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Telling white lies in the real estate market

By Dave Parrish

I was speaking with another realtor the other day and we got on the subject of telling buyers and sellers the truth versus what they want to hear, or in other words, the use of white lies.

I don’t know about you, but as a kid I learned early on about lying and white lies. I’ll have to admit at first it was a little confusing. There was no doubt in our house that lying was a sin. But, “white lies” were OK. So, where was the line between lying and telling a white lie? The most common definition of when a lie was a white lie seemed to be when we may not be saying the 100 percent truth, but we did so because we didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the other person.

Hurting someone’s feelings or making them unhappy seemed to be the bigger sin, so we fell into the habit of crafting our words and messages in a way that saved the feelings of others. It was kind of a “Southern” thing to do.

For example: Who of us when asked the question: “Does this make me look fat?” answer the question 100 percent truthfully? Maybe your husband asks if it’s OK to invite his mother over for dinner, and your response was, “Sure,” even if that wasn’t 100 percent truthful. Or, perhaps your 8-year-old asks if he or she looks really scary in his or her Halloween costume. And your response was, “Oh yes!”

In each of these cases your response may not have reflected your true thoughts or opinions. To a large extent, many of us have carried that understanding and habit of telling “white lies” into our adult lives, and realtors are no exception.

In each of these cases, the person telling the “white lie” was saying what the other person wanted to hear. There was no harm in not telling the 100 percent truth. However, if we are not telling the 100 percent truth in order to save someone’s feelings and it hurts them, we are lying.

What does this have to do with real estate?

We believe there are some in the real estate industry more worried about a homeowner’s feelings than they are about telling the truth about the current value of their home. These agents aren’t necessarily malicious. They just realize they may disappoint a seller at a listing appointment by telling the truth about what the house will sell for. They find it difficult to deliver tough news. To make sellers feel better, they lie.

Good agents can deliver good news. Great agents know how to deliver tough news.

In today’s real estate market, you need an agent that will tell you the truth, even when you don’t want to hear it. You need an agent more worried about your family than he or she is about your feelings. You need an agent who can get the house sold.

What this means to you

If you’re interviewing potential listing agents, demand they tell you the truth. Don’t hire the agent that tells you what you want to hear. Hire the agent that tells you what you need to know. Reward their honesty.

May the market be with you.

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