offer is important, but it is not as urgent as agents would have you believe.

My best advice is, do everything you can to pay off your mortgage or pay cash for a house you can afford. It takes a lot of pressure off when you can't sell it when you want.
By Cindy Lee,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 19:03
A great article especially for first time homebuyers. I am a Renovation only lender so understand about the ability of the realtor to sell the home with some vision of what the home could be. In my market the realtors I work with are professional and ethical or I don't work with them. A professional realtor who cares about the buyer or seller and LISTENS to their goals is vital. Realtors should be paid for their expertise. It may look like a large amount on the HUD, but in reality the realtor has often spend hundreds of hours, miles, gasoline and marketing. That said, if you are having a bad experience as a seller or buyer move on! There are times when For Sale By Owner works but for the most part my experiences have been negative. Just a lender perspective....
By Gail Coplin,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 19:09
I had an agent; another realtor showed the property to someone who wanted it; I never got the offer. Instead, I got a low offer from my agent's client. The first realtor, mad that his client's offer hadn't been given to me, sent it certified to me directly. After a minor bit of civilized negotiating, I ended up with $40,000.00 more. You need to be aware that you might have offers that weren't even PRESENTED to you! Next time, I'm using the buyer's agent! Yes, I know I could have pursued the matter, but there is so much of this going on and I wanted to get on with my life. Agents represent themselves, and themselves only. Don't forget that.
By William Locascio,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 19:42
Clark, you are right on in a number of issues. more times then not there is little if any feedback , most is useless information. additionally, I have had Real-tors pass along contract offers that obviously they hadn't even looked over . In a number of cases I discovered clauses that would have me,the seller, reduce the sales price to conform with particular guaranteeing requirements. I have had little success in finding Real-estate "sales" people. .Know your product,Know your audience,Know when to be quiet and when to attempt a " trial close". There is more to "selling" then showing (throwing )inventory against the wall and waiting to see what sticks.
By Eileen Alps,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 19:55
How timely! We sabotaged ourselves by choosing the wrong people to work with -we are pretty unhappy w/ our "team". They had over a month to prepare our documents, which we submitted in a timely fashion TWICE, but here we are getting emails at 5:00 P.M. asking for employment verification (I'm a teacher -my school closed at 3! And my husband is self-employed -wth?!), and just guess when our closing is...yep, tomorrow morning.
By Eileen Alps,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 19:55
How timely! We sabotaged ourselves by choosing the wrong people to work with -we are pretty unhappy w/ our "team". They had over a month to prepare our documents, which we submitted in a timely fashion TWICE, but here we are getting emails at 5:00 P.M. asking for employment verification (I'm a teacher -my school closed at 3! And my husband is self-employed -wth?!), and just guess when our closing is...yep, tomorrow morning.
By Sunita Trehan,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 20:13
Gail Coplin: You are right, Agents represent themselves, and themselves only.
I listed my properties with L&F agent. First she put the property at much lower sales price than neighborhood properties sold for then she didn't even put the sign on the property for six months. i reminded her several times and her explaination was that her company's policy dictates that seller has to show the place where sign has to go! i have two vacant lots and no utilities are going through the front and I explained it to her. She asked me to go to both locations myself and put a flag, then her sign installers will do the job. She did not want to go and see the property whether it exist. I tried to withdraw the listings, she told me that I can not withdraw them. I was a Realtor in 70s and I knew my rights and I know marketing the properties. Long and Foster lost several sales because I own more than 14 properties. Due to my age and health I am reducing my inventory slowly. I tried to contact her manager but did not get good results. BTW my properties are located in Montgomery County, MD.
By Sunita Trehan,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 20:24
I have two houses and one lot (in city limits) in zip code 20850 to sell. You can see one of the houses on Zillow under make me move section or send an email @ iamabeachwalker2@gmail.com
By Meghan Goodman,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 21:08
Gail! If that is really true, that the agent did not present you with an offer, then you should pursue it! I'm not sure what state you are in, but agents are required to submit all offers as soon as possible. That means even if you are out of the country, they should make every effort to get that offer to you. That agent should lose their license for an error like that.
Furthermore, you have to remember that everything is negotiable. If you don't want to pay 6% (which is split with the buyer's agent), negotiate it down. If you only want to list for three months, make sure that is in the listing contract. Get the marketing plan in writing, and check up on your listing. You can usually break a contract as well. Most agents won't pursue a breach of contract because it creates bad blood in the community.
Real Estate brokers have strict rules of conduct, and at any time you feel like they have been derelict in their duty, you can contact their designated broker. If that doesn't work, contact the Department of Licensing and report them.
Ultimately though, it is your duty to interview and hire someone you trust and respect. Ask your friends and family for referrals. Interview them the way you would a nanny or personal chef. This is someone who is going to be involved in one of the biggest financial transactions of your life. They work for YOU, and you have to screen your agent the way you would an employee.
I give my clients the standard forms several days before I will be asking them to sign anything. This way they can review them at their own pace, think about the questions that inevitably arise, and then we can go through the questions until they are very comfortable with the process.
There are agents out there who want to get you a great house at a great price, you just need to look!
By M,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 21:42
In this video a lady talks about how her home sat on the market for 5 or 6 months while her agent seemed to do nothing to try sell it.


