Estate agent's role remains crucial

Private Property South Africa
Tahir Desai

There have been suggestions recently that the growing power of website and online communication in the property sector will, in the not-too-distant future, make estate agents unnecessary.

“This,” says Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group, “is extremely unlikely to happen.”

“In my view,” says Clarke, “the input of a good estate agent makes or breaks a property contract. Buying a home is in no way comparable to buying an airline ticket, reserving holiday accommodation or selecting a birthday present online. The whole business is far more complicated and it is one in which the consequences of a bad decision can blight a person’s life. Not only will an unfortunate decision cause huge emotional problems for the buyer and his family, it can also lead to serious financial loss. It has to be borne in mind that for most people, their home is their main asset and their biggest long term debt commitment. Not surprisingly, most sellers and buyers in these matters welcome help and advice on a one-to-one, confidential basis.”

Asked what he means by emotional problems, Clarke said that a home has the power to foster and facilitate - or prevent - the lifestyle the buyer aspires to: it is, in a very real sense, an expression of the family’s personality.

“Get the choice wrong and the consequences can be serious.”

“A poll held recently by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in the USA,” said Clarke, “showed that just on 90% of home buyers did initially consult the internet, and 53% admitted that they would welcome help, not only in the seller’s case in the final choice of buyers for their home, but also in the case of buyers selecting homes to view. A further 31% wanted help in deciding on the correct price and in negotiating the deal.

“In South Africa,” added Clarke, “it has been shown conclusively that over 75% of sellers and buyers welcome help in understanding the contracts and avoiding dangerous pitfalls which may not be obvious on the first perusal of the sales document.”

“The NAR survey,” added Clarke, “also showed how much clients rely on the estate agent to point out unnoticed faults and defects – and to explain or interpret the area to those who are new to it.”

Estate agents should take note of the features, traits and other factors, which residential property clients rate highest in their assessments of estate agents: these were honesty, skill, area and legal knowledge, personal connections, availability and regularity in maintaining contact. Enquiries by those sellers and buyers revealed that the agent must also have a good reputation.”

In many cases, said Clarke, in his experience, just one adverse report from a previous client could ruin an estate agent’s chance of being appointed.

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