Realtors - Hardball Tactics and Lies

Asked by Tkoppler, 18974 Thu Jan 17, 2008

We visited the open house of another home on the market scope the competition. Ask realtor the square footage of the house. She says 3500 sq ft.

I know for a fact from the home model and public records that it's really less than 2700 sq ft.

I say "are you sure?", realtor shuffles some papers together and pretends to read something, then says "oh, sorry I was wrong. It's a bit over 3000 sq ft." Complete lie.

Then rattles off competing homes and downsides about each community - article about traffic problem here, knows person with mold in basement there. Very aggressive attacks, nothing discriminating, but outward attacks. This realtor plays for blood and seems willing to tear down the world to sell her listing.

I'm not sure if I should be angry or hire her to sell my home.

My question is 1. What other hardball tactics have you seen realtors use and 2. As a competitor to her listing, how should I react?

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Deborah Madey, Agent, Brick, NJ
Thu Jan 17, 2008
I find your recount troublesome and hope that other buyers do not report similar experiences.

Realtors have an obligation to represent the facts to the best of their ability. I believe a tactic of attacking the competition makes a poor representation of the agent on duty. That dominos to a negative perception for the seller.

I am not sure what you mean when you ask about other hardball tactics. I believe it is far more effective to provide a buyer an overview of the property, then engage in conversation about how the property fits their needs. I find it more effective to allow the buyer to share their input, and when the buyer mentions something that this property has, explore that further.

As a competitive listing, outshine your competition. Have better and stronger marketing, more visibility and right pricing. That will produce buyers looking at your property.
5 votes
CJ Brasiel, Agent, San Jose, CA
Thu Jan 17, 2008
T -

I think the two biggest errors agents make are in stating the square footage and the school assignement. Sometimes, it is simply that we have many listings in our head and have been showing many homes and we get our facts confused like Patti mentioned. Sometimes it is the words of a bad agent.

I make a note card for each property that I show so I don't have to "shuffle through the papers". On that card I have the sq footage, schools, permits, dates of major remodeling, etc..

As Deborah mentioned, we have a fiduciary duty to represent the home in the most truthful way. Any agent that lies about a home normally does their seller (and themselves) more harm than good because a complicated transaction causes more stress and sometimes falls through. Since we are in the business of selling homes and not just holding open houses, there is no reason to misrepresent the facts.

In regards to your second question, it is my opinion whenever an agent "pushes" the negatives on a home or area too much, it backfires. Sure there are folks out there that will take every word as gospel but it my experience that most respond the way you did. I have been in sales for over 20 years and it always comes back on you if you sell in a negative mode. As a mentor told me, "If you are spending time pointing out the negatives on your competition, you are wasting valuable face time not selling the greatness of your product." I don't like the negative sales pitch and I absolutely value the time I have in front of every potential client.

4 votes
Alan May, Agent, Evanston, IL
Thu Jan 17, 2008
I would not be in any hurry to hire her, with her "scorched earth" philosophy. As you learned, she can never tell who she's talking to, and who she may be offending, and as a seller, in my opinion, you don't want any part of that.
4 votes
Deborah Madey, Agent, Brick, NJ
Thu Jan 17, 2008
Hi Tkoppler,

We all appreciate the TU! :-)

There is a video that a NYC Realtor had made about the inaccuracies of square footage. I will try to locate it an post a link. I have not seen it, but want to. I have only heard about it....and with great praise.

Good for CJ that her measures matched the tax records! :-)

I have seen appraiser's measures vary from the tax record. :-(

Since you believe the representation of the sq footage was with intent to mislead, I would suggest that you phone the broker (manager) of the office for which the agent works. At the same time, feel free to express your concerns about the negative seeding.

I agree w/ CJ about the fact that more often I encounter agents who are unable to answer the questions I ask and find that to be a frustration. I have not found it to be common that a listing agent would cast the doubts as you indicate. More often, as a complaint, I have heard sellers complain that an open house host quickly shifted gears and began talking about another property that might fit the need of the open house visitor instead of focusing on the seller's house. When an agent holds an open house for a seller, the first line of duty is to that seller. But, agents will engage in discussions on alternate properties if it is clearly established that the open house doesn't fit.

