Deceptive people are hard to spot for just that reason -- they're tricky, conniving, and good at what they do. It's wise to vet the reputation of every real estate agent you deal with, as disreputable individuals have the potential to cost you serious money and cause a lot of heartache.
Ask about brokerage affiliation and licensing. A licensed realtor works with an established broker and should be able to provide you with proof of this association. The broker helps ensure all aspects of the real estate transaction are carried out in accordance with law. Someone claiming to work as an independent representative with no brokerage ties or verifiable license is probably deceiving you.
Get references. A real estate agent with a long list of happy clients should be more than willing to give you letters of recommendation or phone numbers of people you can contact for personal testimonials. Ask previous clients what they liked and didn't like about working with the agent, and if they felt they were treated fairly in the process.
Watch out for high-pressure sales. Whether a real estate agent is selling a property for you or helping you find your dream home, his job is to represent you and your best interests rather than his own. Don't be fooled by anyone who tries to push for an immediate exclusive contract, sell you a property you're not completely in love with, or force you to make a hasty decision about selling property for terms you're not happy with.
Ask how current online listings are. Deceptive agents sometimes leave old listings on their websites to appear more active and successful than they really are.
Beware of an unwillingness to stay in constant communication, answer questions or educate you about the real estate process. If there’s anything you don’t understand about real estate terms, processes or contractual language, the agent should explain it. If he seems hesitant about providing you with additional information you need to make an informed decision, be wary.
Don't work with a real estate agent who won't put all of your agreement terms in writing. An agent who wants to work on a verbal agreement or handshake could be setting you up. It's not a matter of trust, but rather, a matter of being smart and protecting your own interests. Get everything in writing.
- Read the fine print on contracts and have a legal professional look over paperwork before you sign. Find a real estate agent who is willing to represent you solely as a buyer's or seller's agent. Question an agent who tries to dissuade you from having an attorney look over your contracts before signing. If there's nothing to hide, the review should be a non-issue.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.