If link don't work you can go to youtube and search for Consumer Spotlight :Seller, Short Sale
By Marika400,  Thu Nov 15 2012, 23:16
I got hooked on the show "Selling New York" on HGTV. Too bad more real estate agents aren't like the ones on the show...they went to great lengths to know what buyers AND the sellers wanted. So when I saw a house online that I was very interested in, I emailed the listing agent. Twice. A week after the second email, she did respond, repeating the same exact information that was in the online ad, word for word. At the end, she wrote, "What more do you want to know?" So I told her.The next day, I saw the house was sold on Trulia.
I was pretty sure that if the price of the house was more in line of those New York properties, she'd have come in a limo to take me to see it.
My point is that regardless of all the information available to buyers and sellers,it's not doing much good when these kinds of agents seem to be the norm,not the exception. Most first time buyers don't even know what questions to ask or what to look for until it's too late. That's the whole point of having an agent. Not just an agent you can trust, because you don't know when you first meet,no matter how many you interview, who you can or can't trust. It must be an agent that is already trustworthy. This is a character trait, not a sales pitch.
By Lginn,  Fri Nov 16 2012, 04:09
A little sympathy for first time home buyers and those downsizing, please (which I did this past year). It takes some looking to figure out what you want or need. I started out dead set I needed a three bedroom condo in a particular complex, leased a three bedroom unit for a year (no choice on length of time) a few blocks away in another complex. After two months I realized I needed only a two bedroom place and also confirmed I loved living in a condo; for the first time in 53 years of home ownership I no longer care what day the garbage men come! So on paper one may start out with a list of Must Have's but once the real looking process starts honing will be done. And young first time buyers probably have some dreamy idea of want/need. The realtor must have patience during this time period, it is part of the job.
By Julie Schaefer,  Fri Nov 16 2012, 04:58
I am a realtor and I have to say these posts really concern me. I work so hard to provide exceptional service to my clients. I could not live with myself if my clients felt I was not working on behalf of their best interests. Do I have all the answers -no - but you bet I will do the research to find out. As anything in life there are good and bad and I am sorry that so many have had bad experiences.
By Krisdriessen,  Fri Nov 16 2012, 05:31
I live in a neighborhood where there are three houses for sale, that have been for sale for over a year. I know the problems with two of them, but the third is quite nice! I talked to the owner and he told me that the listing agent never actually tried to SELL the house. She did list it in MLS, which got it n Zillow and Trulia. She put a sign out front. She held one open house. She advertised once in a local paper. That was it! When he went in to the office to talk to her about more how she might put more effort into selling the house, another real estate agent butted into the conversation stating that the type of advertising he was asking for was expensive and since they would only make $15K commission on the house, they wouldn't do it. As far as that agency was concerned, they got it on the Internet, that should be good enough. Not surprisingly, the house is now off the market. No one gets that $15K.
By Julie Rosenthal,  Fri Nov 16 2012, 06:43
Hi, thank you Tara for your well written, informative and humorous newsletter. I always smile and nod "yes" in agreement as I read your work! I look forward to all your newsletters!
By Annette Reynolds,  Fri Nov 16 2012, 06:52
Great overview!
By Edward.mistick,  Fri Nov 16 2012, 07:02
