Things Real Estate Agents Don’t Want You To Know!
Here are some things real estate agents don't want you to know!Secrets
Buying a house is a huge decision. But getting on the property ladder certainly comes with its perks, and it’s something most people want to do sooner or later. And you know who else wants you to get onto the property ladder? Realtors. After all, it’s how they make their moolah.
However, they have a lot of secrets when it comes to luring you into a sale. From psychological manipulation to straight-up deception, they’ll try their darndest to get you to sign the dotted line. If you don’t want to fall for their tricks, check out these things real estate agents don’t want you to know.
Tricks of the Trade
Before realtors can sell or help someone to buy a house, they first need to round up some properties to manage the sale of. And sure enough, once they’ve got a house, apartment, or other type of home under their control, they have some pretty nifty tricks up their sleeve to generate interest in these properties.
One of the niftiest tricks in a realtor’s repertoire for gathering interest in a property is a wide-angle camera lens. The picture of the same place shot with a wide-angle camera lens will look quite different.
That’s because wide-angle lenses expand space and create the illusion of depth, sometimes stretching images with such intensity that it even causes the subject to have curved edges.
This space-expanding principle is invaluable in the real-estate world, and works by making furniture seem further apart, and rooms seem airier and more spacious, therefore creating the illusion of a larger interior than in reality.
This not only generates initial interest from viewers checking out online property listings, but it can also cause people who’ve viewed the property to misremember how big it actually was inside, when they re-check the listing page after viewing.
So, if you ever notice some not-so-straight lines or distorted edges on a listing, then be wary: the realtor may be trying to trick you with a wide-angle lens.
You could argue that realtors are simply just showing as much of the house as possible, but it seems a little deceptive. And with ultra-wide-angle available on most smartphones, it’s never been easier to make things look bigger than they truly are.
We all know how camera angles and filters can make-or-break a picture, and real-estate is no exception. Similar to how a high-angle might hide your double-chin, a listing in Sydney, Australia, managed to hide the huge water-tank behind the property, thanks to the low-angle composition.
The listing photo does not show the enormous water tank behind. If you’re not fully convinced such an extreme hiding trick is possible, it’s also true that there could be something else at play.
Turns out, the real-estate industry is actually rife with photoshop, so it’s not unreasonable to suggest that it may have been used there! And with sites such as ‘PhotozWorld’ offering dedicated services for removing eyesores like the image below, it’s not exactly hard to achieve.
What’s more, websites like that can change furniture colors, and, quite literally, make the grass greener, among many other things. Besides using their, um ‘artistic license’ to enhance pictures, some shadier realtors also straight-up lie in their listings, with something called ‘virtual staging’.
"BoxBrownie" is another site specializing in real-estate photo editing and can digitally furnish an empty room. Essentially, how a home is presented is crucial, which is why realtors have always staged homes, even before the time of online listings.
Staging involves adding or removing items to make the house more appealing to all prospective buyers. In fact, most realtors claim staging makes it easier for viewers to visualize the property as a potential home, as it demonstrates proper use of the space.
However, moving all this furniture IRL takes time and effort, which can easily be averted with just a simple wave of the fairy-god-photoshopper’s wand. Not just that, but BoxBrownie also claims virtually staged properties have increased interest, sell faster and, apparently, for a higher price!
With these credentials, it’s no wonder realtors use a bit of photo-editing magic to their advantage So, look out for details such as missing furniture reflections in windows if you want to catch them in the act!
We find ourselves freely exploring a for-sale property, in what’s known as an ‘open house’ viewing. It may come as a surprise, but open houses may actually benefit the realtor more than they do the seller. Finance journalist, Carrie Kirby, states that generally only 1 out of every 6 viewers will wind up interested in pursuing a property they go to view.
As for the other 5, an open house is the time for the realtor to give them the ol’razzle-dazzle and get them interested in other houses they’re trying to sell, essentially making open-houses a networking opportunity for realtors.
But once they’ve lured you into their open-house-trap, there are a range of things they might do to keep you keen, starting with the smell. Research actually shows that carefully chosen scents can affect consumer behavior, triggering strong associations with memories.
