Choosing an estate agent

Private Property South Africa
Martin Hatchuel

Looking for an estate agent to help you sell your home? Here’s some advice you’ll want - because your choice of agent can make all the difference.

Looking for an estate agent to help you sell your home? Here’s some advice you’ll want - because your choice of agent can make all the difference:

Estate agents in South Africa are governed by the Estate Agency Affairs Act (112 of 1976), which established the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) which, according to its web site, holds a “mandate to regulate and control certain activities of estate agents in the public interest.”

Anyone who wants to act as an estate agent must be registered with the EAAB, which must issue each agent with a Fidelity Fund Certificate (which has to be renewed every year) as proof of registration and “confirmation that such person is legally entitled to carry out the activities of an estate agent.”

But the law, of course, is just one part of the picture: given that your agent ticks all the legal boxes, the successful sale of your home could depend on a number of other - perhaps more ‘human’ - factors.

According to Barry Fourie, the National Training Manager for the Rawson Property Group, “the appointment of an estate agent to sell your property can make an enormous difference to the price you get for it, the time it takes to sell, and the stress that you may - or may not – be subjected to during the process.

CHECKLIST

“It always surprises me how little research some sellers do before deciding whom to appoint as their estate agent,” said Barry.

He suggested that you consider the following factors before you appoint a particular agent or agency:

· The agency’s infrastructure and operating systems;

· The agent’s track record - especially over the last six months;

· The agent’s knowledge of your neighbourhood (which, said Barry, is usually revealed by the quality of his or her comparative market analyses);

· The sophistication and general appeal of the agency’s online data (“A really good website is almost always indicative of an efficient agency”);

· The agent’s own marketing techniques and negotiation skills (talk to his or her previous clients - they’ll quickly fill you in. Also ask the agent to show you any written testimonials he or she may have received from other clients in the recent past);

· The regularity and effectiveness of the agency group’s training programme (The good ones, said Barry, “are excellent” - but beware agencies that pay only lip service to training, or neglect it altogether. The consequences for you “could be serious.”)

SOLE MANDATE

And what of the sole mandate?

“Many South Africans seem to believe that the more agents they appoint, the better their chances will be of selling quickly and at a satisfactory price,” said Barry.

And, he said, it’s easy to understand how this belief has come about - “but in my experience, the concept is totally false.”

He said that agents who hold open mandates often fear that they’ll be “pipped at the post by a rival” - which, he said, could lead them to “scramble to be the first to come up with an offer, whether or not it’s a good one.”

But when an agent is acting on a sole mandate, said Barry, he or she “is contractually committed to providing a really comprehensive service – and has the power and the time to negotiate with anyone who puts in an unacceptable bid.”

Furthermore, he said, “an agent with a sole mandate is far more likely to focus on your property, and to spend heavily on advertising it and, in my experience, will probably come up with a better-than expected-price – particularly these days, when many buyers, having decided they like a property, simply don’t have the time to let it go while they look for another.”

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