Steward defines some of the service factors which make a good estate agent - and urges clients not to accept poor service

One of the main reasons why it will often pay to deal with established large estate agencies is that if you are given poor service you will be able to complain to the management or the principal - but, says Lanice Steward, MD of Anne Porter Knight Frank, South Africans are traditionally ‘non-complainers’ and, while that can be seen as admirable, it also encourages inefficiency.

“In property marketing large sums are at stake. It is important that if a client is not getting good service he should inform the principal.

“With the best will in the world, no executive is ever going to keep track of all the transactions on the go in his or her business - but we do need to hear the bad news and the negatives if the business is to remain efficient.”

Good service in the real estate industry, said Steward, should include first and foremost ongoing communication between the client and the agent. If the agent has a mandate he should phone the client at least twice a week, even if there has been no progress or action.

There will, said Steward, always be clients who prefer not to be contacted - but they are very much in the minority.

If a potential buyer has been shown a house, the agent should always report back on his perceived reactions.

Agents, said Steward, should always try to convince the seller to have one or more show house days and after these should within 24 hours give feedback on the visitors and their comments for the client.

In tough times, said Steward, it is tempting to try and impress the client by taking many visitors through the home, even the agent may well know that none are likely to be buyers.

This practice, said Steward, should be resisted because not only is it a waste of time but also in the end it will simply annoy the client.

A good agent’s most valuable service, said Steward, can be to persuade the client to accept an accurate, scientifically calculated valuation - but it is in this field that inexperience and ineptitude are most often encountered.

“Correct price counselling is the foundation of all successful agency work,” she said. “The agent who has not researched the market and cannot justify his valuations by comparing them with other similar sales is decidedly unprofessional. Clients should insist on seeing the statistics on which every estimate is based.”

Another important agent’s task, said Steward, is to reassure the buyer after the sale has gone through.

“Among less confident and insecure people it can happen that after signing they begin to question their own decision - a little reassurance at this point can work wonders.”

Reverting to the service theme, Steward said that occasional mistakes will occur, but these should be efficiently dealt with by either the agent or the principal of the company.

“In the majority of cases it is a communication problem which can be easily sorted out,” she said.

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