Most sellers will end up choosing an estate agent that charges the lowest fee or one that offers the highest valuation. However, as some of you may know, neither of these criteria should ever be used to select an estate agent.
“You need to use a little truth serum to get prospective real estate agents to come clean.”
— Becki Saltzman
Aside from the obvious requirements, like a valid Fidelity Fund Certificate (FFC), without which an agent may not legally operate, there are a several essential traits to look for in an real estate agent.
Before you put your home on the market, or sign a mandate and agree to a marketing plan, here are 5 tests you can apply to your shortlist of candidates to help you sort the wheat from the chaff:
Buy or Sell test – This may be a good indication of how well your prospective agent can think on his or her feet and whether sincerity is a strong point or not. You need to ask these two questions before giving any indication of selling motive or level of urgency. First ask: “Is this a good time to sell?” and listen carefully to the answer. Then ask: “Do you think it’s a good time to buy?” Pay very close attention to the answer; you need a confident and plausible response.
Low Offer test – Also known as the “Cheeky Offer test”, this can be a useful gauge of negotiating skills. Ask what the agent’s reaction would be to a ridiculously low offer. Tell the agent that you don’t even want to see such an offer. If the agent readily agrees with you, it may indicate a lack of experience; a good agent knows that any offer, even a low one, is a great place to start the negotiating process.
Response Time test – When a buyer makes an offer, speed can often make the difference between closing a deal and losing the buyer. Use your preferred method to contact the agent via website, social media, email, SMS or phone and see what comes back. The response time may be a pointer as to what you can expect from the agent when a potential buyer pops up.
Ethics test – Estate agents must act in the best interests of their clients and are subject to a Code of Conduct in South Africa and many other parts of the world. However, it’s an unfortunate reality that a significant minority sail close to the wind where ethics are concerned. Dealing with such an agent can have disastrous consequences for both parties if a deal goes wrong. Ask if the agent is willing to conceal an imaginary defect in the property from potential buyers. Walk away if the agent shows any willingness to accommodate you on this. If the agent is prepared to pull the wool over the buyer’s eyes, know that you can expect the same treatment.
Skills test – Successful agents need to have a sound knowledge of a raft of legislation relating to the property industry. This includes the the Alienation of Land Act, Consumer Protection Act, FICA (Financial Intelligence Centre Act) and the laws applying to foreign buyers, to mention but a few. Agents must also be able to pre-qualify buyers for mortgage finance and have a sound working knowledge of different forms of ownership such as Trusts and joint-ownership agreements. Check to see if the prospective estate agent can field questions on these issues comfortably and with conviction.
To achieve the best selling price in the shortest possible time, qualities like openness, intelligence and experience can make all the difference. Look for enthusiasm, dedication and a large dose of market savvy, too.