Let’s be honest, real estate agents don’t have the best reputation amongst us lay folk, do they?
They’re notorious for their shady personalities and underhand tricks, but are these preconceptions justified or should we wipe the slate clean and give estate agents a fair chance?
Three agents have spilled the beans (some of the beans, at least – no doubt they’ve kept some back) to give us a glimpse into the world of real estate trade secrets.
Creating a sense of urgency is one of the most common tactics that agents use, according to Janet McNeill, of McNeill Real Estate.
“Things like in an open home, the trick would be to say there’s an offer coming in and there might not be,” she says.
Other sly ploys include labelling something as a mortgagee sale or a deceased estate, even when that isn’t really the case. So you’re right not to take everything they say at face value.
And it’s not just in the descriptions where they might be lying to you. While some rely on clever photography angles and lighting to give a place maximum appeal in print and on screen, others resort to plain trickery by Photoshopping out things like power lines, says Ms McNeill.
Another effective tactic – one which doesn’t involve deceit – is listing a property for sale online, then keeping potential buyers waiting a week or more for the first open-for-inspection.
“It’s just generating that sense of interest,” says Ms McNeill. “All they [buyers] see is a house full of people and think ‘that’s my home, I have to buy it.’”
It’s no wonder your FOMO goes into overdrive when you’re looking for a place to buy.
And have you ever had a letter through the door listing local sales and prices?
“They will do a flyer saying how many properties have been sold in the area but they might not be all their properties,” says Ms McNeill.
Another agent, Russell Cambridge, director of Biggin and Scott’s Richmond office in Melbourne, reveals that one of their “secret weapons” is female real estate agents.
“When it’s us males, we’ve got this neon sign saying ‘beware of real estate agents’. The girls seem to get more information out of buyers than we do.”
The agency keeps a close eye on the activity of potential buyers, such as which properties they’ve inspected, their likely budget, and whether they’re really serious about buying, says Mr Cambridge. It turns out that not telling the whole truth can be a two-way thing in this process.
To create a pleasant aroma on open days, he will use a little “vanilla essence on a baking tray, set to about 100″.
And when it comes to auctions, he’s always happy to see rain forecast.
“If it’s raining we’ll still do it outside – you know they’re serious if they’re out in the rain.”
Ben Munro Smith of McGrath Estate Agents has shared some of his tricks of the trade, too.
Putting the ‘sold’ sticker and champagne in plain sight on auction day is a simple way to remind buyers why they’re there and show he’s serious about selling.
And he’ll often make an appearance at other agents’ auctions to see who is bidding, taking special note of anyone who loses out.
“When they come to bid on one of my properties at auction, I will know where their price expectations are, and even their bidding style,” says Munro Smith.
“Do they go hard and fast, or do they try and win by only bidding at the end?”
It’s also worth investing the time into finding out as much as possible about a potential buyer. Munro Smith wants to know whether “they are married, have kids, love their dog … have a favourite cafe”.
“You can then be very specific when encouraging them to make an additional bid on auction day,” he says.
For instance: “It is just around the corner from Lucy’s school; imagine the time you’ll save with school drop-off.”
“Or, once you’ve bought this place, you won’t be seeing me on Saturdays – you can just walk up to Bertoni’s, grab a coffee, read the paper and relax.”
Sneaky stuff! But at least now you know some things to watch out for when buying a place. And as for whether estate agents really deserve their reputation… we’ll let you make up your own mind on that.