Cara Ameer, a top-producing broker associate from Northeast Florida, writes about working with buyers and sellers, sticky situations and real estate marketing in her regular Inman column that publishes every other Wednesday.
“Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies,” so the lyrics from the legendary Fleetwood Mac song “Little Lies” go. Agents hear them all the time. The lies may not be sweet, but whether they are “little white lies” or larger misrepresentations of their intentions or the situation, they can often lead to crossed signals, confusion, disappointment and frustration for all involved.
A buyer is the needed catalyst to set the wheels of change in motion for a seller (and vice versa), and a lie, no matter how seemingly small, can throw a huge wrench into the transaction process and all that goes along with it.
Here are 10 common lies that consumers say to real estate agents:
1. ‘I don’t have an agent’ or ‘I’m not working with anyone’
If agents had $100 for each time they were told this one, they could probably retire. This is one of the most commonly told lies in real estate.
A buyer contacts a listing agent about one of her properties, and when the agent asks if he is working with anyone, he unequivocally says no.
Meanwhile, as it turns out, he’s engaged one or more agents along the way, and that same buyer uses the listing agent to get what he wants to see the property or siphon off the information needed, only to come back to look — or even worse, write an offer — with another agent.
2. ‘We aren’t ready to buy/list yet, but we’ll call you when we are’
This is another classic statement. Whether from the internet, personal website, referral, mailing, FSBO, expired, etc., this lead drains your time. You’ve spoken with and possibly met the prospect and invested quite a bit of time on strategy, explaining how the buying process works, researching potential options, setting the prospect up to receive listings, offering advice and coming up with marketing ideas.
You engage in thorough follow-up with all the things the prospect should be doing, including thank-you notes, phone calls, check-in emails and texts as well as market updates on their neighborhood, area, price range, etc., but after several weeks (or months, or even years), you find out that they bought or sold with another agent.
You’re left wondering why they weren’t upfront with their intentions all along rather than stringing you along through all those market conversations and follow-ups.
3. ‘I don’t have to sell my house in order to buy’
Although this can and does happen, many times, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Once the buyers talk to their mortgage lender, they learn it is more like any offer they make has to be contingent upon selling their home, which is a totally different scenario.
When this issue comes up, the buyer’s search has just started in response to a home that caught their attention with no preliminary legwork up until that point.
Of course it turns out to be the house of their dreams that is about to go into multiple offers, and a home sale contingency is not going to give them the leverage they need.
4. ‘My house is worth x amount’
A homeowner firmly relays a figure to an agent, according to some website or algorithm with little to no credibility when it comes to home values, but these homeowners are treating them like gospel.
When you dive into the data, you hate to break it to the seller, but the comps justify something more along the lines of $50,000-$100,000 below their website estimate.
In addition, the home has not really been updated to today’s tastes and preferences. Plus, the website failed to take into account that there are a plethora of new construction options about 15 minutes away from the seller’s house as well that don’t require any updating.
5. ‘I know what I qualify for, I don’t need to talk to my lender until I’ve found the house’
If only it were that simple. When was the last time the prospective buyer checked their credit report? Often, those “things” they forgot about or don’t exactly remember as they were eons ago can impact a buyer’s purchasing power.
Although they might have a great income, their debt-to-income ratios, unpaid loans or medical bills could surface from yesterday, further complicating the process.
6. ‘I’m going to buy in the next X days / as soon as my lease is up / by the end of the year’
A buyer might act like she is on a strict time frame and exhibit “all in” behavior toward buying a home. She runs the agent all over town and has a sense of urgency about every property that comes on the market and remotely fits her criteria.
Despite the fire-drill mode of search, the buyer never buys, and the next property comes and goes.
Time goes on and the buyer renews her lease or continues to look but doesn’t actively engage with the search, sometimes with no reason given as to why she is waiting.
7. ‘I’m only looking up to X price range’
The buyers gave a price range for their search, and they were absolutely firm about it. But when they see what their price range truly delivers, they end up focusing on homes that are beyond what they originally wanted to spend.
And suddenly, the price ceiling that was so firmly established does not matter as much anymore.
8. ‘I have money for closing costs’
Upon talking with a lender or writing an offer, the buyer discovers that he dosen’t have enough cash for closing costs, yet he swore that he did.
Although all of this might have been explained ahead of time, he somehow could not wrap his arms around it until he sees the numbers in black and white print in front of him.
9. ‘The buyers end up buying what they said they didn’t want’
The buyer only wants to focus their search on a certain kind of home or properties in a certain area, and they end up buying something that is the complete opposite.
For example, they tell their agent not to take them to any new construction homes, they only want properties that have character, charm and are walking distance to shops, restaurants and other amenities.
But then they end up buying a brand new home in a more suburban neighborhood where you have to travel by car to go anywhere.
10. ‘Although the roof is original, it doesn’t need to be replaced’
Upon an agent asking a prospective seller how old the roof is, they shrug off the age and act as if it’s just fine. They tell the agent they’ve never had any leaks, and it should last a few more years.
In fact, their insurance company sent someone out a couple of years ago who said the roof had some life left to it.
When the house goes on the market and a buyer’s inspection report reveals otherwise, they are completely shocked and dumbfounded by requests that the roof should be replaced.
Real estate is a business built on trust. No matter how many buyer’s or listing agreements are signed or what a buyer or seller might tell an agent, the reality is, buyers and sellers end up doing what they want.
The seller who said he was serious about selling decides to take his home off the market two months into the listing process.
The buyer who acted like she wanted an agent’s help all along finds a property on her own.
Seasoned agents are a bit hardened on all of the above, and they know not to simply take a prospect at his or her word, as ultimately, actions — or lack thereof — will show true intentions.