A home is the biggest purchase most of us will make in our lives. Yet, so many people go into it not fully understanding how the process works, and that ignorance can wind up costing a buyer or a seller.
These days, buying and selling real estate is even more complex. The proliferation of real estate Web sites has helped the buyer and seller become more educated, but all that additional information can be overwhelming.
After more than a decade selling homes in the Washington area, Long and Foster real estate agents Hans and Steve Wydler came to realize how little their clients really knew about a system that too often takes advantage of them.
The Ivy League educated brothers decided it was time that somebody pulled back the curtain and showed the world what was behind real estate’s version of the Wizard of Oz.
In their book, “Inside the Sell: Top Agents Reveal Unspoken Secrets and Dangers of Buying and Selling Your Home,” the Wydlers take readers behind the scenes of real estate transactions and expose the double-dealing that can occur if a buyer or seller is not careful.
“There’s a tangled web of conflicting incentives, institutional laziness and bad habits that get repeated year after year, transaction after transaction, without correction,” they write in the book.
For example, a broker may provide a financial incentive to its agents to sell listings in-house. If a buyer purchases a property listed by one of the broker’s agents, the buyer agent receives more money than if the buyer purchases a property listed by another brokerage. As a result, the buyer agent is more motivated to show its broker’s listings than those outside the brokerage.
A buyer unaware of this arrangement may miss out on the best property for him because his agent limited the search to mostly properties listed by the brokerage.
As the Wydler brothers detail in their book, that is not the only case where buyer or seller can be taken advantage of by a system that at times puts real estate agents at odds with their clients’ best interests.
“When you get into the factory and see how the sausage is made, you realize there’s a lot of stuff that is not necessarily in the consumer’s best interest,” Steve Wydler said in an interview.
Added Hans Wydler: “The vast majority of agents have their clients’ interests at heart, but sometimes they just buy into a system that was set up for them.”
Given the many flaws within the system, you may wonder why you even need a real estate agent to buy or sell your home, especially with the many online do-it-yourself options out there. Not surprisingly, the brothers strongly advocate using a real estate agent. They contend a buyer or seller really needs someone who can shepherd him through the process.
“The perception is [all a real estate agent does is] open up some doors and you get a big commission check,” Hans Wydler said. “Frankly, helping people find a home is probably 10 percent of what we do. It’s such a small percentage of being an effective real estate agent and being a strong advocate for your client.”
There are many books out there on how to buy or sell a house, with most of them geared toward purchasing rather than marketing a home. While the Wydler brothers’ book will be helpful to both buyers and sellers, those looking to sell their home likely will find it especially useful — particularly the chapter on pricing a home. They urge sellers to stop calling their home a home and start viewing it as a real estate investment.
Revealing some of the industry’s lesser-known practices has the potential to cause a negative reaction from the Wydlers’ fellow real estate agents. But to date, the response to the book has been positive.
“We had some concerns about that,” Steve Wydler said. “But so far all the agents who’ve read it told me they’ve loved it.”
Writing the book turned out to be more challenging than the first-time authors anticipated. In the end, they hope their readers will come away with a better understanding of and appreciation for the work that real estate agents do.
“The big picture is we want to level the playing field,” Steve Wydler said. “Two, we want people to realize the agent has a really important value in the process. They should vet their agents to make sure they are finding someone who they feel is going to do the things we talk about in the book to help them maximize their return.”