With condos, agents may point out that one view or location within a complex is better.

I don't find it common for agents to seed negatively about the competition in the hopes of promoting their own lisitng. A buyer agent will pass on any known info to their client about a property, whether that info is positive, negative or neutral. Once you are my buyer client, I am working on behalf of your best interests, with a fiduciary obligation.
3 votes
Patti Pereyra, , Chicago, IL
Thu Jan 17, 2008

Were you testing her? I'm curious as to why you just didn't tell her that you knew it to be 2700 sq ft and where you got the info from? I recently held an open house where a man asked me about the high school. I told him the name, and he thought for a moment, and said, "Are you sure? I thought it was..." I got confused for a second, and I quickly looked it up on my laptop, and sure enough, it was what he said. I was grateful to him for the correction! Thank goodness he didn't walk away thinking, "Wow, she is such a liar -- trying to sell me this house by stating the more desirable school!"

Public records, FYI, don't always accurately state sq. footage, so be sure that the info you have is current.

How should you react? The way you react, of course.

As for hardball tactics, I take them with a grain of salt. I think most consumers are smart enough to know what is hot wind and what's real. After all, didn't you?
3 votes
CJ Brasiel, Agent, San Jose, CA
Thu Jan 17, 2008

Thanks for the bonus thumb!

The square footage issue comes up a lot here on Trulia. After reading several threads on how people were upset about a 35 sq ft difference, I went out and got one of those laser measures and started checking my listings against the tax record. I was happy to see they were pretty spot on. Sometimes remodeling or additions can change the record and the tax record some how doesn't quite get updated. From a tax standpoint this is an advantage to the owner/buyer. 300 sq ft is not that much room but enough to raise an eyebrow especially when the agent started off at 3500.

If I were you, or your Realtor, I would call this agent up and in a very nice way say, " I was by your open house the other day and you quoted the square footage as... and that seems to be a little off. Can you tell me where you got that number from?" (Here in California we have to indicate where we got the number from - seller or tax record) If the number came from the seller, I would probably suggest she check the tax record and adding, "I assume you don't mean to mislead any potential buyer...."

With that said, many time buyers walk into a house that states a certain sq footage and compare to another one of the same sq footage and think one is smaller or larger. Floor plan can masquerade the actual sq footage or place a spotlight on it.

I try to advise my buyers not to get to hung up on the actual sq footage number and look more at the layout. I also comp bad floor plans less than a good floor plan when comparing the same sq footage.

It is not my experience to see the hard ball tactics you are referring to. Most of the time I get more frustrated with the agent that knows nothing about the listing.

1 vote
Tkoppler, , 18974
Thu Jan 17, 2008
Thanks for the perspective. My square footage number is correct on that home, I know the model and the public records are correct. I was not testing her with my question but I did want to see how they were selling this home. This was not an innocent mistake, it was a bold lie.

So this realtor has a fiduciary duty to represent the home in the most truthful way, but they are now doing so. Should I and my realtor just ignore it? When I see a realtor ignore their fiduciary duty, especially in a way that may effect my interests, is the best choice really just to turn away? What would you advise your client to do, how would you react?

The attacks were not presented negatively, instead, more of in a "let me help you with this information so you don't make a mistake in your decision" way. Just tidbits that came out in conversation, but they were strategic, pointed, and would have the effect of seeding doubt.

Realtors are fighting over a very tiny handful of buyers, in this slow market a lie or scare tactic that steers a buyer away from my home can cost months.

Is this really the only examples you've ever heard of these types of tactics being used?

P.S. I just figured out what you meant by phantom TD so I will phantom TU everyone for fun.
1 vote
CJ Brasiel, Agent, San Jose, CA
Thu Jan 17, 2008
Deborah...I keeping looking over my shoulder for Tman.... : )
1 vote
Deborah Madey, Agent, Brick, NJ
Thu Jan 17, 2008
CJ....very well stated....seems all posters are in agreement, and I seem to be the attention of a phantom TD poster today.
1 vote
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