According to multiple sources, heating vanilla extract in the oven is a classic way realtors imitate a fresh-baked cookie smell. Just like grandma used to make! Which is exactly what the realtor wants you to think.
They want to evoke childhood memories and associations that might subconsciously compel you to be interested in the property and view it as your own potential ‘home’. However, another thing to be aware of is that artificial scents may also be covering up other odors, such as sewage, smoke, pests, and mold, to name a few!
Even more deceptively, if you’re selling your house, industry veteran Adam Day warns that realtors may employ fake viewers. Reportedly, some sneaky agents around the world bring in fake house viewers, who will show immediate initial interest in the client’s property and then make a U-turn.
This is because it gives the seller instant gratification, making them believe the realtor is doing a great job at selling their house and compels them to continue business. While this is far from an industry-wide standard, if you do experience similar initial-interest-rapid-drop-off antics when selling your house, then this might just be the case!
The average house in the US costs around $345,000, which is about the same just across the pond in the UK. Yet, it seems those Brits and the rest of Europe are getting more bang for their buck than Americans.
Typically made from sturdy bricks, it’s estimated the average European home can survive upwards of 400 years. Stateside, meanwhile, 90% of the houses built in 2019 were wood framed, which ultimately means that most won’t last 30 years without extensive repairs.
America’s love for wooden houses comes from a mixture of style choices, tradition, and the fact that, with an abundance of forests, trees are readily available and quicker than using bricks.
However, if you are an American, there are plenty of cons that may make you want to consider seeking a brick house over this wood-loving tradition.
Firstly, wooden homes are extremely vulnerable to certain pests, such as termites. These little suckers burrow in wood for both food and a place to live, and can gnaw through vital structural beams, which in extreme cases can lead to complete devastation.
While an honest realtor would warn you of infestations, not all realtors are as honest as we’d like. So, when looking to buy, a few signs to look out for are small pinpoint holes in walls, peeling paint, excessively squeaky floorboards, or, most obviously, crumbling wood.
Another pest to look out for is carpenter bees. These busy-bees burrow themselves into wood, which, if left, can also compromise the structural integrity of a house. Keep an eye out for tiny holes on the wooden surface, as they may signal the presence of these pests.
If you don’t check thoroughly and are unlucky enough to have a dishonest or just incompetent realtor, then you could be buying an infested house that could collapse at any moment.
Because of risks like this, coupled with their increased flammability versus concrete or brick structures, wooden homes are also seen as more of an insurance risk, meaning insurance is generally more expensive. All certainly worth some consideration when your realtor is pushing you for that pretty wooden home in an area known for its wildfires and carpenter bees!
However, brick houses aren’t exactly perfect, either. Overtime, something called subsidence can occur, which essentially happens when groundwater withdraws from the ground below a house. As the water withdraws, cavities are left, and the ground can gradually collapse in on itself.
It doesn’t take a geologist to figure out that this is bad news if it happens under a house, with extreme cases leading to entire structures collapsing. Fortunately, you can avoid buying a sinking house from an incompetent or immoral realtor by looking out for cracks in the brickwork when viewing properties.
While small cracks can be a normal result of thermal and moisture changes in the house, subsidence cracks are usually wider at the top, jagged, and typically at a 45-degree-angle, indicating the structure is being pulled downwards.
And, as we’ve already learned, realtors aren’t afraid to use photoshop, so even if you can’t see any signs of subsidence on the online listing, the reality might be a lot more frightening! So, make sure to go full Sherlock Holmes at your next viewing! Unfortunately, it’s not just speculation to suggest your realtor might turn a blind eye to all of this!
Sounds farfetched, but journalist Barry Stone claims some agents have been found to not only ignore problems, but encourage building inspectors to do the same, all to secure the sale. According to Barry, one homeowner’s realtor insisted the homeowner didn’t need to attend the inspection, and sure enough, glaring issues were overlooked.
So, it’s wisest to get a structural building survey carried out by a trustworthy professional, as they will not only spot serious red-flag issues, but also less serious ones that may help you re-negotiate the price for a better deal!
Sadly, these structural issues are becoming more common nowadays, with the sheer pace of construction seeing companies building as many houses in the shortest amount of time as possible.
