Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Guide to Working with a Property Agent

Most real estate agents are well-trained professionals and can help you in many aspects that can be difficult and confusing for most consumers. If you are not familiar with the whole process of buying/renting or selling/leasing property, you should engage a professional agent to help you.

Here's a quick explanation of how the system works and what to expect in order to avoid confusion and disappointment.

The Role of the Agent

You can hire an agent to work on your behalf either as a potential buyer/tenant, or as a seller/landlord. In many transactions, there are agents on both sides of the process. So, what can you expect from a real estate agent?

Agents For Sellers/Landlords

  • Are able to advise you on the market price for your property
  • Can create a professional marketing plan to sell/rent your property
  • Have access to internal agency systems that help market the property through other agents in the agency
  • Will market the property both online and offline at their own expense
  • Will qualify potential buyers on your behalf
  • Will organise viewings on your behalf
  • Will prepare all the contracts on your behalf

Agents For Buyers/Tenants:

  • Are able to advise you on what is possible on your budget
  • Will search and qualify the available properties according to your criteria
  • Will have access to internal agency systems that find the property through other agents in the agency
  • Will organise viewings and accompany (or take) you to see the property
  • Will handle the negotiation process on your behalf (with your permission, of course)
  • Will prepare all the contracts on your behalf

Agent Qualifications in Singapore

Previous property booms resulted in the outbreak of a small minority of unprofessional real estate agents. As such, the Government created a certification scheme for agents called the Common Examination of House Agents (CEHA) which provides a basic level of training on conduct and processes. In addition, the Institute of Estate Agents offers a certification scheme for agents called Certified Estate Agents (CEA) and lists all the certified agents on its website.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) teaches ‘real estate management’ as a major subject, and some agents are graduates from that department. This kind of multiyear full-time study obviously is the most comprehensive educational qualification for a real estate professional in Singapore.

Although the certification is not yet mandatory for all agents, it is advisable to deal with a qualified agent or at least with a well known agency. If you are in doubt, you should ask people you trust for advice.

Tips for selecting Agents

These are some things that you may want to consider when you are selecting an agent:

Knowledge of Property Types & Region – Many agents specialise in certain regions and/or certain type of properties. They may already have buyers at hand, or know other agents in the area with potential buyers. They also know how to promote the area to the buyers.

Experience – An inexperienced agent is more likely to make mistakes. Ask for a transaction record of similar properties.

Personality – You are likely to be working quite closely with your agent for a few weeks or months. Therefore, he or she needs to be someone whom you feel you can trust, get on well with and who listens to and understands your needs.

Education/Certification – Education and certification can help you feel more confident about the agent's knowledge of the procedures and estate laws.

Time Available – Make sure that the agent has enough time to handle your contract.

Marketing Plan – If you’re looking to let or sell your property, make sure a proper online strategy forms part of the agent’s marketing plan. Also, ask how much time the agent is willing to spend to prepare the property for sale - taking professional photos, communication skills to market your property, giving tips of cleaning/furnishing, etc.

You should engage only one agent to work on your behalf, particularly if you are looking to sell or let your property. Agents often have access to the same listings and using multiple agents may just result in confusion or having potential buyers/tenants visiting the same property twice. Also, you will get more commitment from the agent if he/she knows that you are dealing with only with him/her.