Real Estate Agent
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14 Things Real Estate Agents Don’t Want You to Know

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The Market Is Thriving

Now that life and work revolve around home, people are, surprisingly, on the move. Many in high-rise apartments no longer enjoy riding an elevator with strangers, and are looking for private homes. Those with private homes in the city may be looking to move out to less-populated areas or to finally invest in a country escape. Others, now working from home and with children in the house all day, are looking for a little more space. "People are not spending money on entertainment or travel," says Steve S., whose business stages homes for resale and prefers not to be identified fully for business reasons. "They think, 'I'm going to upgrade to a home office.'" Here's who isn't in the market these days: International buyers, and domestic travelers looking for a pied-a-terre in the city.

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Underpricing Is Just a Sales Tactic

You may think you've stumbled across a gem that's been priced too low mistakenly. But agents know something that may seem odd at first: A lower listing price can bring in a higher closing price. Underpriced homes draw many shoppers, and can result in bidding wars that push the final sale well above asking. Overpriced homes will sit idle, eventually developing the stench of failure.

Related: The Most Expensive Home for Sale in Every State

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Sellers Hide How Long Homes Are Listed

As soon as a home is listed, its value starts to depreciate. Many online searches are set at "less than 30 days" on the market, and a home listed for more than a few months can start to get a whiff of desperation about it. To counter that, owners and agents will take a property off the market for 30 days and relist it, making everything old new again and hiding past price drops.

Related: 40 Essential Tips for Selling, Buying, and Owning a Home

Your Bedroom Becomes an Oasis
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You Have to 'Stage' the Space

Having a professional bring in furniture to fill a space stylishly is what gets a second look in many markets, and drives up the asking price for expensive homes. "People want to know what it looks like," Steve S. says. "The vacation spots, they'll buy it with the furniture. Under COVID, people don't have somewhere else to go while they fix up the place."

Related: I Just Bought My First Home at Age 47 and This is What I've Learned

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Staging Can Be an Optical Illusion

A good design makes a small home look more spacious, and a mansion look homey. "It's a little counterintuitive, but a staged home actually makes a place look bigger, because it provides scale," Steve S. says. "You won't use beefy chairs if the room can't handle that. These are steps that people can take as pointers in good design, not just tricks of the trade."

Related: 19 Home Improvement and Decor Trends for 2020

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Sometimes the Extra Effort Isn't Worth It

In less expensive areas, you can only add so much value to a home during the sales process. In those places, the cost of staging may not be worth it compared with how much more it'll bring in from a buyer. "At a certain point, the value of staging a place that's $200,000," makes the profit margin tight, Steve S. says.

Related: 17 Low-Cost Home Renovation Ideas With the Biggest Payback

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Online Images May Not Be Real

That home that looks so spacious and chic online may be completely different when you see it in person, from its furniture to its paint job. For several years, virtual staging has allowed web whizzes to dress up photos of a home with digital design, and in the age of COVID-19, as sellers would like fewer strangers traipsing through their homes, virtual staging is seeing a boom. It's a cost-saver, too. Companies such as Virtual Staging Solutions charge as little as $300 to fancy up your place.

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Even the Lawn May Be Fake

Don't get too attached to the lush front yard or blooming flowers at the front door. Frequently, sod has been installed and plants purchased in the days before a home goes up for sale. The greenery isn't established, and may not even be appropriate for that climate. The result can be the heartbreak of dead grass and wilted flowers within weeks.

Related: Reasons You Don't Want a Lawn

70s Kitchen
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'As-Is' and 'Fixer-Upper' Aren't Always the Same

It may look like a bargain fixer-upper, but often a house marketed "as is" is listed that way because it cannot pass inspection. You may end up with home repairs far more expensive than the purchasing price.

Related: 25 Home-Buying Myths Debunked

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You Need to Translate Real Estate Listings

There's more to watch out for than the phrase "as-is," because every industry has its own jargon. In real estate, "cozy" means tiny. "Charming" can mean eccentric. And "character" just means old. "Mature trees" need pruning, or may even be close to death. "Potential"? Unless you're looking for a show on HGTV, run.

Related: 32 Celebrity Homes Regular People Can Afford

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You'll Want to Count the Rooms Carefully

That four-bedroom home you just signed on might count only as a three-bedroom. Why? Because listings in some hot markets will tout a bedroom in the basement that does not have a large enough window to meet fire codes, and therefore does not legally count as a bedroom in that state. The same goes for the backyard shed someone is touting as a mother-in-law apartment. There's a reason it's advertised for your mother-in-law, and not your mother.

Related: 13 Things to Consider When Buying a House After 50

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There's a Formula for Finding an Agent

Knowing the business and the market has value, but most of all, you want an agent who is going to work for you and your home. The perfect intersection of qualities in a real estate agent is know-how and enthusiasm. If they're knowledgeable but seem uninterested in you, that's a concern; and eagerness but lack of experience can also be a red flag.

Related: 10 Money-Saving Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent