Real Estate Agents are always under scrutiny in their day-to-day dealings. This is because of the nature of their industry, the stakes are at their highest. We are talking about the biggest asset purchase or sale in both the vendor’s and buyer’s lives. We are talking about risking their own money and debt. There is only one property available and there can be only one winner. There are no prizes for coming in second.
The aim of the real estate agent is to get the property sold at the best price possible. Their job is to close the gap between buyer and seller into coming to an agreement. Sometimes this is easy and other times this can be hard. When it is hard, agents will pull on emotional strings and psychological tendencies in order to get the deal done.
In any property sale, an agent is at the centre of the sale. The agent has the most information but at the same time, they have the most incomplete information about every buyer interested in the property. No agent is ever certain about a buyer’s budget just as no buyer is even certain about other offers.
What is a Real Estate Agent allowed to do
Every real estate professional who is licensed must follow a code of conduct set out in Schedule 1 of the Property and Stock Agents Regulation 2014. In terms of false offers and phony buyers. Clause 3 Honesty, fairness, and professionalism states that (1) “An agent must act honestly, fairly and professionally with all parties in a transaction. (2) An agent must not mislead or deceive a party in negotiations or a transaction.” In Clause 5 High pressure tactics, harassment or unconscionable conduct, it states “An agent must not engage in high pressure tactics, harassment or harsh or unconscionable conduct.
From this legislation, we can see clearly that real estate agents are not allowed to lie about offers. Despite this, do real estate agents lie about other offers, they probably do, but can you prove it?
Shades of Gray
If we have determined that agents are not allowed to lie about other offers, why do we feel that they do? In law, it is never a question of right or wrong. It’s a question of proof and evidence. Can you prove that an agent lied to you about an offer? Can you prove that the agent’s conduct was unconscionable? The ambiguity in the language means that you can argue the definitions of the clauses and apply them to the proof of the conduct in a court of law. They usually relate back to the fictitious reasonable person that provides the standard measure of whether something is or isn’t. This can be difficult without definitive proof.
It is not just the language of the law but the language of the agents in interactions and correspondence that lead to incorrect assumptions. “We’ve had interest from multiple parties” is not an admission of an offer. “We’ve had a verbal offer of $x” is not a provable offer. In fact, it is the buyers’ misunderstanding of the legalities of what constitutes a real offer that leads them to make the assumption that the agent is lying.
When you ask a real estate agent a question, like a politician they are experts in not answering your question but making you think they did while leading to make an assumption.
Well, how do you know whether a real estate agent is lying to you about an offer? The truth is, it’s impossible to know for certain. What you can do, is ask or only correspond with the agent in writing. However, there is no obligation for the agent to correspond or to answer your questions in writing as stated by Fair Trading. It is also not worth losing out on a property by fighting through the minor details of whether an offer has been made or not and trying to catch an agent out. Chasing proof of misconduct shifts the focus away from the property and will always leave you empty-handed.
The truth is, most agents abide by the code of conduct despite seeming that they may not be by not completely answering your questions. Their job is to act in the best interest of the client, and it is not illegal not to answer questions. It is not illegal to have bad administration and forget to answer questions or correspond with buyers.
Asking the Right Questions
Real Estate agents may not answer your questions. Instead of chasing the proof that they may have misled you or weren’t entirely honest with you. You can gauge more by what they don’t answer than what they do. It’s more about asking the right questions and seeing what the response is.
What you should aim to do is ask very precise close-ended questions. For example “Has the vendor received any signed contracts of sale” or “Has any buyer purchased a building and pest inspection report?” As you can see these precise questions lead to the answer of either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If a real estate agent answers with something different. It is a distraction to hide something negative which in the case of the examples could be that the vendor has not received a signed contract of sale and no one has purchased a pest and building inspection report. Again this is not definitive but a deducement from the response that should help guide you in your own deliberations.
Most real estate agents do abide by the code of conduct despite seeming that they don’t. The reason that you may feel like this is that the stakes are so high and the agent is not giving you a clear answer to your questions. From these riddles, you must work out whether you reveal your cards by making an offer or wait and see.
It is frustrating.
If you believe that misconduct has occurred is difficult to prove indefinitely. Is there a chance that your lack of knowledge and experience in the industry may mean that you have incorrectly assumed something? Chasing proof will often lead you to miss out on properties as you may appear brash and agents may feel reluctant to deal with you due to your own lack of transparency. Remember there is no obligation for an agent to provide anything to you in writing. The best thing you can do is ask the right questions and from the information, you make a decision that will hopefully lead to acquiring the property.