Relator has a big play in this.The average consumer relies on the person to come to the table with knowledge and share openly their thoughts on the home (buying or selling). Our relator listed our house at a price over the market. We had a good amount of traffic, but no offers. Then 4 months into the selling she says, "Your's is the highest priced house in the area." Just as if it were our fault. We took her advice on the price. We lowered it and within 3 months we had several offers and sold. She cost us several months of anxiety which we didn not need.
By Mary Ann Varner,  Fri Nov 16 2012, 07:36
Thanks Tara. So much value in asking your "professional team's" opinion. The buyer / seller does not have to be ruled by the agent's opinion, but will make a more informed decision if they are better informed by their Realtor.
By Donald James,  Fri Nov 16 2012, 08:19
Great article. This should be a mandatory read for all buyers and sellers!
By peter-dantonio,  Fri Nov 16 2012, 09:06
Good article. I am about to fire my buyers agent. The beach house we are looking at is bank owned, listed as a 5 bedroom and is listed as a multi family (2 units). Talking with the building inspector, I found out that the house is actually zoned as a single family and the apartment with two br's was illegal! The realtor made a big deal about how reasonable the price was and the income available from the lower unit.I'm glad I found out before signing a deal.
By SBoring515,  Fri Nov 16 2012, 09:24
Don't believe what the title report says! Title insurance doesn't cover fraud as you may be surprised to learn, so, if the property doesn't belong to the seller in the first place and they sell it to you, you're screwed! At this point, I'm trying to figure out what the heck they do cover? Oh, gee, forgot...I've been screwed before and didn't know it....Enron,Eron, you name it.
By M,  Fri Nov 16 2012, 14:42
I thought a buyer's agent was suppose to be like a match maker pairing people who want to sell with people who want to buy. I am do disappointed to realized that the next time there is a home I want to buy, I may have to find out who the property owner is and inform the owner that I put in an offer. I might even have to contact the home owner before I even look at it which I don't want to do because I might not want to buy it and I don't want to get their hopes up but I have tried to do business with about 5 agencies already. I would try for sale by owner but in the neighborhood I hope to buy in, there are no for sale by owners in my price range. It looks like I have to do all the work myself and who is going to protect me from fraud?
By Lidia Brannon,  Sat Nov 17 2012, 08:39
Realtors need to be knowledgeable about the cost of renovations when they are showing properties. In my experience, realtors will grossly underestimate the costs of renovations to make a sale. I have probably built and purchased more properties than my realtors have and rely on my own instincts to make purchases. I don't get the feeling that they are as concerned of matching buyer to property, as they are of just making the sale. It is, after all, their source of income.
By LA Rosen,  Sat Nov 17 2012, 11:13
Dad, you start with some good advice about perspective on the brokers -- they represent the deal. That's true, so the buyer and seller must both be informed and looking out for their own interests. But, your closing advice on paying full price in cash, or paying off your mortgage, is not realistic for the vast majority of buyers and, actually, not good money management for anyone who pays any income tax. As long as mortgage interest and closing costs can be written off on your taxes, and especially with mortgage interest rates so historically low, this is the best time to invest in property ownership with a long-term mortgage. (There will come a time, within a matter of two or more years, that rates start creeping back up and today's low-rate mortgage will become one of your wisest investments ever. You can take that "cash" you have on hand from carrying a mortgage and invest it in safe municipal bonds (this interest is also tax deductible), even a bond paying the same rate and realize pure profit. That is called leverage and it's how wealth is created.) But ALWAYS maintain at least 20-25% equity in your home. If the real estate debacle taught us nothing it's that real estate prices fluctuate and always have.

