A natural part of real estate selling is the claims and ploys designed to generate listings and sales. Sellers should consider the logic of typical comments they may encounter. Here are several common examples.
"I know a buyer who would be interested in your home, Mr. Smith. "Many brokers claim to have a buyer in hand and some actually do. A broker's stock and trade are the names of clients, so it is not reasonable to ask for the buyer's name.
However, sellers can protect themselves by getting specific information, such as the potential buyer's occupation, approximate height, income, current city or subdivision, and number of children. A listing agreement can then be given for a brown-haired, 6-foot-1-inch schoolteacher from Portland with two children who earns $18,000 annually. If the broker does not have this information the broker does not have a buyer in mind.
"We are affilliated with 4,000 firms nationwide." Real estate is a localized business and a small broker with a single office in your neighborhood may have more potential buyers than some corporate colossus with 28 vice presidents.
"If you are unhappy with our service you can just cancel the listing." This promise is utterly worthless if it is not in writing. More importantly, it does not address the question of liability. A seller can always cancel a listing agreement but may face protracted litigation and claims for damages by doing so.
If a broker is serious about giving you the right to unilaterally cancel a listing contract, be certain that right is stated in writing and indicates that you will have either no liability or that your liability will be limited to a specific dollar figure.
"We separate the buyer and seller and act as middlemen." A broker's job is to be an agent for a principal, not a judge, referee or arbitrator. Besides, some buyers and sellers are better off working together.
"We are part of a nationwide referral service." This means there is one more party with whom the broker must divide the commission and the listing broker will be less likely to negotiate fees.Is the broker incapable of marketing your home locally? If so, get another broker.
"I can get more money for your house." Sellers are mainly interested in their net benefit - the profit after all expenses are paid. Often, a higher price includes additional expenses that may actually reduce the net benefit.
"This is our standard listing contract." If you hire a broker you are doing so as an individual. Make certain the listing contract meets your needs as nearly as possible. The fact that a listing has a "standard" form means only that many people in the past failed to negotiate.
"Brokers can sell a house faster than self-sellers." Nonsense. There is no basis for comparison. A basic tenet of real estate is that all properties are intrinsically different and therefore there is no way to prove this claim. "I can sell your house in a month." Sellers should agree in writing that if a home is not sold according to your terms in 30 days the broker will pay a 6 percent penalty.
"We can get you a warranty." An increasing number of brokers are offering warranties to assure buyers and they will be protected if an existing home has a mechanical defect.
These warranties cost a seller from $100 to $200 and last frome one to 13 years. Most importantly, they can have a deductable of $50 to $100 per item per incident. Some firms charge a service fee as well. If these warranties are such a good selling tool, let the broker pay for it from the proceeds of the commission.
As an alternative to an outside warranty, a seller can create a one-year escrow fund of $100 or $200 at settlement to cover mechanical house repairs. In this way the buyer will not face a large deductable and seller may get back any money not used during the year.
"If we can't sell your house our firm will buy it." At what price? With what terms? Will the seller have to pay a full brokerage commission? Points? What is the role of the broker in this case? Is the broker an agent of a principal? An adversary of the seller? A second principal?
Given the right conditions, buy-back agreements can be potentially attractive to sellers. But make certain that you fully understand the proposed sale and that all specific terms are included in the listing contract.