You’ve got mail…from a local real estate agent who wants to see your house. She claims she has an eager potential buyer. What do you say?

With few houses on the market, enterprising local listing agents sometimes try to pull more houses onto the market (and commissions into their pockets)

What do you say if an agent contacts you, claiming to have an eager potential buyer? It’s not outside the realm of possibility in a tight market. But is the buyer a phantom, and the overture a ploy to get you to list with the agent?

Here’s a good way to find out. Offer to sign a “one-party listing” and offer to pay no more than 3%…which is what an amaskgent would get for representing either the buyer or the seller. A “one-party listing” allows the agent to represent the house only to one potential buyer. (Make sure the contract doesn’t include any clauses that would bind you to that agent for other buyers or limit your ability to sign with another broker, such as USRealty.com .)(

If there’s really a buyer in the picture, the agent will readily sign, figuring that a fast sale is an easy commission. Then you can find out if the purported buyer is ready, willing and able to make an offer. (Be aware that this agent will not really be representing your best interests, so be sure to have an expert advisor, such as a real estate lawyer.)

If the agent doesn’t want to sign a single-party listing…well, why not, if there’s such an anxious buyer waiting in the wings? You’ll have exposed a shady agent who’s willing to lie to get a listing…precisely the kind of agent you don’t want to do business with as a buyer or a seller.