Monday, July 20, 2009

Some Dirty Tricks By (Unscrupulous) Real Estate Agents
In every profession, there will be bad hats. The following article was found in Sydney Morning Herald which looked at some dirty tricks employed by certain bad hats real estate agents.

Dirty little secret #1
There is an old adage among real-estate agents, ''quote 'em low and watch 'em go. Quote 'em high and watch 'em die". The practice of under quoting is widespread and has surged again in recent months. It is when potential buyers are told a price much lower than a property's true market value and the owner's reserve. Unfortunately, under quoting is rife because it works. Every weekend hopeful buyers are lured to an auction thinking they can afford, for example, $850,000-plus for a four bedroom house in Templestowe, Melbourne, only to be broken hearted when sells for $1.51m, as happened at 45 Taparoo Road last month.

Dirty little secret #2
The reverse of under quoting is over quoting, a ploy some agents use to win business. In this case, agents promise a vendor their house will fetch a price well above its market value, whether to convince them to sell or to beat others for the right to sell it. Once the contract is signed, the agent begins to groom the owner to accept a lower price. Adding even more insult to injury is the fact that many times property is actually sold for less than it is worth. This happens when the agent can not be bothered with the hard yakka to get, for example, an extra 5 per cent for their vendor. Such agents have a churn mentality, simply finding a price the owner will accept, selling the house and moving on to the next campaign.

Dirty little secret #3
Vendors can be cheated in another way too. Very naughty agents have been known to withhold good offers made before auction, even those well above the reserve, for several reasons. Sometimes, the offer comes through another agent at the firm and the original agent doesn't want to share commission. So, the bid is never put to the vendor or is put to them but at less than the real offer to be knocked back. Other times the agency wants to promote its brand by pushing ahead with the auction no matter what. It wants the vendor to spend the full amount on advertising because it is a lighthouse to attract other buyers and sellers to the business.

Dirty little secret #4
Now we get to the dummy tricks, used by agents who never outgrew their imaginary friends. Dummy offers are when agents claim to the vendor or buyer they have an offer that is purely fabrication. This tactic is used to make buyers increase their bid in a private sale or expression of interest campaign. It can also be used to groom vendors into accepting a lower price than they want. Remember, the agent wants to sell more than anything, to get their commission. If the agent has promised an unrealistic $1m for a property, a common trick is come back with a fake offer, say $800,000. The vendor will reject it but the process of talking down from their original expectation has started.

Dirty little secret #5
Dummy bidding is another old trick in the magic bag. While in the past it was normal for auctioneers to accept bids cast by street trees and passing pigeons when action was slow, these days it has become more sophisticated. Some very sneaky agents and vendors now enlist friends to cast fake bids that push prices up. Like under quoting, dummy bidding is popular because it works. And, it is almost impossible to prove, making it still very much a part of the real estate landscape.

Now the Top Five is done, but there is one last secret worth mentioning, possibly the worst kept secret of all. The visual trickery used in advertising photos is so endemic consumers are wise to it, in a big way. Lounge rooms are stretched, power lines removed and artificial sunlight beamed in, all thanks to some serious Photoshopping. A relatively new trick is the use of flashy display furniture that is actually made on a smaller scale than real furniture to tizz up an ordinary house and make the room look bigger.

Having revealed all of that, it is easy to see why real-estate agents have a collective reputation only slightly less murky than journalists. For what it is worth, I have dealt with many agents in the course of my duties and found most to be upstanding. Whether you can trust a journalist on that is up to you.


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