Top Myths About Real Estate Agents

Real estate agent showing house to a couple
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Plenty of well-meaning websites espouse all kinds of myths about real estate agents. While there's always an exception to the rule, let's debunk these ill-informed myths one at a time.

Real Estate Agents Are Always Late for Appointments

False. There is no excuse for habitual tardiness among professionals. Every person deserves respect, and respect is earned by providing what is promised, and being on time. If your agent has a self-deluded impression of their own importance, find another. Clients who listen to agents' excuses allow tardiness to happen. Don't let a few bad apples give the entire industry a perception it doesn't deserve.

The More You Pay for a House, the More an Agent Makes

False. Ever hear a friend say this? "Every dime more you pay for that house makes the agent more money, so don't trust that agent." That's a misunderstanding. The difference between $300,000 and $310,000 is about $150 to an agent. Do you really think the agent pays any attention to the commission difference of a $10,000 spread?

The Less Commission You Pay, the More You Make

False. Discount brokers like to propel this myth. They claim to save sellers money by charging less. The truth is: agents who are top producers and excel in this business do not discount services, because it is not necessary.

Less-than-full-service agents can't afford all the marketing bells and whistles paid for by full-service agents, who tend to draw higher offers. You get what you pay for. A 2% commission reduction doesn't amount to much when your price is discounted 10% or more because your agent couldn't afford full-market exposure.

Agents Must Show You Homes On Demand

False. Unless you have a signed contract with an agent or that agent represents the seller, the agent doesn't have to show you anything. You can't call a local real estate office and demand service, or demand to be shown homes. Agents don't work for free.

If you aren't planning on writing an offer with the agent you call, be upfront or don't waste that agent's time. But don't expect that agent—who is likely to earn nothing— to be too excited about jumping in the car with you. That agent is not obligated to show you anything.

Nor is the listing agent obligated to show you a listing if you are represented by another Realtor—without a request from that Realtor.

Agents Get Kickbacks from Lenders / Title / Inspectors

False. Since 1974, agents have been prevented from receiving any kind of kickback or favor from real estate vendors. It's against the law. It's against RESPA: the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. Some agents are slower than others to realize how the law affects them, but most have heard of RESPA and would not jeopardize their license, regardless of the temptation.

An Agent's Home Inspector Will Always Favor the Agent

False. Any agent worth their salt wants disclosure. Not only do they want what's best for their client, they don't want to be sued.

Agents must disclose material facts. A buyer is always, without fail, better off knowing the truth about a house. Good agents care that a buyer receives full disclosure and are willing to fight for repairs on the buyer's behalf or help the buyer cancel the transaction.

All Real Estate Agents Make Too Much Money

False. An agent's average annual salary is less than $36,000 a year. About half the agents in any large brokerage close less than four deals a year. Nobody can live on that. Not once office fees, MLS fees, and lockbox fees are deducted. Then there's overhead and expenses for the agent, errors and omissions insurance, and office supplies. It adds up.

Agents Sell Their Own Homes for More Money Than Yours

False. Busy agents and top producers don't have the luxury of time to waste when selling their own home. They also understand the market better than your average home seller, which means if a home isn't selling within a reasonable period of time, it means it is priced too high.

When agents put their residences on the market, if they need to sell, they might even cut the buyer a better deal than the buyer can get on the open market. After all, the person most likely to be persuaded by a sales pitch is a person who sells for a living.

Agents Should Tell You the Neighborhood's Make-up

False. Federal Fair Housing laws prevent a real estate agent from discriminating against a number of protected classes, which automatically prohibits an agent from disclosing anything remotely relating to the protected classes.

Therefore, it may come as a shock to many people that agents cannot disclose crime rates, school stats, or ethnic mixes of neighborhoods. If that kind of information is important to you, an agent can tell you where to find it, but cannot provide it. Those who tell you otherwise are misinformed.

Agents Will Say Anything to Make the Sale

False. Although it is true that some agents will lie to you, it's unfair to paint all agents with such a broad brush. Top producing agents, those who enjoy a solid reputation in the community and practice real estate honestly and truthfully, are very careful to uphold a client's trust.

Making misrepresentations or a false statement is against the law. Agents who break fiduciary relationships or fail to disclose material facts are subject to prosecution and a loss of their license to sell real estate.