The agent makes all the difference

Recessionary times are reflective in the current consumer perception of the real estate industry in America, according to J.D. Power and Associates’ 2010 Home Buyer/Seller Study. “Although the study focuses exclusively on the American market, there are many parallels that the South African real estate market can draw in relation to this study,” says Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

The study shows that, reflective of the real estate buyers’ market conditions in many regions in the US, satisfaction with real estate companies among home buyers has improved since 2009, while that of home sellers has declined.

Similar to conditions in South Africa, Goslett notes that the report showed that among both home buyers and sellers, the perceived and real-time importance of real estate agents had increased substantially in 2010, compared with 2009. “Buyers are increasingly relying on the negotiating skills of agents and overall, they seem to be satisfied with the purchase prices they are obtaining. However, despite the fact that agents appear to be doing a good job of negotiating and marketing on behalf of home sellers, the tough economic conditions are negatively impacting on their clients’ overall satisfaction with regards to services rendered.”

The results of the study were achieved by analysing three factors in the home-buying experience, namely agent/salesperson, office and a variety of additional services. Four factors were examined for the home-selling experience, including agent/salesperson, marketing, office and variety of additional services. Overall satisfaction amongst home buyers was primarily driven by increased satisfaction with agents, while overall satisfaction amongst home buyers decreased in all four categories.

Drawing from the report, Goslett provides the following four tips to consumers looking to buy or sell a property:

• It is critical to find the right agent: Due to the intricate nature of real estate transactions, it is essential that a buyer or seller is able to get on and relate to their agent. A transaction might take several months to finalise, and as such it is important that the client can see eye to eye with their agent and trust them impeccably in order to achieve a satisfactory experience from the process.

• Look for agents that go the extra mile: Buying and selling real estate is a complex undertaking, lined with many potentially complicated and unforeseen hitches. Apart from an agent, buyers or sellers need to work with a whole host of other professionals, such as movers, bond originators, inspectors, appraisers, contractors, and so on. A professional agent can go a long way in making the process easier by not only ensuring that their job is done as efficiently and professionally as possible, but also by predicting what needs to be done beforehand and making recommendations and referrals of trusted professionals to their clients.

• Marketing should be the primary focus for sellers: Sellers ought to pay particular attention to the tools agents use to market their listed properties. When choosing an agent, be sure to find out about their approach to open houses and online marketing in particular. J.D. Powers research showed that potential buyers often search for real estate online long before they engage a buying agent or attend an open house. Check out online websites – the more tools that will assist in attracting prospective buyers’ attention, the better.

• Understanding the full cost of buying a property should be paramount for buyers: Serious buyers need to establish what their budget is and look at houses in the appropriate price range. An agent can really help buyers by assisting them in working out all the extra and unforeseen costs involved in purchasing a property.

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