The home-buying process is like any business: you will find both qualified and unqualified practicioners. The best thing a buyer can do to give them maximum leverage in the negotiating process is to pre-qualify for a mortgage; this will show a seller you can close on the deal and get to it faster than another buyer might. Have a real estate lawyer review your closing documents because the real estate agents really do represent the deal, not you. (When you interview lawyers let them know your estimated closing date to be sure they will be available to attend the closing or receive the documents by fax/email for immediate review. Set a flat fee for the service, as some have taken to charing $500 an hour and I've found few, if any, that bring any more value than a $250 an hour lawyer.)

The best thing a seller can do is to have an inspection done prior to even listing their property. They can discuss with their listing agent which repairs cited are essential to do for the sale of the house.

And both buyers and sellers should go into this knowing that buyers -- even more experienced ones, sometimes -- are pre-occupied by cosmetics. Buyers should focus more on the fundamentals of the house -- the heating and cooling systems, their age and cost; the condition of the roof and its maintenance history; plumbing (is there lead solder on those pre-1980 pipes?); electrical -- are there signs of cheap and dirty fixes that could prove dangerous; are there signs of water leaks from roof, windows, pipes (they can be insideous)? Pay no attention whatsoever (except that it might help you negotiate the price down) to superficial things like paint, carpet, cabinets which can inexpensively and far more easily be changed.

Sellers must listen to the best agents and stagers (read some articles, then you'll know if the listing agent you are interviewing is offering you the best advice!). You needn't go crazy, just make it look like a pleasant, liveable space. It is always valuable to spruce up the look of the property and front entrance -- a few new plants, some weed whacking, and new door hardware can make an amazing impression; remove clutter from the house and even from closets and other storage spaces (this may include removing some excess furniture); remove personal items and photos -- you can't imagine how distracting they are during the walk-throughs. It's just human nature that people start looking at your stuff... when they should be imagining their own stuff in the space. Often you may be told to change paint colors to neutral, but many a house has sold because of its lovely custom-decorated look from a good paint job. Get honest opinions from uninvolved parties (that is, no one in your family or on your payroll who needs to be polite about things) about what they like or dislike on a walk-through of your house. Do not become defensive at their comments or they will start editing their frank opinions. Just nod and say, "That's good to know. I may change that. Thanks for your input." If more than one person cites the same thing, it might need changing.

As other commentors here have pointed out, you can negotiate the commission with your listing (and your selling) agent but recognize that (as was also pointed out) good agents put a lot of time and effort into marketing a property. Do you want to create a disincentive for them to focus their energies on yours? Good agents earn those commissions. Think of the hundreds of homes/buyers shown that may have resulted in no sale. Think of the newspaper ads (and know that the exact type of marketing should be in the contract you sign which should have an out-clause if they fail to fulfill their end); time spent staging, staffing, and running open houses (there should be one for agents and another for the public). I spoke with two agents who offer a declining commission; that is, full commission if a qualified offer is brought within first 30 days, and 1/4 point lowered each month it languishes on the market. Sign a 3 month contract so your not locked in long term with an agent who does not produce results; but follow their advice on staging and pricing so they are able to do their job. I've found the best time to negotiate down a commission is after an offer has been made. If it's below the asking price then you give a little, the broker(s) give a little and the sale happens, to the benefit of all.

Setting the right price is so important -- if you low-ball it, you lose money you can never recover. If you list too high, and the house sits on the market too long or has to be dropped too precipitously later, it becomes "toxic", that is, it appears to be in distress. Look at comparable sales, knowing that houses are probably not identical, but it shows a trend, Look at recent sales reports that show listing price, sale price, time on market. If a house sold extremely fast, it may have been priced on the low side. (Or just gotten lucky and met the right match on the first date.) If a house sold at a higher price, but was on the market a very long time, it was probably priced too high (or had a defect that was finally corrected, or found a buyer who would overlook it). Keep in mind that most buyers go all-in financially to make the sale happen and, for a while at least, are "house poor" (no extra cash) after the sale. So if there are immediate repairs or important renovations that will be needed, you can perform those ahead of time or negotiate performing them into the sale price. (Do you have a dated wall-papered room -- offer to remove and paint it to the buyer's choice of colors as part of the sale. Same with kitchen cabinets, an appliance or flooring that clearly need to be replaced.) Don't get emotional about the process of who will be living there and how they will appreciate modifications you made to suit your own tastes. Keep focused that this is a business transaction.

Check your Zillow and Trulia listings, which you can update and modify yourself. Take excellent interior and exterior photos and load them to these sites. Provide a copy of them to your listing agent, who should be taking their own photos. For pricier houses, your agent should offer to make a 360-degree video for on-line walk-throughs. Visit other listings to see how the marketing impresses you.

Certainly many agents from anywhere in the country can list a property. But a local agent knows your market and can have a more hands-on approach. Be clear about your expectations and their promises and get them all in writing in the contract.

