Beware the dodgy buyers agent!
An article recently published in the Australian Financial Review about buyers’ agents and, in particular, the double-dipping case of Victorian Frank Valentic, who was convicted and fined in the courts earlier this year, provided a good overview of what to look for when engaging a buyers’ agent.
Qualifications, experience, deep industry knowledge and references provide a fair starting point when interviewing who is going to be searching for and negotiating your biggest asset or investment. Like every industry, however, there are a range of operators out there and you need to do your homework to find the professional that’s right for you. Unfortunately for consumers, the barriers to our industry are quite low so it’s crucial that you ask the right questions as provided on the REBAA website. REBAA is Australia’s only national body for independent buyers agents and provides consumers with the confidence that the buyers’ agent is properly accredited, appropriately licensed and insured, and has the industry experience in their area of expertise.
The AFR article, though useful, did contain a few points that I’d like to comment on, in the spirit of correction and being an “on the ground” buyers agent, and having been in business now for 11 years, helping many hundreds of buyers to search, locate and negotiate residential real estate here in the country’s largest and busiest capital city of Sydney.
“The agents are typically engaged by luxury and prestige buyers…”
This is certainly far from the truth as the majority of our buyers are buying between the $500,000-$2,500,000 price brackets here in Sydney, and we assist buyers from all walks and stages of life including first home owners, home occupier upgraders, down-sizers and many investors. Unfortunately, there’s a perception out there that buyers agents services are only for the uber-rich and this is simply not the case. In fact, I would add that the median price buyers and those who have restrained budgets (and, let’s face it, that’s most buyers!) are the very ones who need the very valuable help and skill we, as buyers’ agents, can provide. Every cent saved counts in our market.
“…nearly half the properties are sold off-market, which usually means the property has not been widely advertised”
Whilst it’s true that we gain access to off-market and pre-listed properties for clients I would dispute 50% as an accurate figure. We typically find off-market properties at the higher or top-end of markets and though there are certainly those vendors who (for a myriad of reasons) don’t wish to advertise, it isn’t the majority. As buyers’ agents, it’s our job to consider everything that’s for sale, both ON and OFF the market.
“Other (sellers) agents claim they can demarcate their work both as estate and agents by not recommending properties in their own portfolio when acting as a buyer’s agent.”
Murky waters indeed, in my opinion and, as I’ve blogged about before in my article about selling agents wearing two hats, why on earth would you engage a selling agent to act on your behalf, when they’re linked to vendors and have the capacity to cross the line? There are more than enough capable, competent and excellent buyers’ agents out there who will truly and independently represent YOUR best interests as buyer, without resorting to a selling agent who isn’t doing this every day for a living.
In an ideal world, I believe that the licensing requirements for estate agents should be crystal clear. Either you and your agency represent buyers or sellers, and are paid professional fees accordingly to do so. Let’s make it easier for consumers to know who to choose and have faith that the professional they select is completely on their side in all facets of the buying process and transactions.