This quantity-over-quality ethos can result in issues ranging from poor brickwork and wonky carpentry to staircases that aren’t even secured properly, leaving many new homeowners less than impressed.
So, if you’re looking to buy a new house, it’s more important than ever to keep an eye on these small details your realtor may not want you to spot, as they develop into bigger problems later down the line. It can be tough to know whether your realtor is gonna swindle you out of money or not, but thankfully, there are a few precautions you can take.
First and foremost, it’s always a good idea to background-check your realtor. Legally, they should supply you with their license number, which, by using sites such as Arello, you can check their record for any misconduct. Something else to consider is short contracts.
Realtors will typically tie you into a 12-month listing contract, which gives them plenty of time to sell your house and bank their commission. However, if you specify a shorter term, like 3-months for example, it means you can switch out your realtor if you don’t like their approach.
Not only that, but the shorter term might also incentivize the agent to prioritize you over other clients.
Bargain Hunters Beware
Picture the scene: you’re sifting through Zillow, and you stumble upon a modern 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom house in Washington. Even better, it’s just $400,000 a bargain, when you consider the average home in Washington is around $542,000, according to Zillow.
But that’s just what realtors want you to think! They know a lower-than-average price is going to garner interest. And with bidders battling it out for this ‘bargain’ house, it isn’t long until the price isn’t such a steal after all, lining the realtor’s pockets as a result.
But just how much does a realtor bank from a sale? Well, most charge around 6% commission, though this is typically split 50/50 with the realtor representing the buyer and vice versa.
The realtor then has to pay a set percentage to their broker, which is essentially the company that provides them with training and resources, and usually provides an office. All in all, the National-Association-of-Realtors claims the average annual realtor salary is about $70,000.
Something your realtor might not mention, however, is that commission is, in fact, negotiable. It’s sometimes possible to negotiate a realtor’s commission down by a percentage or two, meaning you pay them less for their services.
However, reducing it too much can be detrimental, as it doesn’t give the realtor much incentive to spend a lot of time getting you the best deal when buying or selling your house. In fact, your realtor probably doesn’t care as much as you’d think about the price a house fetches, not at least according to marketing consultant, Alan Moore.
You’d assume that higher house prices are in their best interest, but Alan claims realtors would actually rather settle promptly for a reasonable offer and move onto the next house, because in the long run, more houses equate to more money. It’s even rumored that some realtors might not disclose the highest offers to their client.
Why? High offers tend to be slightly less likely to get finalized, whereas if the realtor only presents the homeowner with middle-of-the-road offers, they’re more likely to secure a quick paycheck. This is, of course, very unethical and can actually result in them losing their license, that is, if they get caught!
Realtors Caught Red-Handed
Background checking your realtor is really important and here are few examples of why that might be a good idea! In 2016, 22-year-old realtor, Kayla Seloff, had just closed a deal on a property in Texas. And on this celebratory occasion, Kayla decided she would invite her close friend, Joshua Leal, to the property she’d just sold.
Two pals, free house, nothing suspicious here! Only the neighbors did report suspicious activity to the police, and it wasn’t long until they busted into the property and discovered Kayla and Josh embroiled in their own little love shack.
They initially claimed they were a married couple who’d just moved in, but when the cops asked for ID, Kayla took them to the car, where they also found some human cat nip. Eventually admitting that she was, indeed, the realtor, Kayla and her Romeo were arrested.
And wasn’t just the client’s trust and respect that Kayla lost, but her job too; not to mention her secret make-out spot! But how often does this really happen? Rarely, you would assume, but with access to your home, there’s always the chance that your realtor, like Kayla, might just abuse their privileges! Indeed, Kayla isn’t the only R-rated realtor.
In 2019, realtor, Miguel Calvo, was posting an online listing for a Nashville home. Everything was pretty standard, pictures of the kitchen, dining room, living room, and yet, somehow, a very personal picture of his had made it into the listing. A picture that seemed to show Miguel and his little Miguel enjoying the company of a woman.
Miguel worked as an independent contractor under Benchmark Realty, who claimed that they were investigating the incident, and repercussions would not be merciful if Miguel’s mishap was found to be intentional. Updates were not given publicly, but either way, few people would be trusting their homes to a man whose image listings may wind up guest-starring Little Miguel.
