Real estate agents are, by and large, honest and ethical professionals. However, a few of them might lie about the details of their own credentials, the value, and condition of a property, or the amount of interest in a property. To obtain a listing, a real estate agent may also falsely say they have a buyer lined up for the property. These are misrepresentations that can cost you money if you choose the wrong broker.

Whether buying or selling a property, the amount of experience, number of listings, and specialization of a real estate agent should be considered. An agent may stretch the truth or outright lie about these matters, so before selecting an agent, check the facts. Below, we cover some common real estate lies and half-truths.

Key Takeaways

  • Most real estate agents are honest and hard-working, but there are also a few bad apples out there that can cost you if you choose the wrong person.
  • Some key things real estate agents may lie about include credentials, property conditions and value, or the level of interest in a property. 
  • Agents may not have physically visited a property, instead, using word-of-mouth and tax assessments to prepare listings. 
  • Agents may also shift the responsibility of a listing accuracy by adding “BATVAI” (buyer’s agent to verify all information) or “IDRBNG” (information deemed reliable but not guaranteed) to listings. 

Misleading Property Descriptions

Real estate agents make money when they close on a property, so in order to promote a property they have listed, they are apt to use language that makes it as appealing as possible to potential buyers—even if what they're saying isn't entirely true.

Sometimes agents haven't even seen the property for themselves and merely rely on information gleaned from tax assessments to prepare listings. Be careful not to fall for the old bait-and-switch.

Buyers should ask plenty of questions and personally inspect the property, as well as get a home inspection done by a certified inspector. 

Some agents may add verbiage to the listings, such as "BATVAI," meaning “buyer's agent to verify all information,” or "IDRBNG," which means "information deemed reliable but not guaranteed." These disclaimers place the responsibility for accuracy of the listing information on the buyer and their agent rather than on the listing agent.

Be sure to look at any property thoroughly and ask plenty of questions before putting in an offer. A home inspection by a certified inspector can reveal issues you may not see yourself and gives you the opportunity to ask to have certain repairs made before the sale is complete.

Inflated Property Values

It is no secret that homeowners want to make as much money as possible when they sell their homes. To secure a listing, real estate agents may recommend inflated values to properties, telling prospective sellers their properties are worth far more than they actually are in the market. To determine whether or not an agent has given a realistic listing price, check the recent sales prices of comparable properties in the neighborhood, or have an appraisal done to find the appraised value. Free web resources like Zillow or Trulia can also be a good place to start.

Imaginary Buyers

Real estate agents may attempt to lure property owners to list their property with them by insisting that they have the perfect buyer for their property already lined up. Asking for the name of the prospective buyer puts the agent on the spot, but at the same time, they are under no obligation to reveal personal details about their clients. Still, beware of any hesitation or negative body language exhibited by the agent when answering. Sometimes that perfect buyer is just a little to perfect—and does not, in fact, exist.

The Bottom Line

For the most part, real estate agents are honest hard-working people who are doing their best to sell their clients' properties at a fair price, but it is still a good idea to watch out for these signs that an agent may be lying or hiding parts of the truth.

Mortgage lending discrimination is illegal. If you think you've been discriminated against based on race, religion, sex, marital status, use of public assistance, national origin, disability, or age, there are steps you can take. One such step is to file a report to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).