Avoid the Part-Time Agent

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

We all want to save money, but there are times when taking the cheaper option can come back to bite and end up costing far more than originally anticipated. An excellent case in point is choosing to market your home through an agent who only works part-time or whose sole focus isn't necessarily on the real estate industry.

Part-time agents are, to a large extent, a thing of the past. These days, practising as an estate agent takes money and a great deal of commitment, given the various educational requirements that will become compulsory by the end of this year. Think about it, it doesn't make sense for a person to plough money, time and effort into educating themselves for a job that they have always considered to be a bit of a sideline and a quick way to earn some extra cash.

Most, if not all, larger real estate companies avoid part-time agents like the plague, and for good reason. Successful agents are committed to their jobs and most will tell you that they live and breathe property. They attend regular training sessions, have invested huge sums in getting their required educational standards up to par, but perhaps most importantly, they are dedicated to offering an outstanding service to their clients.

Tony Clarke, MD of the Rawson Property Group, recently stated that 'goedkoop is duurkoop' (roughly translated as penny wise and pound foolish) and this is especially true in property transactions where the seller, in an effort to cut his costs, employs a part-time agent.

"On the face of it, appointing a part-time agent who is prepared to give a cut-throat commission may look very attractive and appear to offer a big saving. After all, the difference between, say, a 6 percent and a 3 percent commission could be substantial.

"However, my experience is that employing such agents can be fraught with problems that are likely to lead to the seller getting an inadequate deal and an unsatisfactory price in the end. This could result in fees that are higher than the original commission being paid to attorneys trying to resolve disputes."

He said that part-time agents tend to operate 'on a lower rung of competency'. They frequently lack the motivation and sense of urgency which categorise top performing agents in this sector and, more seriously, they usually have to operate without the training and the market information that a competent estate agency will give its employees.

"Part-time agents, especially those who are either semi-retired or involved with some other business, will often not be available at times that are convenient to the buyer. They also tend to lack up-to-date market information, relying often on dinner talk and haphazard visits to various websites for the data they trot out to their clients. The result is that their valuations can often be seriously inaccurate."

Such agents, said Clarke, also tend to be weak on the legalities of property transactions and the errors that they can make in the documentation might hold up deals for weeks on end.

Finally, he added, part-time agents will, in almost all cases, be operating without any links and referrals to potential buyers from other areas that a competent agency provides to all its agents. In many cases, these result in some of the most successful sales.

The adage that you get what you pay for often applies in the world of real estate and anyone considering utilising the services of an agent should conduct research in order to ascertain whether they are going to get their money's worth from their chosen agent.

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