Real Estate Mysteries
When buying a house, there’s often a lot more under the hood than what you realize – some of this stuff your realtor really may not want you to know about. And if these upcoming examples are anything to go by, those little hidden secrets can get really weird, and even downright creepy.
In a 2012 Reddit post by ‘KalsyWalsy’, they described how their friend had recently moved into a house and had found a random drainpipe that seemed to have no purpose. Intrigued, they tailed it along, until it led to a wall which seemed to have dead space behind it.
They knocked through the wall and what they found was shocking, a perfectly preserved bathroom just lying there, complete with wall art and Kleenex.
But why was this extra bathroom kept a secret? Surely it would’ve increased the value of the house. Well, an architect in the post’s comments had a pretty compelling explanation.
He suspects the bathroom wasn’t an original feature of the house, but a renovation that used unpermitted waterlines, or the room itself was built without a permit, meaning, due to legalities, the previous owners hid it before selling the house. Which, given how tedious acquiring building permits can be, is far more common than you think.
So, next time you view a house, why not take a sledgehammer and bash a few walls down, there might be a secret bathroom. Just pray that it’s not occupied.
On the topic of hidden rooms, back in 2021, TikToker, Samantha Hartsoe, uncovered a huge secret her landlord had been keeping from her. After noticing a strange breeze coming through her apartment, Samantha was desperate to get to the root of the problem.
Her detective work led her to the bathroom, only, there was no vent, nor nothing else that could’ve be creating this breeze. In fact, this breeze was so intense that it even blew her hair! After a little more digging, she found the root of the problem as she made a shocking discovery.
Concealed behind her wall-mounted mirror was a hole, leading to a derelict secret apartment. A full-blown apartment just abandoned and sitting beyond Samantha’s mirror.
In the mood to explore, Samantha buckled up and ventured into the unknown. As she explored the derelict two-storey apartment, there was nothing particularly remarkable, just trash and remnants left behind.
After questioning her landlord about the gaping hole to another dimension behind her bathroom mirror, Samantha explained how they initially ignored her. But after persisting, they eventually gave her a vague answer about doing ‘construction work’ on the room.
But why would they leave this little access hole behind the mirror? Well, that remains a mystery. Either way, it seems her landlord didn’t want her to find out about it, likely given the security risks to Samantha if someone were to break into the vacant apartment!
In the end, they filled the void, though evidence of the lost portal can still be found lurking behind Samantha’s mirror.
But if finding a secret portal in your wall sounds bad, then get ready for this next discovery! In 2015, the Bretzius family in Philadelphia were carrying out some renovation to make their 1930s house a dream home.
However, things quickly turned nightmarish as they unearthed something particularly gross hidden in the walls of their home: dead chickens. Their home had been insulated with chicken bones, spices, and other ‘ritualistic’ items.
But why on earth would anyone do this? Experts suspect that it was a form of Dutch folk magic known as ‘pow-wow’. This was allegedly meant to warn off sickness, which is ironic considering how it made the homeowner, Kaija Bretzius, feel very sick.
Let's give their realtor the benefit of the doubt and suggest they also weren’t aware of the dead chicken insulation, but they probably wouldn’t have been very forthcoming in advertising this unique feature of the house, had they known!
So truth be told, if you really don’t want to chance one of the biggest decisions of your life to a realtor, then you really don’t have to. You can always just buy or sell a house by yourself, and a newly emerging trend of websites like the UK’s Openrent can help you do so without a realtor.
In fact, a 2007 study in Wisconsin showed that sellers who sold their properties independently actually got more for their homes. And not because they sold for more, but because that 6% of realtor’s fees can really add up in the long run.
That said, houses might take much longer to sell without the magic touch and knowhow of realtor. And when it comes to buying, you could end up overpaying for a house without a realtor and their expertise representing you. Nine times out of 10, realtors are genuine, well-trained professionals.
So, while it’s true that they have their secret tricks, for the most part, they’re certainly not monsters! It just pays to bear in mind everything you’ve read today. It could save you a pretty penny, and maybe even your life, depending on the termite damage!