Choose estate agent carefully

For various reasons many sellers are often reluctant to grant a sole mandate to a real estate agent involved in marketing their property, and even if there is an open mandate granted, the owner will often not want to give this in writing. 

The reasons are in most cases that they don’t want to tie themselves to one agent, but this is not an effective way of marketing a home, says Laurence van Blerck of Knight Frank Residential SA. 

In order for any relationship between agent and seller to be successful there has to be an understanding of trust.

Research has shown that giving a sole mandate on a property is almost certainly the best way to get the highest possible price in the shortest time because offers are assessed by one agent and the selling price is maximised through competitive price negotiations, he said.

In many cases sellers are quite cynical about the capabilities of agents but it has to be said that being an estate agent nowadays has a higher level of qualification and skill needed than before. Sellers are often cautious, because they are handing over what is possibly their biggest investment to be marketed by someone else, and they feel they have to make sure the person is the best possible candidate, said van Blerck. 

How do you go about choosing the right agent? 

First and foremost, the agent should be able to present to prospective clients his current Fidelity Fund Certificate and should be a member of a local professional body, such as the Institute of Estate Agents.

What has to be borne in mind is that the condition of the property, its position, interest rates on mortgage bonds and the general property economy at the time will not be influenced by the agent. He can interpret these factors, however, and use these to work out his marketing plan. The marketing plan will include how often the home is advertised, which media is used and who they will contact on their own database, he said.

The agent’s valuation will help to determine the price that the seller sets but ultimately the seller decides, and when he selects the agent, he should be checking his marketing plan as well as his qualifications. The decision in selecting an agent should, however, not be based on the highest valuation presented to the seller. The agent must be capable of presenting and marketing the property skilfully and enthusiastically, said van Blerck.

The next thing to look for in an agent is knowledge, both of his area and of the property being sold. The agent should be asking for copies of the title deed, drawings and details about servitudes, etc.

“Be wary of agents who produce valuations without physically viewing the property, as the agent will not have gained an understanding of the property’s condition and its value to prospective buyers. Apart from the square meterage of the erf size and building, there should be assessments of the value of features and fittings that are above average, whether renovations or improvements have been undertaken recently or whether there are hidden extras, as these will influence the selling price,” said van Blerck.

Because real estate pricing varies vastly from area to area and from type to type, there has to be an analysis prepared of recent sales of similar properties in the immediate area, both those that are registered at the Deeds Office and those pending registration. There should be a list of withdrawn listings, and why these homes were not sold and, lastly, a list of properties currently for sale so that the seller is aware of the competing properties. The most recent sales will indicate the level of prices where there is demand from buyers and the selling prices of properties currently on the market indicate the level of prices at which there is supply. An agent must therefore interpret this relationship between demand, supply and price in order to set a competitive price for the property being valued.

“A sole mandate will enable the agent to utilise all the resources available through his company into marketing the property, and with all the above criteria filled, there should be no question about whether the agent is qualified enough and sellers should trust enough to put a mandate in writing,” said van Blerck.

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