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6 Warning Signs At The Open House

If you are an investor, watch out for these six red flags. If you are a real estate agent, avoid making these mistakes:

1. Bait and switch. Talking down the subject house and promising to show a better one. Imagine yourself as the homeowner, hoping to find a buyer. But the agent is not trying to sell, but using your house as a way to get buyers for a "better" house (that is no doubt their listing, too).

2. Disinterest. If you are greeting by a friendly and enthusiastic agent, that's great. But if the agent is bored and doesn't care who can tell, this is a big turn-off. The agent has to exhibit enthusiasm, whether it is heartfelt or not.

3. Lack of facts about the house. If the agent cannot answer questions about the house, why should you place your trust in them? As a would-be buyer you expect the agent to have the facts about the house down to the last detail.

4. Lack of facts about the market. The same caution should be used when an agent doesn't know anything about the current market conditions -- average time on the market, inventory of homes, the spread, etc. As an investor, you should ask these questions; and the agent should know the answers.

5. Always the best time to buy. If the agent tells visitors to the open house that this is the best time to buy, your guard should go up. Wasn't the best time last year, when the market was much different?

6. Excess decision pressure. You have to make a decision, right now, or you will lose a great deal; or hurry up and decide, because there's an all-cash buyer who is very interested. This kind of pressure is yet another sign of poor salesmanship. Avoid any real estate agent who tries to force a quick decision.

You would think that professional behavior and a friendly, honest demeanor would come naturally to an agent. But it doesn't always. The open house can be a great venue to find an agent for yourself, but all too often it also gives you a chance to meet one who is not the right agent for you.

Michael Thomsett blogs at TheStreet.com, Seeking Alpha, and several other sites. He has been writing professionally for nearly 40 years, including several published books about real estate, written for Amacom, Wiley, Consumer Reports, McFarland, and others. He also spent several years as a landlord and real estate investor in the 1990s in Washington State, before moving to Nashville, Tennessee.