My hard-earned wisdom came from the trenches (gleaned from personal experience; a few years' professional experience in the residential mortgage business and commercial real estate; friends who are brokers; friends with buying and selling experiences, both good and bad; watching Home Shopping Channel and reading many articles). I think the article that launched this community of comments provide good food for thought and a valuable perspective. And virtually every comment has added to the collective wisdom on this complex (but managable) process.
By Iqbal.sunderji,  Sat Nov 17 2012, 14:23
Tara , i am interested in investing to buy good property furbished recently , with good yields and potential appreciation in value , in good are with middle class residential , and put it on rent to be managed as i am in kenya
my email is iqbal.sunderji@gmail.com
By Clark,  Sat Nov 17 2012, 15:18
LA - you make some good points, but what about the agent? I'm paying an agent $12,000 ( or
more ) to sell a $200,000 home. What am I getting for my money? All the suggestion you made are ones that the realtor makes, usually in our first meeting. That takes about an hour. Then they take pictures and post on the mls - about another hour. If the listing agent is lucky enough to sell the home after 5 or 6 showings ( usually 20-30 minutes per showing ) then that realtor has made $12,000 for 5 hours work - or over $2,000 per hour. If the listing agent does not sell the home, they still make $6,000 ( or $1200 per hour ) for even less work. Not bad work if you can get it.

I expect an agent to actually WORK to make the sale. I expect them to market the heck out of the property ( ads in local papers, social media and contacting other agents ), figure out ways to increase the number of showings, contact any showing agent and get detailed feedback from the buyer, hold agent open houses to explain the qualities of the house to other agents, remain in constant contact with me to advise on any competitive homes coming on the market, or explain to me why a competitive home sold, but mine didn't. And this effort needs to continue throughout the entire contract period - not just the first month or two.

Lidia (above) makes an extremely good point about renovations. I looked at two identical homes - on the same street - built in the 50's ( probably built by the same builder ) and both with an asking price of $175,000. It was obvious to me that one of the homes had major updates ( roof, siding, windows, electrical - at least $30 - 40K in reno ) but my agent liked the other house because it was staged and freshly painted on the interior. She said the staged house without updates looked " move in ready ". Since you never buy the staging, and I can paint the entire interior of a house in two weeks or less, the updated house was the far better deal. The agent just couldn't see, didn't understand, didn't care or couldn't explain to me how structural updates ( roof, siding, windows ) can impact the price of a house.

My best advice is to thoroughly interview your agent. Ask for the marketing plan in writing. Ask for as short a contract as possible ( they will always resign the agreement ). Ask around about your agent and ask how many houses they have sold in your immediate area. I agree that the curb appeal, cleanliness and spruce up are my responsibility - but I'm paying the agent, so I expect their best effort.
By Pat and Steve Pribisko,  Sun Nov 18 2012, 09:25
Tara, an excellent blog, as always. Our Northeast OH market currently has a shortage of inventory, which is affecting the buying decisions of our Buyers. Generally, our Buyers are waiting until that near perfect home comes on the market. Then, the multiple offer process begins.
By Y,  Sun Nov 18 2012, 15:13
My experience with several houses is that when a buyer it is easier to find an agent who will align with your goals. when a seller, an agent really works for themselves. They want a quick sell. Seller drop in price, even below what they have recommended, and buyer to go up. They live in the present and ignore basic supply and demand economics and near term forecasts. I have sold 2 homes on my own for more than a selling agent thought I could get.
By DeeDee Riley,  Sun Nov 18 2012, 22:04
Excellent advice, Tara!!!
By Mark Acantilado,  Tue Nov 20 2012, 02:03
I can say that the #5 was the most common problems that buyers tend to forget at all. We can also say that it is either fault. Some buyers do not take time to read and understand well documents presented to them, while some agents tend to forget to hand out their clients the important legal documents that they need for them to fully be able to hand out information to buyers in the buying process.
By Rhonda Petitte-Carsten,  Tue Nov 20 2012, 06:25
In response to Mr. Clark. As a Realtor, I let buyers choose their own house. I do not sell the house. They have to do their own work to narrow the search to their needs. Buyers are spoiled rotten now and yes, they want move in ready. When the market turns into a sellers market, you can have your hay day, but until then, just be patient and lower your price if you do not wish to update.
By Clark,  Tue Nov 20 2012, 08:27
Rhonda: Your comments are symptomatic of the problem with many real estate agents. "I let buyers choose their own house. I do not sell the house. They have to do their own work to narrow the search to their needs. Buyers are spoiled rotten...".

