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30 Secrets Your Real Estate Agent Isn’t Telling You

From throwing an open house to listing your home at the right price, these real estate secrets can help you sell your home faster in any market.

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Asian family buy new house

Your open house helps me more than it helps you

Open houses might be a better way for an agent to gain more clients than sell your home. “An open house does not sell the house,” explains Jeff Peterson of Excel Real Estate Consultants. “Open houses are a tool for newer agents, or any agent looking to get more buyer clients. In my 15 years of experience, an open house consists of neighbors that are curious about the pricing or people driving by who stop by on a whim.”

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Bright red open house real estate sign in nice suburban neighborhood, sunny day.

But open houses can be beneficial if done right

“Open houses work—sometimes,” says Katie Wethman, a Realtor licensed in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. “It really depends on the location and price point of the house, and how quickly things are moving in your market. We find that open houses are critical in a fast-moving market and when the house is at an entry-level price point.”

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Scented diffuser stick in black glass bottle against white marble wall background for decoration in luxury bathroom.

Scents matter

Who can resist the alluring smell of freshly baked cookies? Turns out many home shoppers can. According to a study done by Eric Spangenberg at Washington State University, complex scents like potpourri and cookies can backfire for open houses. Spangenberg also found that shoppers spend 32 percent more in stores with a simple orange scent rather than stores that used a mixture of scents. Another trick is to use the same scent at every open house so return viewers can create a connection with the scent. You’ll also want to try these things that make your home look more expensive.

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Messy pile of dirty dishes in sink
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Don’t turn people away because of a mess

If you want to sell your house faster, than a good decluttering is key. However, if you get a last-minute request to show your home, and you didn’t have time to Marie Kondo it, don’t turn down the offer. An interested buyer will be more concerned about the layout of the house then a few dirty dishes in the sink.

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Don’t push away a low offer

“When you’re selling a home, it’s better to accept an offer early on rather than waiting for the perfect buyer to come along,” says Carmen Palma, a Realtor in New York and Florida. “The longer your home sits on the market, the less likely you will receive a full price offer. Buyers are leery of a property that has not sold for months—and you can still counteroffer.”

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Financial advisor shaking hands with senior woman in living room

Ask to get what you paid for

Did you hire the best real estate agent in your area thinking you would get star treatment? Think again. A bulk of your work might be passed on to an assistant or a junior agent. Ask your agent how involved they will be with the process and how you can know if they are worth the cost. Watch out for these ways that moving companies scam you.

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Read before you sign

Make sure you read your agent’s listing or buyer’s contract carefully before signing it. John Myers of Myers and Myers Real Estate warns about hidden fees for both buyers and sellers. “Some real estate brokerages are charging hidden fees in addition to the commission they earn. They have a variety of names like Real Estate Transaction Fees, Administrative Fees, and other fancy names,” he says. It is always a good idea to ask about fees upfront.

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real estate agent show family house
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Don’t skip the final walk-through

You might be eager to discuss sofa placement rather than perform a final walk-through, but don’t skip this important step. It’s your last chance to make sure that repairs were done properly, that the owner’s personal items have been removed, and that the items you agreed should stay (washers and dryers, light fixtures) are still there. Follow this checklist to make sure all your bases are covered.

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Building Inspector Looking At New Property

Don’t bypass inspections either

It can be tempting to skip costly inspections, especially if the home looks in pristine condition. However, skipping the inspection can be a costly mistake. “To allow for full transparency, always use an inspector of your choosing and never be pressured to use an inspector your agent recommended to you,” says Lukasz Kukwa, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Not convinced? Check out these 12 crazy things found during a home inspection.

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Real Estate: For Sale Sign In Front Of House
Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock

Beware of seller’s agents who overestimate your house’s selling price

You have your heart set on a high price, and your agent just wants your business. In order to keep you as a client, an agent might take on what’s called “buying the listing.” This means that an agent will list your house high, knowing that you will be desperate to reduce the price later on. Meanwhile, the agent gets to enjoy free advertisement through your yard sign and open houses. Real estate agents warn against these mistakes you’re making with your home.

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Contemporary interior of kitchen with empty room

Empty houses can look smaller

“I recently went to list a home and the seller had gotten rid of his furniture in advance since he figured he was going to move,” shares real estate agent, Alyson Silverman. “If he had called me a week prior, I would have told him to keep the furniture as most buyers cannot mentally visualize where the couch or table would go. Vacant homes do not sell as fast.” But it does help to arrange your furniture in the right way.

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Clear the counters

“If you’re selling your home and don’t feel confident in your kitchen’s counter space, be sure to tidy it as much as possible for showings,” writes Lucas Real Estate Blog. “Remove all unnecessary appliances and decorations to show off as much as possible the counter you do have.” Selling your house or not, these are the 10 things that don’t belong on your kitchen counters.

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African businessman working on laptop sitting at home office desk, happy black intern employee looking at computer screen typing or browsing web, using software application for business and education

Don’t trust realty websites to price your home

“A big problem with Zillow’s database is that it is based off comparable sales,” writes Sam Dogen of Financial Samurai. “Feel free to pull up estimates around the entire neighborhood to educate yourself, but if you have only one or two sales in the past six months to a year, they are hardly reliable.”

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Ask about my history

In order to impress you, an agent might inflate the number of transactions they have done recently. You can easily research an agent and their experience through an online search or a search on a realty website. “Checking your realtor’s current license status is a must too,” says Snezhana Conway, an agent for Keller Williams Capital Properties.

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Watch out for my references

Find out what other buyers and sellers think about an agent before hiring them. “Asking for the last three transactions’ references is a smart idea,” adds Conway. “Not just the best references but the last three transactions’ references.”

