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The Myth That Buyers are Liars is Not True

Updated on November 5, 2013
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Marlene is a California real estate broker/REALTOR®, selling property since 1989. California Bureau of Real Estate License #01056418.

Real estate mentors train new agents to believe the myth that buyers are liars.
Real estate mentors train new agents to believe the myth that buyers are liars. | Source

The Mentor Meant Well

On the first day of my real estate career, I was introduced to Thomas (name changed to protect the innocent). Thomas was the mentor assigned to teach me everything I needed to know about being a real estate agent. Thomas directed me to the training room where Thomas sat on one side of the beautifully finished conference table and I sat on the other side, facing the man who was about to show me how real estate is done. The first thing Thomas said to me was, “Marlene, consider this the most important thing you need to know about real estate.” He paused as if he was preparing to say the most profound thing I have ever heard in my life. Then he leaned forward, cocked his head to the side, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Buyers are liars. Sellers are storytellers.” I sat in shock for the longest moment I can remember, not knowing whether Thomas was serious or just joking with me. His facial expression and body language suggested that he was dead serious about his statement. To conceal my uncertainty, I simply picked up my pen and jotted his statement down on my notepad. I allowed Thomas to carry on with the lesson he had planned for me that day.

Thomas’ infamous statement was my introduction to selling real estate and the basis of how I was expected to form relationships with clients from that point on. Thomas meant well, after all, Thomas was the company’s top producer and was to be compensated with a healthy portion of the company’s commission for every transaction I closed for the next six months. So, it was in Thomas’ best interest to teach me well. In fact, Thomas did teach me well about the business of real estate, but I ignored most of what he taught me about people and real estate relationships. Call me a rebel, but I had a difficult time treating people like commodity. Putting labels on people, calling buyers liars was not something I was comfortable doing.

The Premise of the Myth That Buyers are Liars

Thomas based his premise that buyers are liars on the feeling that buyers never tell the truth about anything. He felt that buyers either exaggerated or neglected to tell the whole story about things. Thomas identified three major things he felt buyers lied about the most: #1 - Their income, #2 - The cash they have on hand, and #3 - When they want to buy.

As I talked with other agents, I learned that Thomas was not the only agent who felt that buyers lie. Many agents expressed the same sentiments as Thomas. But, my experience with buyers was different. As I worked with buyers I discovered that the myths about buyers were unfair statements about buyers. The buyers I worked with were nothing like the description other agents used to describe them. Let me share the three most common myths being told about buyers and the truths that dispel the myths.

Gross Income is income before taxes and expenses are taken out. Net Income is income after taxes and expenses are taken out.

  • Myth #1: Buyers Lie About Their Income
    Buyers don’t lie about their income. Some buyers don’t really know what their income is. People who are paid sporadically, such as contract workers and writers may have no idea what their income is until the end of the year and they are forced to tally it all up for income tax purposes.

    Finally, when agents ask buyers what their income is, agents need to be clear whether they want the buyer to state their gross income or their net income. Those two numbers can be surprisingly different.

Liquid Cash is money that is immediately available, such as money in checking accounts or regular savings accounts.

Cash Found!

I once had a client who did not know that she could use the money in her retirement account without being charged a penalty. She talked to the account representative and discovered that buying a house was one of the few reasons she could use to take money out of her account without a penalty.

  • Myth #2: Buyers Lie About How Much Cash They Have
    Truth: Buyers don’t lie about how much cash they have to buy a home. Sometimes, buyers don’t know how much cash is required to purchase the home. They may be planning on using liquid cash, or cash from an inheritance, or cash from a settlement that they have not received, but are expecting. They may even be thinking of taking cash from a retirement account. But, as in the myth about income, buyers may not know how much cash they have available to use.

    To get the full answer, agents need to ask more questions about the money buyers intend to use to purchase the house. Ask the buyer if they will be using cash from their checking account, money hidden under the mattress, savings account, stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, or their rich aunt Mary. Just ask more specific questions about where the money will come from.
  • Myth #3: Buyers Lie About When They Want to Buy
    Truth: Buyers don’t lie about when they want to buy. Buyers just don’t know the best time to buy for the most favorable outcome. Or, circumstances change for a buyer from one day to the next. An agent might ask, “When do you want to buy?” It's a good question, but the answer might be different from one day to the next. Consider the buyer who just got married. He and his wife have no children and don’t plan to have children for a few years to come. But, the buyer arrives home one day and learns that his wife is going to have their first child. Now, instead of the one bedroom, one bath home that the buyer originally told the agent he wanted, the buyer now wants to buy a three bedroom, two bathroom home so he can have an extra room for the grandmother to visit. The buyer didn’t lie when giving his original answer; life changed for the buyer and now the buyer’s needs are different. Instead of wanting to wait to buy a home, the buyer wants to buy the home now before the new baby arrives.

