Know when the agent you are working with is an area specialist

In the real estate industry, an area specialist is an agent that understands the property market in a certain area or property category (residential, commercial, agricultural etc) - but how do you know that you are working with such an agent?

Retha van Zyl, founder and Principal of Retha van Zyl Real Estate in Bloemfontein, recently spoke to us about what it takes to be an area specialist and how to know you are dealing with such an agent.

Retha van Zyl, founder and Principal of Retha van Zyl Real Estate (Photof courtesy of Retha van Zyl)

Van Zyl is a prime example of an area specialist, offering a boutique service to property owners in the luxury market of Woodland Hills Wildlife Estate.

According to her an estate agent can be considered an area specialist if:

- they know the value of different types of property in a specific suburb
- they know the average time it takes for a property in a certain price class in the suburb to sell 
- they understand sellers’ preference towards the marketing of a property, for example open - or sole mandate, multi-listing system or private sales
- they understand buyers’ needs, e.g schools, medical facilities and other amenities in close proximity of the suburb 
- they know of further expansions or developments in the area
- they understand the lifestyle the area provides 
- they know the homeowners association rules in the case of an estate and sectional title complexes

Unfortunately, the term has been used incorrectly by estate agents who concluded only a few sales in a certain area. Specialist knowledge asks for more than being able to interpret data from sources such as Lightstone and Windeed.

Beware of the agent that shows you properties in an area with almost identical features but with very diverse prices. If this is the case he should explain why the prices are so varied. If he is a specialist in the area, the property prices wouldn’t be as varied except when they do not have the same features.

Scenic view of Woodland Hills Wildlife Estate, Bloemfontein

According to Retha, an area specialist is a real estate agent that has a passion for the people and property in their chosen suburb or marketing-category. Adding that sole-mandates and area specialization often go hand in hand. Both requires dedication, perseverance and extensive knowledge of the suburb. 

“The area specialist is so focused on the area they work in that they will often decline mandates in other areas, referring other area specialists instead to achieve buyer satisfaction. For the area specialist success is not measured by sales volume or profits, but rather maintaining the area’s reputation and their own market knowledge that will assist buyers and sellers,” she adds.

Area specialisation requires a focused approach towards marketing a property and advertisements are specifically chosen to attract the type of buyer whose needs will be met in a specific area.

4 Bedroom House for sale in Woodland Hills, Bloemfontein

The successful area specialist finds and sell most of their own stock, although if circumstances calls for it share transactions will be considered if it is in the best interest of the seller.  

An area specialist would usually only market a limited number of properties to ensure personal contact with buyers and sellers, thus communication and feedback between agent and seller/buyer are optimised.

It is also pertinent to make sure your choice of area specialist has an agency website and that they advertise on well-known property portals as this is a very important aspect of effective marketing. 

“An agent should always use quality photos and comprehensive property descriptions on their listings,” adds Retha

Social media is an important part of an agency’s own website, it gives the agent a platform where an agent can share property related information such as economic and property market news and trends, or news related to the suburb.

Social media allows prospective buyers and sellers to find out more about an agent from the comfort of their own homes, assisting them in their decision of which estate agent to use.

Despite the dominance of the internet, word-of-mouth referrals remain a vital tool for the area specialist. Retha says that in the more than 8 years that she has been specialising in Woodland Hills Wildlife Estate, referrals from previous clients and acquaintances still remains one of her most important streams of new clients. 

4 Bedroom House for sale in Woodland Hills, Bloemfontein

Buyers and sellers are looking for agents that are honest and has knowledge of the property market and area - thus it is vital for all transactions to be conducted professionally, with integrity and with the best interest of buyers and sellers at heart.

She says that it has happened that buyers contact her directly to assist them during the home buying process solely based on referrals from previous clients, even when she does not have properties that meets their specific needs. 

For her it is a privilege to help buyers and sellers and she is convinced that an area specialist can greatly assist a buyer not to be overwhelmed by all the choices presented to them and they can also be of great assistance to sellers by providing quality information regarding the asking prices of properties in the area, thus handling their expectations better.

Whether you are buying or selling, a well informed agent or an area specialist will help ease you through the process.

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