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What Your Agent May Not Want You to Know

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You're the lone bidder on this house.
If your agent is not a buyer's agent, well, this one won't be a surprise to you. Why should this person, who's motivated to get as much money as possible for his client (the seller), tell you that you're the only one bidding on the house?

I could be working a lot harder for you.
If you have children, or think you'll have children while living in your new home, you'll want to know about things like school districts and crime rates in your neighborhood. Sure, you can find that out for yourself, but a good agent knows the area and is familiar with these kinds of things. If the agent isn't offering all kinds of salient nuggets about this neighborhood and why it is or isn't a good place for you, find another agent.

This house is stale.
Again, this is a problem for a seller broker. "Stale" means that the house has been sitting on the market, unsold, like an open bag of potato chips that has been sitting at the back of that corner cupboard in your old kitchen.

My fee is negotiable.
As we've already seen, you may be able to change the structure of the way your agent is compensated (by making it a flat fee, with added incentives for helping you to lower the price). If that doesn't happen, though, you may also be able to knock off a percentage point from the agent's commission. They will tell you what's "normally" the commission, but that doesn't mean it is writ in stone. You can re-writ it.

Both I and the seller's agent might kick in some money to make the deal happen.
Imagine that you're an agent. You stand to make a few thousand bucks if this $250,000 house gets sold. However, during the negotiating process, things have gotten a bit acrimonious for one reason or another. Your client (the buyer) just absolutely positively will not fork over the $450 for a new washing machine, or the $129 for a new garage door opener. Wouldn't you be willing to pay $225 (half of $450, with the seller's agent kicking in the other half) in order to make those few thousand bucks? Of course you would.

Legally, agents can't hand off checks to buyers or sellers. It happens, but it shouldn't. However, an agent can take a cut in his/her commission. So, at closing, the commission may be modified; the broker gets the modified commission amount and then hands off the correct portion to the agent.

You can use more than one agent.
Certainly before you sign an exclusive agreement with your agent, you can -- as you're shopping for agents just as much as you're shopping for houses -- have several people showing you around. You don't want to do anything sneaky, though: You need to make it clear to the agents involved that you're not interested (at present, anyhow) in having an exclusive broker. (It's very much like saying to that person you've just met, "I don't want to date only you -- I'm still looking around." Sure, they may be crushed, but doggone it, "if you love something, let it go. If it comes back, it belongs to you; if not, you never really had it anyway." And all that treacle that you can read on Hallmark cards.)

This house hasn't sold for a good reason.
This is another reason to have a strong buyer's agent on your side. Brokers are required by law to tell you about any structural problems in the house, but they won't always tell you about anything else that might have happened there. Say that it's been renovated since that drug-running family of 20 trashed the place, and that there was a shootout featuring AK-47-wielding thugs of the Transylvanian Liberation Army. A strong broker will find that kind of thing out for you. A seller's broker will do all he can to prevent the subject from coming up.

Certain states require disclosure of "stigmatized properties." In other states, it's not clearly defined, or not defined at all. For instance, some states may require disclosure if such information would make a material difference to the value of the home. This would presumably include the fact that there's a hole in the roof, but not necessarily the fact that a crime was recently committed in the house.