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7 Inside Secrets of Real Estate Agents


It's the biggest investment most of us will make.

But often, standing between you and your dream home is someone like the guy pictured at right.

Ryan Serhant is a top New York City real estate agent and a star of the Bravo reality show "Million Dollar Listing New York," whose second season is scheduled to begin in May.

Serhant knows the property game inside and out -- here are some inside secrets.

1. Real Estate Is a Darwinian Struggle for Survival

"Sometimes real estate can get dirty," Serhant told ABC News' Deborah Roberts. "This is a bare-knuckle business, and there are no refs on the sidelines."

Why?

"In New York City alone, there are 27,000 real estate agents," he continued. "Last year there were 12,598 contracts, right? That means a lot of real estate agents did not do deals."

Was he a shark?

"You have to be," Serhant said. 

2. Web Listings Are Often False

"I can take a photo from anywhere around the world, and I can just create a listing page," Serhant said. "Or sometimes people will ... keep up a listing that has been on the market [after it's sold]. They sold it two years ago, but they've never taken it down."

What do they do when someone calls and wants to see it?

"They'll say something like 'The apartment is no longer available' ... or 'It just went into contract. Can I show you something else?"

3. Listings Are Littered With Misleading Sales-Speak

Sandra Rinomato -- a real estate agent and veteran of the popular reality show "Property Virgins" -- revealed a few examples.

"'Cozy' means small," Rinomato said with a chuckle. "'Awaiting your touch' means, you're going to have to do a lot of work here."

"'Partial view' means ... you have a partial view of the water because you're looking at it through a building," Serhant said. "You have a very 'bright' apartment just because there's fluorescent lights, not because it has direct sunlight. You can have a 'loft-y' apartment just because there's very small furniture in there, and it makes the ceilings look really big.

4. If You Can't See It, Agents Don't Mention It

"The biggest ethical issue that I see in the real estate market is dishonesty," Serhant said.

If someone was hurt or killed in a home, or if it had bedbugs or termites, many agents will keep mum and, if pressed, simply say they didn't know, Serhant said.

5. Open Houses Are More for the Agent Than the Seller or Buyer

"The real reason why a realtor does an open house is for self-promotion," Rinomato said. "We're using the 'For Sale' sign or the ads, the Internet presence, to get buyers to call us, and then we can convert them."

6. Agents 'Double End' You to Get Bigger Commissions

If you're selling your home, the highest offer wins, right? Not necessarily, Rinomato said.

Agents for sellers sometimes keep a higher offer from the seller to avoid splitting the commission with another agent, she said.

"I have registered an offer on someone else's listing, and the sellers never knew about it. I chased down that agent ... for days, and then saw [the listing] posted as a 'sold' on the board," Rinomato said. "He of course 'double ended' it. He had a buyer in his pocket and didn't want to see my offer."

7. You Don't Need to Hire a Pricey Company to Help Stage Your Home

Agents often recommend expensive companies to spruce up your property, but in reality, Rinomato said, losing the clutter and adding a fresh coat of neutral paint does the job.

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