Why on earth would I ever hire you as my agent. As both a buyer and a seller, my expectation is the same. I expect you to actually work on my transaction! I give you the "what, where and how" ( see above ) and I expect you to find me the house that fits my needs. If you're saying that all I need to do is read the MLS and the newspapers, then why would I ever hire a buyers agent? Based on the info I provide you, if the house is too big or too small or costs to much or is in a bad location, why would you show it. You may make a sale, but you potentially lose your reputation and future business - of that buyer and the buyers friends - if the buyer winds up unsatisfied. At the very least, you are wasting all of our time. I am also relying on your expertise to tell me what the fixes are, approx. how much they will cost and your opinion of the potential growth of my investment.

As a seller, I have the same, if not greater expectations. If you are just acting as a tour guide and not actively selling my home by overcoming objections, helping the buyer see the potential, making recommendations and providing approx. costs of changes based on buyers expectations, and guiding them through financing and closing options, then I should probably just sell the home myself. I see through your bio that you are a part-time agent. Frankly, maybe you just don't have the time. And that's fine as long as your buyers/sellers know that in advance.

Please remember that I am paying you thousands of dollars - either through a percentage of the sale or through the final price of the home - and I like to think I'm getting something for my hard earned money.
By Susan W Scruggs,  Tue Nov 20 2012, 11:11
I can't figure out why a realtor would show a house, knowing the homebuyer can't afford the house or is looking for something with more sf. I have my townhome on the market right now. It's been on the market since June with no bites. It was built in 2007. I bought it new and have lived in it with my mother. There is simply no damage. We keep everything clean. It has been stagged. My finance infomration is excellent. I don't know what the problem is. My realtor is very well known.
By Gisemonde Saint-fort,  Tue Nov 20 2012, 11:34
I really appreciate the level of detail and information you provide in your articles; it really encourages and helps first time buyers like my husband and I. Thank you very much.
By bluewickedburner,  Tue Nov 20 2012, 12:53
A now common sales tactic that almost negates typical home buying/selling perspectives?

Houses going to market with low ball asking prices with the intent that it will generate multiple offers. Remember, the seller doesn't have to accept any offer (should be considered fraud if asking and other conditions are met unless there are higher offers).

In the SF Bay area, sellers are asking $100,000 less than reasonable value and let the bidding wars start. If they don't like the offers, even if they meet asking and cash, they simply don't accept.

In reality, houses in the market aren't offered for sale, they are all auctions with an undisclosed reserve. Of course no one will admit to that since the laws and regulations regarding auctions would come into play and what an upset that would be. But ask yourself, just what is it when someone offers something for sale, does not disclose the acceptable price or lists a price that isn't acceptable? In any other business it would be called fraud. Only in real estate can this selling scenario not be called an auction and even if all conditions advertised me, can the seller simply say no.

In any other business, you would be sued ten different ways from Sunday and probably face criminal charges.

Lets not get into deadlines for offers where offers are accepted after the deadline. If a deadline to accept an offer is made public, accepting offers past that date/time should likewise, be considered fraud. In effect, some buyers must offer under an artificially generated deadline while certain others need only wait, then ascertain how many offers there are an adjust accordingly. How do they know what to offer? Hmmmm.
By Barb Mihalik,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 10:46
It sounds like there are some unhappy buyers and sellers responding to Tara's post. It's a shame a few bad apples spoil it for us honorable, trustworthy REALTORs. I pride myself on being a full time, highly educated sales professional and an area expert in communities I service. It's my obligation to my clients to be as knowledgeable about market values, sales trends, financing, legalities, etc as possible. It's my duty to present ALL offers to my clients, not just the ones I feel like presenting. I don't always have the answers but I will always do my very best to get them. I genuinely want to help clients get what THEY want. Most of the professional agents I work with are most concerned with satisfying the needs of the client and will put the client first. When a professional REALTOR puts the interests of their clients first, the paycheck will ultimately follow. Many of us work extremely hard and are caring and decent people. It's disheartening to see stories from buyers and sellers like the ones listed in this post . For those of you who've had a bad experience with a real estate person, please don't assume we're all greedy, lazy, worthless and in it just for the commission. I went into this profession because I sincerely want to help people and to make them happy, whether they're buying or selling. That's my reward. Helping a seller out of a distressed situation or handing the keys to a first time home-buyer is unbelievably gratifying. The paycheck is secondary. Yes, I need to eat and have a roof over my head, and I make no apologies for that. Many of us work very hard and put in long, odd hours. The entire commission is often split many ways and then we get to pay Uncle Sam afterwards. There are a lot of expenses involved when you're an independent contractor. Most of us earn a lot less than what's perceived. But still, many of us practice real estate because we love it. Yes, buying or selling a home is an extremely important and emotional decision that calls for an educated, honest and experienced professional. I am held to a high standard by my own personal set of values, but also, as a REALTOR, I must adhere to their code of ethics. Yes, I'm sure there are some bad agents out there, but many of us are decent, trustworthy people providing a valuable service. I hope those of you who need good counsel will carefully interview your next agent. A good agent will thoughtfully listen, answer your questions, address your concerns and develop a plan to help you get to your goal. Great post, Tara.
By Tara-Nicholle Nelson,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 18:14
Hi, all - this blog is designed for buyers and sellers, to help them understand and change the things that are in their control and to engage the entire community to surface additional, helpful material, so that's what we dealt with here.

