Oh, what a tangled web we weave,

When first we practice to deceive!

Sir Walter Scott penned those words in England almost 200 years ago in The Lay of the Last Minstrel.

It should be “required reading” for some of the home buyers, sellers and even Realtors I’ve met in my first year of the sales business.

Don’t get me wrong: The vast majority of buyers, sellers and agents are good folks who are simply looking for an honest way to get the best deal for themselves or their clients.

But a handful of those I’ve met want to “win” at any cost, even if it means lying, back-biting or concealing hidden defects.

I’ll start with buyers first. The biggest problem I’ve found, so far, is that too many prospective buyers simply aren’t up-front–or, at least “realistic”–about their credit history.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been covering my brokerage office’s phones on a Saturday or Sunday and received a call from a prospective buyer who immediately wanted to see a home that we had advertised in a local newspaper.

Their credit, callers almost always assure me, is either “good” or “excellent.” But when our in-house loan broker–I’m sorry, I mean our affiliated mortgage consultant–pulls the prospect’s credit report, there’s a better-than-average chance it will show some FICO-busting late payments, an outstanding court judgment, or even a bankruptcy filing.

It’s puzzling why prospective buyers aren’t up-front about their past credit problems. Don’t they realize that a lender is going to find out about their difficulties the minute they pull a credit report?

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Some sellers have issues of their own.

In one of the most bizarre cases I’ve been involved in, I received an unsolicited call at the office from a woman who wanted me to list her house. I created a comparative market analysis for her and arranged a 7 p.m. meeting to fill out all the listing paper work.

The meeting went fine and the woman was very nice. But when I went to put the property onto the Multiple Listing Service the next morning, I discovered that it was already there–it had been entered by a different agent just minutes earlier.

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I called the agent to see what was going on. Turns out, the seller had signed a listing agreement with him just two hours before she signed another one with me.

I then dropped by the seller’s house and–surprise!–she was signing yet another listing agreement with yet another agent.

Turns out, the woman was under the mistaken impression that listing her property with several agents would ensure that the home would sell faster, and at the best possible price.

In reality, all it would ensure is that she might wind up owing multiple sales commissions. On my broker’s advice, I politely returned the listing contract she had signed with me the night before.

While buyers and sellers can be forgiven for not understanding the sales process, there is no excuse for some of the sneaky things I’ve seen a few Realtors do in my first year of the business.

I recently previewed a major fixer-upper the day before its open house. The walls had several fissures from settling over the years, and I’d guess that it had major foundation problems.

The ceilings in a number of rooms had water stains, a sure sign that the roof leaked pretty badly.

But the next day, at the open house, the walls and ceilings were still wet with a freshly applied coat of that “cottage-cheese” textured paint to hide the damage–and the listing agent’s marketing flyer boasted of the home’s “mint condition.”

The property has already sold. It probably should have required the “Mother of All Disclosures,” but I’ll bet that neither the seller nor the agent mentioned any of its problems to the buyer.

And I’ll also bet that when the winter weather comes and that roof starts to leak, the lawsuits will probably start raining down, too.


Got tips, ideas or advice for the Rookie Realtor? Send them to Rookie@inman.com.

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