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How much should you ask of your real estate agent?

In a country of unaffordable housing and competitive property markets, buyers and investors are now doing more research to find the best deal - but can they expect their real estate agent to do the same?

Long gone are the days of simply choosing a property in the weekend newspaper and calling the number at the bottom to find a real estate agent.

Two years’ of stagnant or falling house prices has meant that Australians are now in one of the toughest real estate trades, which means that real estate agents may now need to go above and beyond their original services to secure a deal with a buyer.

‘Real Estate Agents have to constantly improve their service levels in what is an increasingly competitive marketplace.’ says James Hatzimoisis, Director at Barry Plant Real Estate. ’They need to provide a more “value added” service to home sellers by employing better skilled sales and support staff, they need to assist or provide specialist assistance with home styling, they need to be expert marketers and they need to be first class communicators with their past, current and new clients.’

Many real estate agents agree, including Ray White Real Estate Director Rebecca Zhang. ‘Real estate agents are offering a more comprehensive service compared to the old days’ she says. ‘Traditionally it was simply listing and selling. Now it's more about the process before, including and after the sale.’

And as if their long to-do lists aren’t enough, real estate agents are still determined to earn your business - like getting buyers VIP access into homes that aren’t advertised yet.

Adam Vernon

Principal, Vernon Partners

Seek the truth

Agents cannot lie to buyers, there might be three people who have taken a contract but have no genuine interest, they might taken the contract just to look at the strata plan so it’s important as a buyer to see just how much interest there is in a particular property before rushing to think that you’ve got to make an offer quickly.

James Hatzimoisis

Director, Barry Plant Real Estate

Survival of the fittest

Surprisingly, even with all of this available technology, if an agent isn’t disciplined, trustworthy and genuinely caring for their customers and clients, they will not succeed in this business. This is reflected in the ‘average incomes’ within the real estate industry which are lower than what most people would perceive them to be. The reality is that whether an agent has been in the Industry for years, or whether they’re just starting out, if they’re not genuine about wanting to do their absolute best to help people, they will not last as a Real estate agent

Tim McKibbin


Be aware

The first thing to realise it a real estate agent is acting for the vendor, go in with your eyes open, the real estate agent’s job is to sell the property at the best price they can because their acting for the vendor.

Rebecca Zhang

Director, Ray White Lidcombe

Strive for the best

Regardless of the competitiveness in the market, good agents will always strive to improve their service by creating a point of difference, embracing technology and achieving economies of scale. Old generation agents tend to neglect change and are happy to stay and operate in their comfort zone. In the real estate industry, could mean choosing not to embrace with systems or software, don't see the need for a website, strong believer in press/paper advertising.

‘Tell an agent what it is you’re looking for and if they’ve got a sense that your timeframe to buy is within two to six months, that you need something quite quickly, that’s when they’ll start get you into open homes that aren’t on the market yet’ says Adam Vernon, principal of Vernon Partners Real Estate. ‘The vendors will be ready to sell - they love a contract for sale, but normally they’re waiting to do some home improvements so you’ll see the property before the improvements are done.’

Along with the red carpet treatment, it’s important that buyers, especially investors, find a real estate agent that can get you housing values. And while agents are definitely not valuers, they still have access to information that many may find difficulty to search for.

‘Newer agents - carry iPads everywhere delivering market appraisals as all data software providers are now available to agents at their fingertips including RP Data, Price Finder, Realestate.com.au, Domain.com.au, Customer Relations Manager etc’ says Miss Zhang. ‘New school agents prefers a paperless method of operation - agents are now able to deliver their services in a more timely manner with their gadgets even when they're out on the road as opposed to coming back to the office, typing out a letter, print, sign then deliver to the post box.’

‘Real estate agents can look at some past sales, whether it’s on the block or some streets, if they can get the prices for the six months it will give you an idea of local values. It gives you an idea of where you should pitch the price for the property.’

Having access to this kind of information can dramatically help buyers choose what’s best for them, according to Mr. Hatzimoisis. ‘My view is the main difference today is with the increase in the use of technology and the information now readily available to both agents and consumers, it’s much easier to “connect” with buyers and “sellers” and provide much more valuable information to them quickly, to assist them in being able to make a more informed decision.’

But this doesn’t mean buyers and investors should be quick to judge the older generation of real estate agents. ‘Having said that, there are many, many real estate agents that have been in the industry for 20 or 30 years plus and they have grasped technology and the benefits offered’ adds Mr. Hatzimoisis. Not to mention they may have years of experience under their belt and probably know local property values back to front.

How to get the most value from the selling agent


Tim McKibbin

I think first thing to realise is that a real estate agent is acting for the vendor, so go into it with your eyes open. The real estate agent's job is to sell the property at the best price they can, because they are acting for the vendor.

Adam Vernon

However, the selling agent will try and help the buyer. As I said before, they can definitely help you by providing past sales, either in a block or in a street. That's probably the best way in which they can help you.

Tim McKibbin

If you walk through your agent's office and say, "Hey. I want to buy a house," that doesn't get your very far, but if you walk through the agents door and say, "I'm in your area, I'd very
much like to look at property and this is what I'm kind of looking for." Give him some idea. They'll put you on a list and they'll be more than happy to keep you informed about some properties.

Adam Vernon

If you're . . . especially if you're buying an apartment, ask the agent. Normally, they've seen 2 or 3 other apartments in the same block. They've often seen vendors or owners who have renovated. Ask the agents, "Has anyone renovated in the block?" That will give you an idea of what you can and can't do, from a strata perspective. Sometimes, that agent might get you to go and see property that's been renovated. If you wanted to knock a kitchen wall out to open it up to the lounge, the agent my say, "The owner of Number 12 has done that. Do you want me to see if we can get you in to have a look? They mightn't put floorboards down." Then straight away, you can see what you can achieve if you just spent $20,000 on the apartment you're thinking of buying. That's another very good thing to do.

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Marc Terrano

Marc Terrano is a content marketer manager at finder. He's been writing and publishing personal finance content for over five years and loves to help Australians get a better deal.

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