6 rules for buyers working with estate agents

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

A good estate agent is invaluable to buyers looking for their dream home. Here are six tips for keeping your agent onside.

You expect to pay a consultation fee when visiting a medical professional or a lawyer and know that you will have to fork out some additional cash if you need a follow up appointment. This generally means that we keep communication to a minimum and only approach these individuals when absolutely necessary. The same goes for most other service-based industries including repairmen who in most cases charge a callout fee.

Estate agents however work on a commission basis and as such only receive payment (usually from the seller) once a sale has gone through. Unfortunately, this opens them up to all sorts of abuse. Yes, we know abuse is a strong word, but unfortunately there are plenty of buyers and sellers who don't think twice about wasting an agent's valuable time or expect an agent to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and be instantly available when called.

Regrettably, there aren't any guidelines as to how you should treat your agent and in many cases an agent who is desperate to make a sale will overlook unreasonable demands, but this doesn't mean that it's okay to disrespect the person whose services you've secured.

When dealing with agents, there's a certain protocol that needs to be adhered to including:

  • Keeping appointments

One of the biggest bugbears of being an agent is buyers who don't keep appointments to view property. Most sellers require some sort of notice before they allow potential buyers to view their home. In other words, you're not only putting the agent out when you don't bother pitching up, you are inconveniencing the seller too. Phone and cancel if you can't make it.

  • Stick to office hours wherever possible

Agents work long hours including most weekends, however this doesn't mean they don't have a life and won't mind receiving a call from you at 10:00 pm because you happen to like the look of a home they are marketing.

  • Know how much you can afford

Don't waste an agent's time by insisting on being shown properties you know you can't afford. Be honest and give your agent accurate information as to how much you earn in order for them to accurately gauge how much you can actually afford.

  • Don't view the same property with different agents

This pointless exercise could backfire horribly and the seller could be forced to pay double commission (to the agent who introduced the buyer to the home and the agent who sold the property), if the buyer decides to buy the home from an agent who didn't introduce him or her to the home. It's unlikely the seller will accept that he's solely responsible for the amount owed and could sue the buyer for the additional amount.

  • Don’t try to cut your own deal

Don't attempt to cut the agent out of the deal by offering to make a private deal with the seller. In addition to being unethical it's important to know that agents are very aware of which properties have been sold and will easily be able to ascertain that a buyer they introduced has gone behind their backs in order to secure a sale on a particular property.

  • Be patient

Many buyers assume agents are sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. While this may be true in some instances, more successful agents lead extremely busy lives. They can't and probably won't drop everything to arrange a viewing, but will arrange a time that's convenient for all. This isn't an indication that she doesn't want your business, it simply means she's busy with other clients. Remember although you may have to wait your turn when dealing with an agent of this calibre, there's a reason why she's so busy, she gets results and consistently finds buyers what they are looking for.

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