What do estate agents actually do?

Private Property South Africa
Press

Many people wonder exactly what it is that estate agents do other than advertise homes for sale and take prospective buyers to view them, but agents are not merely sales people as most imagine and the lengthy, complex transaction process requires a lot more skill and knowledge than just possessing a good sales patter.

The advent of the internet completely revolutionised the way in which we shop for everything, from clothes to houses and consequently these days estate agents seldom play a key role in the location of our dream homes as most buyers start their property search online - but that was never their core function any way.

So says Brendan Miller, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty on the Atlantic Seaboard and City Bowl: “Many people equate the role of an estate agent with that of a travel agent, but in reality they are very different as realtors are not sales agents but rather facilitators of the complex sale transaction.”

Miller, who recently put his money where his mouth is by investing in a traditional agency at a time when online agencies are popping up all over the internet, believes that while there is definitely a place in the market for the new kids on the block, many consumers still appreciate the full-house bespoke service of established agencies.

“The sale and purchase of property is not the simple transaction one might imagine and the actual exchange of money and goods only happens at the end of a lengthy process comprising multiple steps which require more than a nodding acquaintance with diverse fields including marketing, legal processes and finance.

“The first and most essential step is an accurate property evaluation as this not only determines the final sale price achieved but also the length of time a home spends on the market, which is especially important if the seller is buying another home subject to the sale of his current property.

“A good agent will have information about local council rates, crime statistics, schools, recreational facilities, resident demographics, recent property sales and factors like public transport. They are then able to provide you with all of the facts, figures and data that you need to assist in setting a realistic sale price.

“An experienced agent has the expertise and in-depth knowledge to ascribe the most accurate and market-related value to the property which will enable sellers to determine an appropriate selling price as well as the limit to which they can negotiate.”

Claude McKirby, Southern Suburbs Co-Principal for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty says that once this critical step is complete, an agent’s leg work really begins.

“To sell a home for the highest price in the shortest time requires a skilled marketing strategy utilising the correct online and print media, a strong client and industry network and extensive databases.

“Agents will also offer advice about how to stage your home to its best advantage before conducting viewings with the least possible disruption to seller’s daily lives.

“Very importantly, a skilled real estate agent will have the experience and legal knowledge that is needed to negotiate a deal that benefits both parties. Buyers often don’t realise that although agents may be acting on behalf of the seller, they inevitably provide value to the buyer as they act as a link to ultimately negotiate an agreement that best suit the needs of both parties involved.

“It’s at this stage that the difference between a really good agent and a weak one is most evident - good agents negotiate calmly and rationally, preserving a pleasant atmosphere at all times and relying on hard facts to back up all their statements and arguments.

“Agents are also strictly bound to a code of conduct which affords both parties protection against one-sided contracts and costly delays which could easily occur if an uninformed seller has overlooked an important component of the transaction.”

Like any legal transaction, buying or selling property involves reams of paperwork peppered in legalese and financial jargon and this is where estate agents are well worth their weight in gold.

“Real estate agents manage the administrative aspects throughout the process and their thorough knowledge of the relevant legislation that regulates property transactions as well as all documentation and certification required to meet all regulatory requirements will ensure a seamless conclusion of the sale,” says Miller.

“They also offer guidance and advice and iron out any glitches that occur along the way,” he says, adding that it’s not uncommon for issues to crop up after the transaction has been completed and a good agent will continue to work with you after receiving their commission in order to ensure that you receive the highest level of customer care.”

McKirby concludes: “The best results are always achieved by appointing an agent who is not only experienced and accredited, but also knowledgeable about the entire process and up to date will all the current laws; someone able to fight your battles should any arise.

“There’s the old adage that get what you pay for, and that holds true in real estate because delivering a hands-on, bespoke service to clients in what is often the biggest transactions of their lives takes time, hard work and dedication.”

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