That's not to say at all that there aren't many, many other reasons and people who have roles in causing problems in transactions, beyond what's listed here - including agents, at times.

That said, these self-sabotage items are very, very common AND they are 100% controllable by you, as a buyer or seller. So they are a worthwhile area of focus. Will definitely plan to work more material on finding, selecting and managing your agent - as well as detecting issues and resolving problems with them - into upcoming posts.
By Elizabeth Sagarminaga,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 04:42
I agree with all words written above, it's very important to buyers and sellers to go through all the documents. Most of them suffers only due to lack of proper information. So thanks for this great blog.
By Manuel Ramirez,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 23:49
Thanks alot for sharing such wonderful tips with us! I really liked your second point where you discussed about consulting with an expert before buying or selling a home. I believe getting advice from an expert can be of great help which we often tend to overlook.
By Michelle Schinke,  Sat Nov 24 2012, 08:56
Amen! Very true.
By Thropint,  Sun Nov 25 2012, 15:33
1 1/2 Years ago I made an offer on a property. The agent called me the next day and told me it was declined. I uped the offer on the phone and within an hour she called back and said it to was declined. I then asked what it would take to seal the deal and she indicated asking price, no less The agent was very snippy with me and acted like I was bothering her with my offers. Refused any and all of my terms and insisted the property was worth way more and she didnt know if my money was good.. My offers were cash and I told her she could call my banker or check me out any way she wanted. She still declined. She also never offered to put anything in writing. The land was being advertized as a potential new development at an outragous price and I ws trying to buy it as the farm land it was. Yes my offers were a little lower than market value, but im not spending for my health. I spend to make money.
Fast foward 1 1/2 years. We bought the property from the bank in forclosure, for half of my original offer to the real estate agent. I ran into the previous owner a few weeks after we closed on the property and ask him why he didnt take or at least counter my offer. He said he never knew about it. They had apparently ask several times why the land wasnt moving and the agent kept telling them to hold out for her asking price.
The agent was holding out offers to try to gain a huge comission from a developer which never happened. She lost a big comission and the previouse owners lost there credit , another house that was tied to there mortage and most likely the ability to ever buy a home agian.There now staying with friends since they basically have nothing left and trying to find a lawyer to persue charges.
A couple weeks ago I listed one of my rental houses FSBO. I have had two realtors call me wanting to list it but after talking to both and telling them I was open to trade for open land or another rental closer to me that that wasnt possable, they would only list them for cash sales only. Apparently they wont make as much commision. I recieved and accepted a offer today for a trade and cash equal to my asking price, with profit in my pocket.
Ive honestly yet to see what agents are good for except to manipulate the markets. Ive bought and sold over 35 properties (bought most to keep) and have done it all with a little common sence and a good real estate lawyer. I have never paid a comission to a agent and from my last few experiences ill continue on my own.
By bluewickedburner,  Tue Nov 27 2012, 12:37
There is always another house. 100% guaranteed. It is always far better to lose a good house than buy a bad one. That is true 100% of the time. A bad home purchase has the potential to ruin your life and a healthy dose of fear is a good thing.

One of the biggest problems in this industry is trusting the ethics of others to work in your best interest. It might seem cynical but anyone making money off you can't work in your best interest, the act and result are incompatible with each other. Unless a real estate agent (or "Realtor") is a true philanthropist, they are always aware and guided by their bottom line. There is nothing wrong with that so long as you the buyer or seller remember that and always use it as a filter for what you are being told, by anyone.

An agent telling someone they are offering too much? About as rare as a pink hippo dancing the limbo.

