Tips for Dealing with Real Estate Agents

In this excerpt from Finding and Buying Your Place in the Country, Les Scher explains the types of real estate agents and salesmen you're likely to encounter in your search and offers tips for how to ensure you don't get defrauded while buying land.

  • Fenced Country Property
    Don't be satisfied with a salesman's assurance that that creek you want is part of the land you're viewing. Always have a survey done to clearly mark the borders of land you are considering purchasing.

  • Fenced Country Property

If you're looking to buy land in the country, finding the right real estate agent can be tricky. Which is why Les Scher has written Finding and Buying Your Place in the Country to help you separate good agents from bad apples and deal with the latter. Check out this excerpt from the 1974 printing of the book, (Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1974) for tips on dealing with real estate agents, buying land and making sure your land is exactly what you want.

The Differences Between the Real Estate Agent, the Realtor and the Salesman

A person who is licensed by the state to sell land will be either a real estate "agent" or "broker," a "realtor," or a real estate "salesman." The terms "agent" and "broker" are used interchangeably.

The Real Estate Agent (Broker): States generally require that a person aspiring to become a real estate agent serve as an apprentice to an already licensed agent for a specified period of time, that he take a few college courses, and that he pass an examination on basic real estate law. However, brokerage laws are not very detailed, and licenses are easy to obtain. The real estate agent acts as a middleman throughout the negotiations between you and the owner who is selling his land. For example, if you want to make an offer to buy some land, you will give your offer to the broker to deliver to the seller. The seller then gives his response to the agent, who delivers it to you. The agent cannot legally refuse to inform the seller of any facts involving a possible sale, even if the amount of money or terms you offer seem outrageous. Usually an agent can accept a deposit from you on behalf of the owner, although he rarely has the power to actually accept your offer and sign a final Contract of Sale on the seller's behalf. Some states permit real estate agents to write certain documents, such as Deposit Receipts and Contracts of Sale, although many areas consider contract drafting to be an illegal practicing of law.

The Realtor: In an attempt to create an, aura of "professionalism" for the land-selling industry, the National Association of Real Estate Boards (NAREB), consisting of 1,500 local boards, established a code of ethics by which its members swear to abide. A "realtor" is any real estate agent who has been accepted as a member into one of the local real estate boards. In my experience, realtors generally seem more anxious than the average real estate agent to comply with state and local real estate laws. Because of the extra status they enjoy, they are usually cautious to avoid doing anything that would cause them to lose their membership in NAREB. An agent or salesman working under a realtor is kept under close supervision by that realtor. Although you will encounter few realtors in small towns, you can always identify an agent who is a realtor by a sign in his window displaying the round emblem and initials of NAREB.

The Real Estate Salesman: To become a real estate salesman only requires passing a very simple examination. No apprenticeship is required and no experience is necessary. For this reason, most people you will meet selling land will be salesmen. Salesmen must work under a licensed real estate agent and can show land only under the agent's authority. A salesman cannot sign any documents or receive any money in his own name, but he can do so in the agent's name. The average salesman knows very little about land, real estate laws or the property he is showing. His knowledge about the parcels he is instructed to show comes solely from his employer, the real estate agent. Although an agent is legally responsible for the acts and words of his salesman, some agents deliberately misinform their salesmen so as to mislead potential buyers.

The following story is an excellent example of how a salesman can be used by an agent for the purpose of defrauding a purchaser. I know the principals involved in this case and saw how the buyer was taken. A salesman convinced a buyer to purchase some land by assuring him that a beautiful creek ran across the property. The buyer, without double-checking anything the salesman told him, signed a contract, paid the purchase price, and had his deed recorded. Then he decided to get a survey done before beginning to build his house to be sure that it would be on the property. He should have demanded that a survey be taken before he bought the land. The survey showed, to the buyer's surprise, that the creek was not on his property. Since the land was worthless without water from the creek, he went to the former owner to try to get his money back but was unsuccessful. The former owner had never promised him that the creek was on the property and, in fact, had never even met him. The buyer then tried to locate the salesman, but he had since left the agent's employment. The agent claimed he had never told his salesman that the creek was on the property. But he did admit that when the salesman asked if the creek was on the property, he said that he thought it might be but that he could not be sure without a survey. Getting nowhere, the buyer then filed a complaint with the District Attorney against the salesman and real estate agent for land fraud. The District Attorney found the salesman and brought him in for questioning, at which time he stated that the agent did tell him the creek was on the land and that he knew nothing about the property other than what he had been told by the agent. In rural areas, close ties develop among politicians, businessmen and law enforcers. Therefore, it was no surprise that the District Attorney refused to take any action, whitewashing the fraud for lack of evidence; after all, the buyer had nothing in writing to prove he had been told the creek came with the land. The buyer then retained a lawyer to sue the parties involved, but the outcome is uncertain. The only sure thing is that the buyer did not get what he paid for, and will have to pay much more in legal fees to try to get his money back, with no assurance of success.

8/4/2014 11:24:59 PM

Nice post but i want add some more points-- 1- Be specific about your preferences 2- Avoid signing any of the document offered by the agent before reading it 3- Do not get over smart with the real estate agent just because you have an Internet connection We ACE Group India, one of the leading real estate builder in Noida, offers their luxurious residential project at a competitive price in we know very well how to deal because we are in the business. visit us at

7/2/2014 7:42:55 AM

I know a lot about the real estate field but I did not know these things. I am glad I found this article. RES in Singapore

6/26/2014 5:15:41 AM

This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. This is very nice one and gives in depth information.

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