Finding an honest real estate agent doesn’t have to feel like climbing Mount Everest – if you do your homework. From reality-defying resumes to half-hearted guarantees, these are our top tips to catching the real estate Pinocchio.
The liar’s language
If you’re a buyer, make sure the facts aren’t for sale as well. Commonplace listings jargon includes “BATVAI,” meaning “buyer’s agent to verify all information,” and “IDRBNG,” which means “information deemed reliable but not guaranteed.” In these cases, the onus is on you or your agent to confirm the accuracy of the listing information. Agents may also pad their sentences with qualifiers such as “To tell you the truth”, “To be honest” and “I swear to God.” If your agent is naturally a trustworthy person, do they really need the linguistic buffers?
For real estate agents, property sales put dinner on the table so it’s easy to see why they can be optimistic when it comes to sale price estimates. Whether you’re looking to buy or sell, check out other homes in the same neighborhood or get an appraisal by a third party to verify the selling agent’s prediction. But not all high prices are tall tales. If you feel like an agent is giving you an inflated price, put them on the spot to explain how and why they are so confident (there may be legitimate reasons!).
Spot the difference
Speaking of putting agents on the spot, take note of any hesitation and changes in body language when you probe for more details, especially when they proclaim to know a list of potential buyers for your property. Who are they? What are they looking for? How long have they been looking to buy? Put on your NYPD hat and if you’ve spent sufficient time with the agent beforehand, you should notice changes in speaking pace, mannerisms and fidgeting as well as exaggerated smiles or laughing if they’re stressed. Following these anxious exchanges, keep an eye out for a sigh of relief which can be seen in sudden relaxed body language and posture as well as a change in facial expression. This may suggest they just faked their way through their testimony on the stand.
You can handle the truth!
Ask for a copy of your agent’s production record. Request your agent print a copy from the MLS or you can ask another real estate agent to do it. You can find out about your agent’s number of sales, the price of sales and the properties’ locations. Within the industry it’s typical for ‘top sellers’ to sell one property each month or 12 a year. How does your agent stack up?
Is your agent relaxed about sharing more information about their previous clients or do they begrudge it as an inconvenience? Agencies scream and shout when it comes to testimonials on fliers and websites so double check they’re real. Check for full names and whether the agent is happy for you to call their clients as a reference – just like any other job interview.
Keep them honest and on it
Have the confidence to know the customer comes first. You have the power and their reputation is in your hands. Find ways to make it obvious that you could potentially spread the word to your network of either a very pleasant or damaging real estate experience. You could also name-drop people you know or even the names of their co-workers or supervisors that you’ve been in touch with to keep them on their toes.