    Agents need to ask the buyer more questions about the buyer's desire in their home buying decision. The best question is, "Why?" Then listen to the answer.

Ask the Right Question to Get the Right Answer

At the end of the day, buyers are not liars. Buyers answer questions to the best of their ability. How agents ask questions determine the answer they receive from buyers. How agents interpret those answers determine the outcome of how the agent proceeds to work with the buyer.

To make it simple, agents should assume buyers do not know all about real estate. Agents should ask questions in a way that helps buyers understand the questions fully so that buyers are able to give informed and reliable answers.

No, buyers are not liars. They just aren't asked the right question.

"Real estate information; clear and simple!"

Although retired from actively selling real estate,
Marlene Bertrand maintains a current Broker/REALTOR® status.
Calif. Bureau of Real Estate Lic. #01056418.


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    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from USA

      Ha, Suzanne Day. You have Thomas sized up fairly well. He was a successful agent who taught me well, but I had to learn on my own what the true facts were about buyers.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Thomas sounds like he had quite a few bad experiences and has the attitude of buyers being out to "get" one over him. There have been customers I've had before that have also left me with that feeling. But not all of them are like that and people usually change their mind for good reason. I think people can be a bit wary of agents, just like they're wary whenever a large chunk of their money comes into play. It's good they've got someone thoughtful like you working for them so they can see that it doesn't have to be a sharks and mice game. Voted up!

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from USA

      Thank you for your feedback, curtis ericson. I agree that sometimes people can be outright liars, however I do believe that a good portion of the time, people are just misunderstood and sometimes that can be inadvertently taken as lying.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from USA

      Hello peachpurple. True, sometimes people are just misunderstood.

    • profile image

      curtis ericson 2 years ago

      Some of your points are spot on some are off a bit..having been a realtor as well as a buyer and seller, I can say with out a doubt buyer and seller can be very misleading whether intentionally or not.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      hmm, you got some points right and clear. Buyers aren't telling lies, they just don't know

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from USA

      Thank you, Ian Dabasori Hetr, for your feedback. It is interesting how real life makes it easy to make a good point.

    • Ian Dabasori Hetr profile image

      Ian D Hetri 3 years ago from Papua New Guinea

      A powerful story. I love hubs that come with touches of personal stories. Our lives as writers has a lot to say in what we write. Thanks for the lessons in this hub.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

      Hello DDE, after spending time with people and really getting to know them, I learned that a lot of the myths stem from agents simply not listening to their clients.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      The Myth That Buyers are Liars is Not True has lots to think about here. You certainly know way around such topics.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

      Thank you for your compliment, Nadine May. I'm trying to find my writing "voice", so your feedback means a lot to me.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 4 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      What a great way to read the inside into the real estate business. You have a nice writing style. Very easy to read. Voted interesting.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

      Thank you for the compliment, moonlake. I really enjoyed working with buyers and sellers. It was a rewarding experience. Although I still have my license, I'm retired from active selling. Most of my clients are still friends. In fact, I just got off the phone with a client who I've worked with on seven buying and selling transactions. We're still friends, which is a testimonial to the benefits of looking out for the client's best interest at all times.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      I have a feeling you are a very good realtor. We have had bad experiences with buying and selling homes, many times it was because of the realtor. I wished you lived by us and we had you as our realtor.

      Great hub voted up.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

      You're right, RTalloni. As I was writing this, I felt like it is something that could be used in any situation. Agents aren't going to like me for this, but the good ones will know it's not directed at them. Thank you for your feedback. It means a lot.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Truly interesting. Your thoughts on this should be applied to many situations--we don't know what another person may be thinking or how their experiences may color their impressions -- and could be useful in all of life. Thanks much!

      Next time I interact with a realtor I plan to refer them to this hub. :)

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

      Hi MsDora. I am sure I'll receive some backlash for "outing" real estate agents, but I am already notorious for doing things like that.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Marlene, thank you for the inside scoop on what some agents think. I'm sure his little adage could be turned around to say "Sellers are liars, and buyers are story tellers." Thanks for sharing your perspective on this concept.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from USA

      Bill, thank you so much for your compliment. I see you as my mentor. Not like the one in the story, but an excellent mentor who is showing me how to get better. I take notes when I read your hubs and blogs and apply what I've learned each time. Thanks so much for the lessons.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great story as an introduction; it perfectly set up the information you wanted to share in the article. Right before my very eyes you are becoming an excellent writer, and it's a joy to see.

      Well done Marlene!