Beware the estate agent working part-time and/or offering discounts

One of the questions that he is most frequently asked by those contemplating buying or selling property, said Tony Clarke, MD of Rawson Properties, is,

“How do I choose the right agent?”

“With loose talk flying about – much of it uninformed – focussing on the reduced number of home sales at the moment and the ‘high’ commissions that agents exact, there is a tendency for sellers to go the do-it-yourself route – or alternatively to employ an agent prepared to operate on a part-time basis and/or on a ridiculously low commission. In my experience, both choices almost always lead to disaster,” said Clarke.

Clarke explained that you can compare the choice of an estate agent to choosing a dentist.

"It can give you peace of mind to know that are receiving professional advice and attention. Just because you pulled your own teeth as a child, does not give you the ability to go it alone as an adult."

“No amateur property information gathering (usually these days via the internet) will ever match up to the ongoing comprehensive training given by today’s major estate agencies. Nor will a part-time operation ever be able to replace the passion and dedication of a really committed agent working fulltime under the discipline of a well regulated agency.”

Buyers, said Clarke, tend to be short on patience and high on expectation. They will, he said, favour the opposition the moment they detect a lack of information in the agent, e.g. on neighbourhood demographics, legalities, market prices and current or future developments in the area. They will also react adversely to a lack of availability at any time of the day – or evening. A good agency, said Clarke, has back-up staff who will act react appropriately when the agent is tied up elsewhere, they know the state of play and keep the client in the loop.

It takes practice and training, said Clarke, to negotiate a deal that excites the seller and satisfies the buyer. Inexperienced or part-time agents invariably fall short in a tough bargaining situation – and they will often not have identified the tried and tested service providers serving estate agents in their area.

“I am referring here particularly to conveyancers, mortgage bond originators, property inspectors, website compilers and, not least, other estate agents who can be relied on for good referrals.

“Inefficiencies and hold-ups by any of these people can cause all those involved to lose money.”

One of the major advantages of the branded groups, added Clarke, is, as indicated, the comprehensive nature of their client and referral systems.

“Many of the Rawson sales are brought about indirectly. How can an agent achieve the best price if he does not have an identified client base and a nationwide referral system?”

All the major branded agencies in the country today, said Clarke, are carrying out comprehensive growth plans and the fact that they are able to do this indicates clearly that they are by and large satisfying their clients.

“This, perhaps regrettably, cannot be said for many of the part-time and discount agents trying to carve out a small niche for themselves somewhere in the industry,” said Clarke.

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