Everyone Needs a Break - Even Your Agent

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Although estate agents act for the seller of a property, they also have certain obligations or duties towards the buyer. They are obliged to provide information about their listings, show the buyer properties and generally exercise due care towards the purchaser. Buyers however, do not ordinarily instruct an agent and do not pay their commission. Of course agents wouldn’t earn money from a sale if they weren’t engaging with potential purchasers; in fact, part of their mandate from the seller is to find suitable candidate buyers for a property.

Unlike some professionals, including the likes of doctors and lawyers, estate agents do not charge for their time and in today’s fast-paced world, tend to be ‘on call’ 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For some strange reason, human beings tend to abuse the free things in life and while you and I would perhaps never dream of harassing an agent, there are people out there who do. It may not be malicious, but there are people out there who genuinely believe that estate agents earn far too much money and should therefore be at their beck and call, regardless of the time of day.


Sadly, we live in an instant world. We want all and we want it now, particularly when it comes to getting a response. Good agents are very aware of this and most will respond to a call regardless of their personal circumstances at the time. The question is, how long can the average agent maintain this level of high intensity before burning out? The experts will tell you: not long.

While selling property during a boom is essentially child’s play with finance readily available, this changes during a downturn. No sale is confirmed and no commission is earned before transfer takes place and sadly, no matter how good the agent is at his job, sales to tend to collapse more often during an economic slowdown. In addition to the stress of the situation, an agent has to literally sit back and watch all his hard work go down the drain as well as continue dealing without sometimes spurious queries from buyers who are more inquisitive than genuinely interested.

Where does all of this leave the average buyer? Perhaps you should reconsider before you pick up the phone or fire off ten emails to someone who once showed you a property that was semi-appealing. Bargain hunters are often the worst, expecting agents to become full-time negotiators for unrealistic offers at the drop of a hat.

The most prevalent complaint from agents who have been exposed to buyer abuse is that leaving a voice message to the effect that they are taking time off, or have a family crisis, has little or no impact on pushy buyers. In a perfect world buyers would understand that estate agents, despite arguments to the contrary, are also human beings. Instead of flitting from one agent to another, buyers who have found a dependable agent who has already invested a great deal of time and effort into finding them a suitable home should have the common courtesy of respecting that agent’s free time.

Unlike medical or legal emergencies, property matters are not commonly an issue of life or death and can be effectively dealt with in due course. Unfortunately, buyers have a tendency to create their own ‘emergencies’ which when considered carefully, are mostly a case of instant gratification.

Of course, taking time off from a busy schedule and just being lazy are two different things. You do get agents who make a habit of failing to communicate, but bear in mind: purchasers represent their livelihood. They can hardly succeed in the real estate business with poor communication or social skills. If you find a good agent, stick to them like glue. If you show them the requisite amount of respect, you won’t run the risk of having to deal with a plethora of agents who may not be of the same calibre.

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