Assess agent's access to information
When buying, selling or renting real estate, you are at the mercy of the market.
At any given moment, the price you pay for property will vary based on the available stock, pricing dynamics and other market factors.
However, you do have control over who represents you and how the two of you exploit opportunities within the constraints of the market.
A good real estate agent is the difference between finding the right home at the right price or getting the raw end of a deal.
As I wrote in last week's column, I select a real estate agent based on four factors: knowledge, network, experience and client service.
My agent must have integrity, know the market inside-out and have access to a large network of agents and consumers so that I have as many options as possible.
Today, let's focus on evaluating an agent's level of knowledge.
In interviewing agents, seek to understand their level of access to information and how they interpret and apply it.
In terms of access, if an agent cannot provide you with real-time information at the unit level, then there is no point in doing business with him or her.
At a minimum, your agent should be able to show you market trends by property type, location, time, tenure, size, floor and age.
He or she should provide you with comparable sales and rental transactions, and genuine listings.
More specifically, your real estate agent should have access to transacted rents at the unit level and other privileged information unavailable from public sources.
Finally, your agent should be well-versed in price appreciation, rental yield and liquidity at the project and unit level.
When it comes to evaluating agents on their ability to apply information, judge them on how they answer your questions.
Ask them about the market, where they see opportunities and how much competition they would expect for the home you want to sell, buy or rent.
Ask them for a preliminary pricing and marketing strategy. Listen to how they identify and highlight the important attributes of a home and location. Then, ask yourself if you would buy from them.
In addition to assessing technical knowledge in an agent, I also look for his or her enthusiasm and passion for real estate.
There are plenty of energetic, information-driven agents who delight in their business. So there is no reason to settle for an apathetic, unknowledgeable agent. If you do, you are only hurting yourself.
Next week, I will describe how to evaluate your agent's network to ensure that you will gain access to a large pool of buyers, sellers, or renters.
Your agent's network is critical to transacting a successful deal in a timely fashion.
Sam Baker is co-founder of SRX, an information exchange formed by leading real estate agencies in Singapore to disseminate market pricing information and facilitate property transactions. For more details on buying a home, go to srx.com.sg/buy