You know what drives home price increases the most? Real estate agent commissions. How? You buy a house for $300,000. When you go to sell, you lowest possible threshold to sell is 318,000 if all you have to pay is commissions. Think about that, you haven't made a penny yet the house sells for $18,000 more than you paid for it. All that money went to a couple of people who spent on average, less than 10 hours of accumulated total time actually performing work to accomplish that sale. Do the math.

The real estate industry is broken and the only thing important now is how to extract value out of a house sale transaction; money going to neither buyer nor seller.

So what sabotages the typical home sale? The middle men (gender neutral) that prevent buyer and seller from candid, open and honest negotiations. If, as it is commonly stated, both seller and buyer agents are paid by the seller, how can anyone actually believe that in all that, someone is actually advocating for the buyer? When inequalities in a negotiation exist, transactions fall through easier.

Please, if it means either buyer or seller is going to lose out on a few thousand dollars, will the saints in the room please stand up to explain how many times that amount in commission suddenly doesn't become more important? Besides, the way things are geared to work, neither buyer nor seller ever know everything said since the middle men are passing information. You would be amazed what the typical buyer hears and what the typical seller hears and how that compares to what was actually said.
By Cj,  Wed Nov 28 2012, 11:58
helpful tips. Thanks!
By Arnold,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 16:43
Most Realtors are uneducated creeps that end up in this industry by default. If this "profession" is ever going to clean up their reputation they must osticize and discredit those that do inadequate work. More importantly their superiors need to be tougher on the unworthy, dishonest, lazy and easily distracted agents. Perhaps, tougher licensing guidelines and periodic evaluation and license renewal procedures need to be implemented. If your competitor is doing a poor job it does not hurt only your competitor it hurts the industry and their reputation as a whole.
By Fred Van Allen,  Fri Nov 30 2012, 09:00
Knowledge is power...thanks for the tips.
By J,  Mon Dec 3 2012, 10:50
There is no doubt that tougher guidelines and periodic evaluation and license renewal procedures should be implemented. The down turn in the real estate market has weeded out many self proclaimed "experts" in the field entering real estate thinking it was a glamorous and easy way to make big bucks regardless of experience. I never viewed real estate as a way to make quick or big bucks but an opportunity to help those avoid the potential housing train wreck while keeping real estate as an investment through the downfall.

I entered real estate armed with a financial and educated background that could be used as a tool to assist others with individual short and long term housing goals that would coincide with their current income and include potential loss of income at some future date. All of these clients are currently doing well and have not experienced loosing their homes because of job setbacks or loss of income. My approach as an agent/broker appears to be unconventional by most RE standards and fallen on many deaf ears. I remain a needle in a haystack, or should I say a needle located on the side of a mountain, LOL.

Six years later, very little has changed in the field of real estate and the mentality remains the same. As expected, much of the general public is excluding agents from their real estate endeavors. There are obvious and profound flaws in the RE industry that would be better served by revamping the system. After interviewing seven RE companies the focus was obtaining listings and meeting interval sale goals. With the current structure of these companies I can understand the pitch and the stress felt by agents to produce. I've experienced the joy of working with some other professionals similar to myself who get it and work to the greater good of the public.

Until the core issues of the general public are addressed and accepted across the board, agents/brokers may be phased out altogether. Should I stay or should I go? That is yet to be determined. Thanks for the opportunity to give my opinion, I HEAR ya!!
By Cami Reed,  Mon Jan 7 2013, 07:49
Their are alot of great points made here! As a realtor I am always looking to empower myself and in turn help my clients! Thanks
By New Home Sales Counselor,  Tue Oct 21 2014, 15:53
I find that realtors, even the most experienced, sabotage the "new home" sale by inputting "objections" CONSTANTLY. I shake my head wondering why they object to something the buyer clearly did not object to. Realtors are great partners in new home sales, however sadly I see them sabotaging a sale based off things that weren't buyer objections until the realtor made it one. Power lines, lot size, placement of fixtures or room size...what really matters is following the sales funnel, and leading the buyer to a favorable outcome. ( we are BOTH commission based, so join me in nixing your personal objects and let the buyer say what THEY feel....and remember, a pregnant pause is GOOD, if the realtor pipes up a comment first after the new home sales counselor has asked a "summary close question" he/ or she is a brilliant realtor to allow the BUYER to respond 1st, and thoroughly.
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