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How to Get What You Want from the Realtor

Absolute No-No's
Trust is a two-way street in your relationship with your Realtor, and rule number one is remaining loyal. "I refuse to deal with people who work with more than one Realtor at a time," says Rhonna Robles. "What I see happen is that the Realtors all find out and they feel used, so that person always receives the worst service." What else will antagonize your Realtor? Disrespect, lack of clarity, and deviousness. To avoid trying your Realtor's patience:

Don't treat the Realtor like your personal assistant. "Some people are very rude about my time," says Rhonna Robles. These are the folks who call at midnight or 6 a.m., demand instant information whether or not it is necessary, and in general ignore common rules of courtesy. "They don't understand that I'm working and I have other clients and a home life. People like that will probably not get treated very well, and if I can't treat them well, I won't work with them."

Don't hide credit problems if you are buying a home. The Realtor will earn nothing unless you eventually purchase a house. If you will not be able to qualify for a loan, you are exploiting the Realtor and making him work for free.

Don't exaggerate the amount you will be able to pay. Sometimes people purposely lie about their financial situation, but more often they don't actually know how much they can afford until they go through the loan prequalification process. Many first-time buyers are also unaware of the closing costs associated with buying a home. An agent will probably be willing to show you a few houses on the basis of your word alone, but don't expect her to launch an all-out search until she is certain you can afford what you say you can.

Don't expect the Realtor to make ridiculously lowball offers. "A lot of first-time buyers think if somebody's asking $150,000 for a house they can buy it for $100,000, which is typically not the case," says Jim Lee. Lowballing can alienate the seller, who may take it as an insult and refuse to look at any other offers from you, even reasonable ones.

Don't waffle too much about the sort of house you want. There's an old saying: buyers are liars. It's not meant as an insult so much as a comment on buyers' notoriously fickle nature and lack of self-awareness. "They'll tell you they absolutely will not buy a two-story house and then they'll buy a two-story house," says Robles. No one will blame you for adjusting your goals, especially during the first few weeks of your search, but too many changes over many months will signal that you're either not serious about buying or not able to make the commitment.

Don't argue excessively in front of the Realtor. When husband and wife disagree about the type of house they want, the unlucky Realtor can find herself playing therapist/ referee while still trying to find that perfect home. "I've witnessed horrible fights before. It's awful," recalls Rhonna Robles.

Don't insist on an unrealistically high selling price. It's very common for homeowners to balk at the Realtor's suggested selling price, but it's not as if he's plucking a number out of thin air. If you feel he is really off base, get another opinion. Always keep in mind that pricing your house correctly will get you more money in the long run than pricing it too high and having it go stale on the market.

Don't conceal your time frame. In an effort not to appear desperate and vulnerable in a negotiation, some people don't tell the Realtor their true time frame. This can come back to haunt you, because it means your Realtor may not devote as much energy to you as she would if she knew you have only, say, two months to sell your home and buy a new one. If you ask your Realtor not to tell potential buyers about your time frame, she is legally obligated to obey. Buyers who are concerned about confidentiality should use an exclusive buyer's agent.

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From Say the Magic Words by Lynette Padwa. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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