Vet your agent
It is crucial to choose your agent properly so you don't end up in an unfavourable situation
Let's be frank, not all real estate agents are equal.
My worst experience with an agent took place in Hong Kong recently when I was looking for an apartment in Kowloon.
I had to reject five agents before I found one who would do more than unlock the door to a home viewing. The worst agent I interviewed there was a fellow who kept saying "trust me" after every nonsensical statement he made about the market.
Best experience was here in Singapore, when an agent negotiated the price down not only once but twice. He didn't stop after I agreed on the first price even though he would have made more money.
Instead, on his initiative, he kept his eyes open and identified an issue that allowed him to negotiate a second price reduction. As a result, he earned a lower commission but gained my gratitude and future referrals.
I often hear disparaging remarks about real estate agents, yet well over 90 per cent of all real estate transactions involve at least one agent.
Furthermore, at the end of 2012, the Council for Estate Agencies published a public perception survey that found eight out of 10 consumers were satisfied with their agents.
When agents fell short in the survey, it had to do with their conduct or lack of knowledge, especially when it pertained to financial matters.
A financial asset, like a home, is first and foremost about its value. So it's no surprise that consumers are dissatisfied with agents who don't know their stuff and act in an unethical manner.
If most people are satisfied with their agents, then why is there so much bad-mouthing about agents?
The reason is that it takes only a few rogue agents to ruin the reputation of the industry.
The complexity of the real estate market makes it easy for an unscrupulous agent to prey on an unsuspecting consumer who hasn't done his or her homework.
It's impossible to legislate or regulate away all the bad agents. Every industry has its bad apples.
Therefore, the burden rests with the consumer. Make sure you vet your agent properly so you don't end up in an unfavourable situation.
When I select a real estate agent, I evaluate that person on four areas - knowledge, network, experience, and client service.
The agent must know the market from top to bottom. He or she must be able to identify arbitrage or mismatches in the market.
When it comes to network, I expect my agent to be able to use mobile technology to find buyers or sellers as well as arrange additional viewings on the fly.
In terms of experience, I look at an agent's marketing acumen and negotiating skills.
Finally, I expect my agent to be my advocate. It's about me finding the right home at the right price, not about the agent getting the deal done for the sake of getting paid.
Client service is code word for integrity. It's easy to spot agents who provide clients with great service, and they are never the ones who say "trust me".
Trust is established with knowledge and deeds, not words.
The trick is to find a good agent. In my next column, I will break down, in detail, how to evaluate an agent's level of knowledge.
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, visit srx.com.sg/buy
Client service is code word for integrity. It's easy to spot agents who provide clients with great service, and they are never the ones who say "trust me". Trust is established with knowledge and deeds, not words.
- Mr Sam Baker