Dear Monty: My agent keeps telling me to submit offers of $100,000 over asking. Our price range is from $900,000 up to $1.4 million. Southern California is the area.

Should we be worried about her tactics in this market? She keeps telling us a cash investor offer will beat us out, and if we go over at least $100k, we will have a fighting chance.

A red flag is going off for me. Should I be concerned?

Monty: Only you can answer the question accurately. I have not been at your side through the entire experience.

In today’s world, all of the information a real estate agent provides to consumers of brokerage services is available to you directly online.

Most consumers are not yet aware of how the internet and software has made this possible. Some consumers realize that the availability of online housing information significantly reduces the value of the agent’s service.

Gradually, consumers will realize they are paying a high price for what has become a low-value service while the industry is hanging on to its 120-year-old business model.

Another industry problem is the low barrier to becoming a real estate agent. A hairstylist in my state must spend 1,500 hours to get a license to sell a $30 haircut, and your hair grows back.

Your home is likely to be the most expensive purchase you will ever make, and in my state, the agent needs 72 hours of pre-license training.

To top this all off, the agent has a severe conflict of interest, and the agent’s multiple listing filter creates a situation in which agents can take advantage of that conflict.

Because the customer has no direct multiple listing access, they will never know.

Your Choices

No. 1: Stay with your agent.

Pros: Easiest to do. It saves time — nothing to learn.

Cons: It may be costly. You will miss owner-direct homes.

No. 2: Find a new agent.

Pros: A more informed choice; a fresh start.

Cons: Takes time; similar results; you miss owner-direct homes.

No. 3: Use a discount agent.

Pros: May save money.

Cons: It may not save money. You will miss owner-direct homes.

No. 4: Use a for-sale-by-owner website.

Pros: Wider selection; more negotiating power; may save money; more control; more confidence.

Cons: Minimal customer service. You may not save money.

No. 5: Buy direct from an owner.

Pros: Better chance to save; wider selection; more negotiating power; more control; more confidence.

Cons: May not save money. Requires simple education.

Click here for a Dear Monty article, “How to challenge a home appraisal,” that includes a description of the components of a home appraisal.

Context

There is no certainty in the real estate market with the general pros and cons stated above.

How can you ever be sure you will save money? You may make an informed choice to spend more than anyone else. You may learn how to evaluate a home and still make a mistake.

Real estate agents and appraisers do that often, so you will not be immune. Click here for a Dear Monty article about a “Do-it-yourself home search” if you are willing to educate yourself.

It will take less time than you expect, and it will stick with you for all your future buying and selling experiences. More than 10% of all residential transactions in 2022 were owner-direct.

Richard Montgomery is the author of House Money: An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home. He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Click here to ask him a question at DearMonty.com, or follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty. The opinions expressed are his own.