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Here are things to look out for when engaging a property agent.

The property agent you work with can make or break you. In some cases, it will not only cost you more money, but also a lot of unnecessary distress and emotional turmoil. In the worst case scenario, it may even escalate into a lawsuit.

And this happens more frequently than you would expect. For instance, my wife’s friend recently bought a private house where their rogue agent collected both buyer and seller commission from both sides, and caused them to run into a huge sum of financial issue when it came to their loan. The agent has since been reported to CEA, who told my wife’s friend that they were likely to win the lawsuit, and the court case is now ongoing.

There are many property agents in the market, and while many of us are passionate about our job, there will always be some black sheep who give the rest of us a bad name. As a result,do look out for a few things when you are engaging a property agent:

Is your agent working full-time or part-time only?
The real estate industry has a high turnover rate, and many people are lured into joining it for the money. Many also hold other jobs outside of being a real estate agent. But the work required from a good realtor most definitely cannot be done on a part-time basis.

For a full-timer, you are his 100% focus. This is his only ricebowl, and so your agent needs to make sure he does a good job and delivers well so that he can continue in this line of work and get organic referrals because you are satisfied with his services.

But for a part-timer, this is not always the case. They have another job which pays them as well, so they are less reliant on your deal to make a living. If being an agent fails or does not work out for them, they can always fall back on their other job for income. As a result, what do you think their commitment level to your case will be?

Is your agent focusing on particular estates, or running around the entire Singapore?
Let’s admit it, we cannot be jack of all trades. A true estate specialist knows the estate inside out, including the pros and cons of each clusters and where all the good bargain units are, because he would have seen most of the units in the same estate with different clients.

On the other hand, an agent who runs around the entire Singapore is less likely to have such estate expertise, and know the inside-outs of the estate. Who then, do you think is more likely to know, when there’s a true value-for-money unit released in the market?

Only an estate specialist who has transacted enough units in the cluster will know whether the unit his client likes, is truly worth its premium and value, instead of simply relying on past transactions online or estimated valuations provided by some property portals. Those are not always accurate. I have managed to buy houses for my clients for less than the last transacted lowest price, and sell for more than what their neighbour in the same block has sold for just a month ago.

Is it better to engage an estate specialist, or a jack-of-all-trades?

Is your agent proactive?
If you have to do everything yourself (searching for units, arranging for viewings, admin and paperwork, etc), then what is the point of engaging the service of an agent?

Is your agent merely a “paperwork agent”?
These days, you can engage companies who can help with real estate paperwork for a minimum fee, or even learn to DIY everything yourself by reading and learning extensively online. (I will share how you can DIY in a subsequent post).

There is little value in simply engaging an agent who does paperwork, in contrast to a realtor who can provide consultancy services in helping you with your home planning, future actions, while taking your personal circumstances (finances, family, etc) into consideration to make sure your current move will not jeopardize your future.

Is your agent genuinely concerned about your case, or does he simply want to close your deal quickly? It is obvious when an agent truly cares for your case in contrast to one who wants to close your deal asap.

A genuine realtor will take the time to sit down and really understand your needs before helping you to analyse whether your decision and thought process is sound. He will also not hesitate to tell you if something does not fit you, even if it means he won’t get to close your deal.

In contrast, an agent who is simply looking to close your case will probably end up wasting much of your precious time with viewings of units that do not suit you (because he did not take the time to truly understand your needs, but merely asked at a surface level so he can match the most units to you), and may even recommend you something that is less than ideal for your personal circumstances.

You’ll be able to tell the difference. What methods do your agent use to identify the best units available?

It is easy to search for houses and listings online, but how many times have you called up the property agent in charge of that unit, only to then view it for yourself and realise it wasn’t as good as you thought? Good realtors tend to have their ways of finding out what are the gems in the estate that have gone out for sale, and which are the really good units vs. having to make guesses and assumptions based on the way the unit is being marketed online. Because what you see online…is not always what you get.

Another important thing to note is that good units DO NOT wait for buyers. For many DIY buyers, they have to view many units before they are able to discern which are the really good ones (or even make guesses, because even then their judgment may not be accurate if they’re not familiar with the estate). By the time you’ve spent all those hours viewing, the good units would probably have been taken up already.

I’ll give you an example of a recent case I handled for a DIY buyer who approached me. I prefer not to disclose names, so let’s call her Melissa for now. She and her husband viewed many units (including mine), and were adamant on not engaging an agent as they had a bad experience before. Two weeks later, another buyer, Cynthia, came to me looking for my help to find a unit with the same requirements as Melissa (4-NG HDB, corner unit, near MRT station, no West sun).

I found a unit for Cynthia which just got released on the market and brought her for a viewing the next day where she fell in love with it and made an offer shortly after. Melissa and her husband never even got to see that unit, because it was sold even before the seller agent managed to post photos and description of it on PropertyGuru.

So there you have it, some ways to identify whether your agent is a good or rogue one. May you be able to find the best agent for your needs! If you wish to learn more, leave me your contact details below and I will get back to you within a week.

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