You’re not alone. And you’re right to suspect that it might happen. So does the opposite – “secret deals“.
Most of the time in Silicon Valley there’s one offer at a time on a house, and the property is listed in the MLS, so there’s really not a lot of favoritism or bias going on. (Unless of course your agent or you make a really good OR really bad impression, which can also sway your ability to strike a favorable deal.)
Sometimes, though, homes sell “off” the MLS. This happens more some areas than others (Palo Alto, Saratoga and Los Gatos come to mind), particularly in high end or luxury homes or homes owned by celebrities. When this occurs, the marketing is done by word of mouth to favored offices or agents. Sometimes only a few people know a property is available at all. This is not the majority of the time, and in fact is a small minority, but if you are trying to purchase a home and there’s not much inventory, you want all the help you can get.
Why the favoritism? Part of it is friendship and reputation. Certain agents are well known for doing a good job for their clients and being fair to the other parties too. Most Realtors want to work with agents on the other side of a transaction who are competant, hard working, fair minded, communicative, and thorough. They don’t want to work with someone who seems unprofessional, doesn’t understand the contract, is overly emotional and who cannot educate and guide his or her client. Those latter agents are nightmares and some real estate agents will go to extremes to avoid working with agents on the other side of a deal whom they perceive to be “bad”.
Key point: your real estate agent’s reputation is important! This is also true if you hire a listing agent to assist you in selling your Silicon Valley home. Most agents have an either neutral or good reputation. An agent with a stellar reputation will make agents want to show your home and write an offer (because they know that it will be a fairly smooth transaction and they will be treated fairly). But if you hire an agent with a bad reputation you may either have trouble selling your home or not get as many offers as you might have otherwise seen. A bad or disliked agent (there aren’t many of them but they do exist!) can virtually stigmatize your property.
There are many good, ethical Realtors in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, like in many other professions, there are a few bad apples in the real estate industry too. But hire well and you will find that doors can open for you. Don’t be afraid to ask your agent to do old fashioned networking on your behalf too. That 1 or 2% of homes that sell “off the MLS” may be the ideal home for you, so make sure you discuss finding those properties too.
Related Posts on this Silicon Valley Real Estate Blog:
Silicon Valley Home Buyers: Should You Use a Buyer Broker Agreement?
What Do Silicon Valley Real Estate Agents Do?
How Important is Marketing When Selling a Silicon Valley Home?
Why Is There So Much Paperwork When Buying or Selling a Home in Silicon Valley?
What Is A Default in a Real Estate Transaction or Contract?