We posted the question “What do you want from your estate agent?” on our Harcourts social media platforms. Over a period of a month the overwhelming response was “Honesty”.
The answer confirmed what we have always assumed – that strong business relationships are built on trust. Trust is built by a series of interactions between people that are honest and transparent. If dishonesty or deceit are suspected the trust is broken, and the business relationship is terminated. Honesty supersedes skills and results.
It’s true in all business. But it’s especially true in real estate, where estate agents play a significant role is assisting people with the sale or purchase of what is usually their most valuable asset.
The real estate industry has done much to clean up its act over the past 5 to 7 years. For the most part estate agents are ethical and professional. But this is sadly not always the case. So just how do you know whether you can trust an estate agent or not?
Not all estate agents are created equal. This is the same in all professions: doctors, sportsmen, financial advisers, builders, etc. So ask to see some credentials. Is the estate agent licensed? Do they have a Fidelity Fund Certificate? What is their track record, or that of their company?
If the estate agent gives you an opinion on the market value of your property then what is it based on? Is it just a thumbsuck? Or can they substantiate it with fact by way of a comparable market analysis? Be wary here. The easiest way for an agent to “buy” your listing is to deliberately overprice your property. In reality this is dishonest business practice. The market will only pay market value, or less. By overpricing you will remain on the market longer than necessary – and the longer you are listed for the less you will sell for.
This is a tactic we see sellers fall for all the time. It’s dishonest and unethical.
If your property has been listed for more than 4 months then have your agents shared with you why it hasn’t sold? In most cases there will be a reason. Do you know what it is? And it’s always one of three things: your price is wrong, your marketing isn’t working, or both. So what’s the truth?
Sadly, we don’t live in the most honest of worlds. We appreciate that trust needs to be earned – it’s not automatic. So although it may be awkward at times, don’t be uncomfortable about establishing your agents’ credentials at the outset.
If in doubt it may be wise to ask or compare more than one estate agent or agency. And if the level of trust that you require isn’t there, then keep on looking until you find an agent you really believe you can trust. There are many trustworthy agents out there – you just need to find them.
Sometimes when selling property emotion can get in the way of logic and reason. Taking a step back and examining the facts from a distance can often help you see clearly what direction you should take. It’s your right to work with an estate agent you trust. Demand it. It’s the very least you deserve.
Principal of Harcourts Platinum
Director of Harcourts South Africa