I was at my favorite coffee spot last week enjoying a cup when I overheard the following conversation behind me:
“I’m tired of renting, but I don’t even know where to begin with buying a home. Do I get a real estate agent?”
“I was just talking with my mom last night and she said real estate agents are a rip-off, since all the homes for sale are posted online anyway … well, that’s what she said.”
That’s what she said, huh? Regardless of who said it first, it’s clear that it’s time to dispel some of the most common agent myths floating around — once and for all.
Myth 1: All the houses for sale are posted online; there’s no need to work with a real estate agent
You’re forgetting about what I like to call the agent factor. Every neighborhood has a little soap-opera-level drama going on, and a well-connected agent knows her local market inside and out.
The Johnsons are having a new baby and want a bigger house, rumor has it that the Homans are moving to Arizona for more sun, and let’s not forget about the remodeled duplex on 10th Street, bound for foreclosure.
This is the kind of “locals only” insider knowledge that cannot be replaced. Also, let’s not forget the most glaring omission of this falsehood. Working with an agent is hardly just about finding a home.
Let’s be real: you need a ninja negotiator to represent you when the contracts are flying around. Closing dates, inspection items, and timelines — it’s never ending! Once negotiations are in the rearview, then it’s about facilitating the entire process, keeping the deal moving forward, and closing on time.
Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.
Myth 2: Agents will say anything to close the sale
Listen, it’s true there are some less than scrupulous agents out there who aren’t exactly shining stars of the real estate world. But it’s also completely unreasonable to broad-stroke an entire industry based on these agents alone.
Chances are, we all know someone who works full time or moonlights as agent — a friend, sister, or former co-worker. Can you imagine the people you know saying anything just to make a sale? No, me either.
Agents have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients and, legally, must represent them to the best of their ability. If they fail to do so, they are subject to fines and the loss of their license to sell real estate — in short, their livelihood!
Approach buying a home as the biggest purchase you will make; seek recommendations, read reviews online, and most of all educate yourself. Locate and work with a professional, responsible agent and reap the benefits of her representation.
Myth 3: Working directly with the listing agent is the easiest way to buy the house
Even though an agent has listed a house, it doesn’t mean working with him directly is the best route to go. Not only is it not the best, it also could be the worst.
Let me explain: the listing agent is representing the seller and has a fiduciary responsibility to that client. As a potential buyer, you could work directly with the listing agent, but wouldn’t you like to have your own representation, someone who has only your best interests in mind?
While it’s true that in most states it’s legal to have some form of dual agency, where one agent is representing both the buyer and seller, it’s also true that the waters are easily muddied.
Personally, if I were buying a home, I wouldn’t want to work directly with the agent who is also responsible for negotiating the highest price for the seller. (Sounds like a no-brainer to me.)
Bottom line? Find your own representation and put the relationship in writing so all parties are clear on who is representing whom.
Myth 4: A low-commission agent will save you some money
This line of absolute thinking is dangerous. Sure, it might save you money, but it could end up costing you as well.
If you want to go with a low-commission agent, it’s essential to establish upfront what services they will be providing. Services such as: Will your home be advertised for sale anywhere other than the MLS? Will the agent be making calls to their network and holding a broker’s open house?
Or will the agent simply employ the post-and-pray method — in which a sign is planted in the front yard, the listing posted on the MLS, and you pray someone buys it. (Don’t laugh, it’s an actual thing.)
What about contract negotiations: Will your agent fully represent your best interests and walk you through the tedious paperwork? Counter the buyer’s offers and strategize timelines?
Who knows, maybe you fancy yourself a savvy negotiator and you don’t feel you need a ninja agent. Maybe you’re in a blistering hot market and the post-and-pray is all you need.
But what if you aren’t? Selling a home is a big deal! Don’t get caught with your pants down. Work with an agent who is dedicated to helping you sell your home rather than one with a hands-off approach.
For even more debunking, sit down with a local real estate pro for coffee, do some research online, and ask your friends who just went through the process.
Have you encountered any agent myths in your real estate journey? Share in the comments below!