Real-estate scams are everywhere. It seems that otherwise-honest people get caught up in the fight for a better price, too. With all this dishonesty and deception, selling your house can be intimidating. Here are some simple tips and things to keep in mind during the selling process.
Finding an Agent
The agent with the billboard off the freeway certainly does have a lot of money, and that means he does a lot of business. If you live in a seller’s market, he may be a great agent for you. He has lots of connections and can probably make a quick sale for you. If houses don’t tend to sell themselves in your area, you may want to find someone less successful. That big time agent isn’t going to want to waste his time working to sell your house. He has plenty of others to rely on and can afford to wait however long it takes for yours to sell too. A new agent really needs the sale, and the customers, though. Someone new to the trade will really fight to sell your house for the best price she can. She’s also less polished and so more likely to be honest with you. She just doesn’t have as much practice creating believable real estate deceptions.
Going without an Agent
Alternatively, you could sell your house yourself. You’ll still need someone to handle some of the papers, but you can rely on the buyer’s agent or only hire out what you can’t do yourself. This saves you money but can be overwhelming.
Regardless of who does the papers, take a look at them. If they’re chalk full of legal mumbo jumbo and hard for you to understand, something’s up. Anyone that tells you it’s standard or necessary is trying to hide something from either you or the buyer. Even if they’re “only” trying to scam the buyer, you can be held legally responsible down the road. Most cities have a simple real estate sales contract available at the County Clerk’s Office. If all else fails, you can pick up one of these and adjust it to meet your needs. It will have lots of blanks for the variables, and it’s fine to cross things out. Just have both parties initial any adjustments. You might want to take a look at this sample contract anyway, just to get a feeling for how little is actually needed. It will give you more confidence in calling a deceptive agent to the mat, should you need to.
The buyer is going to want inspections, the issue is when. If they’re willing to start signing papers and moving on the sale without seeing any inspections or having “they’re guy” come by and look the place over, be wary. Many people have a friend or associate that will come look at the place for them. That way, they can get started on the papers without waiting for the official inspections to come in. If the buyer doesn’t have anyone check the place out, they’re hoping to find something wrong during the sale to hold over you. They want to get you in the process of moving out so you really need to sell. That way, they can barter you down an unreasonable amount with whatever is found.
The other issue is who chooses the inspectors. If the buyer insists on a particular inspector, be wary. The same goes with your own agent. You don’t want your agent’s favorite inspector glossing over something you can be held partially liable for withholding anymore than you want the buyer’s inspector making things up to lower the price. I’d recommend going with a local firm and taking whoever they happen to send out. Your agent probably has a deal with one of the local firms anyway. Just make sure it’s the business they deal with, and not a specific inspector.
This is probably the most important consideration. If all else fails, trust your gut. You are paying your agent, inspectors, etc for their services. If you’re not comfortable with them, or don’t feel they’re representing your best interests, fire them. You’re the boss, not them. Don’t let them intimidate you. The same goes for the buyer. You want to treat them respectfully, but demand the same in return. Don’t give in to unreasonable demands. Having agreed to sell your property to them is not the same as agreeing to do whatever they want. As with anything else in life, don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with.