Trust your agent

Due to the effect that the global recession has had on the property market, the number of active Realtors in the US has dropped by around 40% to sit at just above one million, and is expected to drop by a further 100 000 by the end of the year.  South Africa, while reasonably protected by monetary policy from the worst effects of the recession, has seen a similar decrease in the number of registered agents. At one time there were approximately 70 000 agents and principles registered with the Estate Agents Affairs Board (EAAB) across the country. Today that number sits at around 31 000.

According to Grant Gavin, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Panache which operates in the KwaZulu-Natal north coast suburbs of Durban North, La Lucia and Umhlanga, the compulsory educational criteria are another reason why many South African agents have exited the industry in recent years.  He says that in KwaZulu-Natal at the end of June this year, there were only 2 258 agents registered with the EAAB. “What this means for buyers and sellers of property is that, for the most part, the agents who remain active in the market are those who are dedicated professionals at the top of their game, and therefore are able to offer property buyers and sellers sound advice.”

But, Gavin says, more often than not, buyers and sellers discount the advice given from their agents to their detriment. “Given that in the past there was such a low barrier to entry to the real estate profession, the guarded mentality that the consumer now has towards estate agents in general is understandable.  However, times have changed and real estate agents across the county have upped their game, their level of professionalism and level of expert knowledge.” Right now with the north Durban market changing fairly rapidly, Gavin believes that being aligned to a real estate professional is more important than ever before.

“In our local suburbs the market is changing very quickly from a strong buyer’s market to one where well-priced stock moves quickly,” he says.  What this means for sellers is that if their home is priced correctly, there is enough demand for it to sell fairly quickly; whereas over-priced homes are still stagnating on the market.  Sellers therefore need to allow the agent to guide them in the correct pricing of their home in order to get the balance right and ensure a fairly quick sale.

For buyers on the other hand, the time for cheeky offers is over and passively watching the agency web sites might mean you are two steps behind those buyers who are actively working with agents and viewing properties on the day they hit the listing books.  Gavin cites an example where his agency recently had a property sell for the full asking price within 45 minutes of being listed, and he says that such examples are becoming more and more common.

Estate agents are now more qualified than ever before to professionally and expertly handle the property sale process and give advice and it’s for this reason that Gavin is of the opinion that buyers and sellers should allow the agent to lead and guide their relationship based on their expertise and knowledge. But, he says, buyers and sellers should also select their agent with care.

“There are certain criteria that an agent should meet,” says Gavin, who advises property sellers and investors to firstly select an agent from a reputable company that is well established in the area where they are buying or selling property.

Then, in order to ensure a reasonable guarantee of service, buyers and sellers should interview prospective agents and find out the following:
  • Their past results and what sales they have concluded in the area in the past six months
  • What company they work for and what tools it provides the agents to assist them in effectively meeting their obligations to buyers and sellers
  • Assess the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns
  • Establish their sphere of influence and find out how well known and liked they are in the area
  • Finding out what buyer qualification process they follow in terms of getting finance approved for the sale

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