Realtors live conflicted lives. On the one hand, they are salespeople—and 100% commission-based, so they only make money when a deal closes. On the other hand, they are also consultants, expected to give advice in the best interest of their clients, which may sometimes be at odds with their own monetary incentives.
Most successful real estate agents, however, take the long road. They prioritize their clients’ best interests, as they understand a happy client and a good relationship is worth more in the long run than what they stand to make on a single sale.
Melanie Marsh, a top agent with COMPASS in Wexford, takes it a step further.
“A true professional in this business will be your trusted advisor in all things real estate,” she said. “Expertise is a must, but it is worthless without honesty and transparency.”
To this end, she offers six nuggets of truth (in her own words) that she says any agent worth their salt should know—and not be afraid to tell you.
Appreciation is Not a Guarantee
There are, of course, HUGE benefits to owning your home vs renting: you get tax deductions, the payment stays the same, you can choose how long you stay, and customization is in your control, just to name a few. And since 2021, Pittsburgh’s real estate market has seen higher than standard appreciation year over year, netting many sellers equity gains at the closing table far above what we would normally expect in only two to three years of ownership. That said, appreciation is never guaranteed, so be cautious when thinking of your home as an investment. When thinking about what to buy as your primary residence, consider above all else what works best for your lifestyle and your cash flow, Marsh advises.
“Trying to predict what you may make or lose on a home years from now is a bit of a fool’s game,” Marsh said. “It only leads to indecision that usually ends up hurting you more than pulling the trigger does.”
Selling Your Home Privately can be Costly
You may have been pitched an “exclusive listing” by an agent (i.e., privately marketed within the brokerage, not on the MLS). Know this carries a huge financial incentive for the agent, but rarely benefits you versus the listing on the open market. Understanding these types of sales may be attractive to certain sellers concerned about privacy, and the agent may offer a small commission discount for doing so, but know this could come at a significant cost to your final sale price.
“In certain situations, dual agency can be beneficial to both the buyer and seller,” Marsh said. “But the only way to know for sure that you didn’t sell yourself short is to be on the market first before accepting an offer.”
The “Great House” will almost never be a “Great Deal”
In today’s seller’s market, the better the home, the more buyers want it, and the less negotiating power buyer agents have to get you a deal. The most nervous and risk-averse buyers tend to shy away from homes with a lot of interest that turn into “bidding wars,” as they mistakenly believe that paying over the asking price always means overpaying the fair market value. Instead, they target overpriced, inferior properties sitting on the market for too long to negotiate a “discount” and end up with a house they like less.
“Real value is very hard to pinpoint in today’s fast-moving market, but the huge nationwide inventory deficits that continue to push prices up are not going away any time soon,” said Marsh. “To my first point, just get the house you want that works for your monthly budget and worry less about overpaying in the long run.”
Moving is expensive and annoying. There are transaction fees, moving and furnishing costs, time needed off work to move, the list goes on. When you buy, think about what your needs may be five, ten, fifteen plus years from now, if at all possible. For example, consider that the two-acre flat lot you desire now may become less appealing to spend every weekend mowing once you have kids. Longevity in a home also increases your chances of realizing appreciation.
“However, if your situation changes unexpectedly and you have to make an unexpected move, the right real estate agent will help make the process more seamless and less stressful,” Marsh said.
You’re Not Ready Yet—But You Will Be
Preparation is critical for buyers and sellers to make confident decisions in today’s fast-paced market, and that can only come with the help of a good agent. How can you tell the good from the bad? It’s a simple thing: a true professional has processes, and they slow things down to speed things up. When working with buyers this means doing a full in-person consultation and providing pre-approval assistance before touring homes. When working with sellers, it means being hands-on with preparing your home for the market, having all pieces of a coordinated marketing plan in place before launch and reviewing the terms of all contracts with you before signing.
“Be wary of the rush-to-show or rush-to-list mentality,” Marsh said. “They are signs of laziness, incompetence or worse.”
Your House is Ugly
Or, perhaps your expectations are just out of line with current market conditions (this can apply to both buyers and sellers). An agent who wants to help themselves tells you what you want to hear. An agent who wants to help you tells you the truth. That includes the good, the bad and the ugly. If the reality and your expectations are one and the same, they can back it up with data and sound reasoning.
“My goal is to make clients for life,” Marsh said. “Honesty and transparency are the cornerstone of a lasting relationship.”
To work with Melanie, visit her website at https://melaniemarshteam.com.