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Handcuffs on top of a set of fingerprints file
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I can’t tell you about the local crime rate

“The key for consumers is to know that agents can’t tell you some things—legally,” says Pierre Calzadilla, a former licensed New York City real estate agent. “They can’t tell you if a neighborhood is safe or not, or if a school is good or not, as this was historically a way of red-lining or steering.” However, you can search for school ratings and check a crime map at CrimeReports.com.

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wooden door with grill, stainless door knob or handle on wooden door in beautiful lighting

And I might not tell you if someone passed away in the home

“Since most states don’t demand agents to disclose that information, it isn’t disclosed,” says Jaquetta Ragland, agent and owner of the website Young and Finance. “However, if the client asks, the agent must tell the truth.”

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A pile of Five, Ten and One hundred US dollar bills on a table

The commission is always negotiable upfront before you sign a contract

Until you sign a contract, all commissions on the seller’s side are negotiable. “There is a myth that the listing commission for listing a home is 6 percent and that has become custom in most markets, but this is not true,” says Kukwa. “Always try to negotiate the commission based on the services offered by the agent/broker in order to compare what one offers over the other.”

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Close up shot of a cheque or cheque with a pen

I am being paid more than you think

“I think by far the number one thing a buyer’s agent doesn’t tell their client is how much they’re being paid,” James McGrath, licensed real estate broker and co-founder of the NYC real estate brokerage, Yoreevo. “Commissions vary on each property, so if I was a buyer and a few properties are on the table, I’d want to know the commission on each. If a buyer is is on the fence and one property is offering 3 percent and another 2 percent, you can guess which the agent would prefer you buy.”

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I might also be getting a kickback

“Every house listed on the multiple listing service (MLS) has a place to put confidential agent comments and what the buyer’s agent will receive in commission,” says Robert Taylor, The Real Estate Solutions Guy. While meant for alarm or gate codes, it can sometimes be used to offer more incentives. Taylor says, “If a house is difficult to sell, for example, the commission may be more. In addition, this section may also include an additional bonus to an agent if they bring the seller a full price offer and close by a certain date.”

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interior luxury apartment, beautiful living room
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Staging your home can help

“Staging and decluttering the home is key as staged homes sell quicker and for more money,” shares Heidi Thorn of Prism Properties and Development. “Cleaning the house, painting the walls a neutral color, and removing all personal items is beneficial because potential buyers want to picture themselves in the home.”

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 money in hand
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That big commission check doesn’t go straight into my pocket

While it’s no secret that real estate agents make a decent profit when a house sells, their commission checks aren’t full profit. Commissions are split between the buying and selling agent, as well with the brokerage. Agents also pay their own expenses, such as advertising, signage, lockboxes, membership, and MLS fees.

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FOR RENT sign with house behind it, copy space on sign
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It might make more sense for you to rent

Even if you qualify to buy a home, it might not be the best financial move for you. On paper, you might have the buying power for a home, but your monthly budget might not be able to handle a mortgage payment, property taxes, and the typical fees that come with owning a home. Renting might also be better if you aren’t ready to plant your roots. “When you’re young, buying a house can tie you down to a location before you’re ready,” writes Zina Kumok on Money Under 30.

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Suburban residential street with red brick houses
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Your neighbors make you look good

When potential buyers view your house, they aren’t just looking at your house. Your neighbors’ homes make a huge impact too. While you can’t groom the whole neighborhood, you can offer to clean up the yards around your home. Another good idea is to schedule home viewings when your neighbors are at work if they have a lot of cars or noisy children.

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You have to know today’s market

“Your agent won’t tell you if your house is overpriced,” says real estate investor, Jonathan Tran. “Agents will make suggestions on pricing, but if you insist your house is worth more, don’t expect your agent to try to convince you otherwise because they want to provide great customer service.” Your overpriced listing becomes a problem when your house sits too long on the market and you have to drop your price. “Buyers don’t think they’re getting a deal, they’re thinking something is wrong with the house,” says Tran.

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Some agents have access to off-market opportunities

“There are a lot of off-market opportunities to buy and sell if your agent is well-connected and not afraid to work,” says Wethman. “Networking groups and direct mail can open up opportunities for a buyer in a low-inventory market.”

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Take advantage of coming soon homes

“Coming soon is a growing part of the market,” adds Wethman. “Similar to finding off-market properties, you need to be aggressive in your searches of coming soon properties because agents can often secure early access and, in some cases, get you a ratified contract before the house even officially hits the market.

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I’m desperate for your listing

“As the number of listings reduces, and the number of agents increases, it becomes very challenging for agents to carry a listing inventory,” says Brian Beatty, host of the Brian Beatty Real Estate Show on 1250 WTMA. “Agents are going to say what they need to say and do whatever they need to do to get that listing because they want that marketing opportunity.”

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Silver CCTV Camera on the white wall

The sellers may be watching you

You might need to put on your poker face while home shopping, even when the owners aren’t there. Realtor Andrea Morgan says, “Many sellers have in home security and personal assistants (like Alexa) that can hear or record your commentary as you view the home.” She suggests writing down notes and discussing comments for after you leave.

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We don’t like agents who rush

Experienced agents don’t generally enjoy working with unseasoned agents. Inexperienced agents can be harder to work with because it means more work for the agent who has over a decade of experience under their belt. Your agent might encourage their clients to take a different offer from a buyer with an agent who has been around the field longer.

Ashley Eneriz
Ashley Eneriz is an expert finance writer who has worked with top clients like Discover, SoFi, Credit Sesame, The Hartford and more. Her work has been featured on Time, Business Insider, Forbes, Huffington Post, MSN and more. She has a passion for making personal finance topics relatable to everyone.