Choosing an estate agent is a complex process, much of which revolves around personal preferences. It is a process in which property buyers and sellers need to feel comfortable, because regardless of the legalities it is a relationship that is strongly grounded in trust. Despite the personal nature of the interaction between clients and their chosen estate agents, there are a number of hard and fast rules that should be considered when selecting an agent to represent your property interests.
Choose an Agency-Backed Agent
Your chosen estate agent should belong to a reputable estate agency. Whether small or large, the backing of a well-known estate agency is often an excellent method of ensuring your security and peace of mind in the course of your property transactions. For sellers, there is the assurance that the agency fees will be in accordance with best practice. This is particularly useful for first-time sellers with no experience in this arena. For buyers, agency backing is accompanied by the certainty that the property is fairly priced, and that legal requirements such as beetle and electrical compliance certificates are adequately met.
Check Their Qualifications
Estate agents need to be adequately qualified and need to be able to produce proof of their qualifications and their agency’s Fidelity Fund Certificate. The exams written by estate agents exist for a reason and it is important that the associated training was undergone. It is these exams that qualify estate agents to represent clients’ interests to the best of their ability. Agents with a RPL qualification have already proven their expertise or knowledge. Experience and continuing education typically make for better agents.
Nothing Beats Experience
It is important that the estate agent of your choice is very experience in selling houses. While qualifications are all very well, it is only hands-on experience that allows agents to properly understand the property market. For buyers, some experience is necessary to negotiate the best price for a given client and for sellers, sales skills are an important element to ensuring not only that a property is sold, but that it fetches a fair price.
Reputation is Everything
Agents need to have a transparent and solid reputation in their professional arena and with their previous clients. Shady deals, dissatisfied homeowners and dismissals from reputable estate agencies are all factors that should raise suspicion about their integrity and their competence.
Analyse the Little Things
Estate agents that show professional conduct and reliability from the outset are likely to continue in this fashion, while estate agents that don’t are unlikely to change once you employ their services. For this reason, it is necessary to monitor their behaviour and pay close attention to aspects such as their availability, the rapidity with which they reply to emails and return phone-calls, and their punctuality, because the precedents that are set early on are the ones that are likely to be maintained throughout your dealings with them.
Choose Someone with Whom you can Identify
Ultimately, the decision regarding the estate agent of your choice is a personal one, and it is important to think it through carefully. Integral to the decision is the degree to which you are able to identify with the person you have selected. Especially if you are looking for property, there is a very personal element to buying a home and it is essential that you and the agent of your choice see eye to eye. He or she needs to understand what you are looking for in a home and what you are prepared to pay for it, as well having the ability to identify homes that are likely to appeal to you.
Finally, choosing an estate agent is not a process that should be rushed. It is important to take your time over this important decision.
Questions you need to ask before signing an exclusive sole mandate are:
1. Are you a full-time professional estate agent? How long have you worked full-time in real estate?
Full-time work typically means more attention for you.
2. What geographic areas do you specialize in?
An agent who specialises in your area is preferable. This agent will be familiar with recent sales activity and will be able to recommend a good market price for your home.
3. On how many websites on Google’s first page will my property be listed when the buyers do an internet search for keywords such as (AREA) property for sale etc.?
If the agent or estate agency is not present on 50% of Google’s 1 page – phone a CCH agent!
4. How will you keep me informed throughout the marketing program?
Regular feedback is essential - as you need to be able to adjust the marketing program and or the price of your property timeously.
5. Do you have a staff or a team? If so, what roles will they play in my transaction?
A knowledgeable assistant can be invaluable, but make sure you connect with your agent regularly.
6. Will you represent me exclusively, or will you also represent the buyer? May I have that in writing?
7. How will you get paid? How are your fees structured? May I have that in writing?
8. What distinguishes you from other real estate agents?
Have you sold a large number of homes this year and in my area. Available days/nights/weekends via e-mail, landline and/or cell phone. Speaks my language of choice. Has good ideas for marketing my home. Make use of all other estate agencies “ from the word go” with the marketing of your property – i.e. do not exclude other estate agents via either unfair commission splits or for the first period of the marketing.
9. What is your negotiating style?
Top producing agents negotiate well. Unlike most buyers and sellers, they can remove themselves from the emotional aspects of the transaction They have with experience developed negotiation skills – as it is part of their job description. Good agents are not messengers, delivering buyer's offers to sellers and vice versa. They are professionals who are trained to present their client's case in the best light and agree to hold client information confidential from competing interests.
10. May I contact some of your recent clients as references?
11. Do you have a performance guarantee? If I am not satisfied with your performance, can I terminate our sole mandate?