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Why you need a real estate agent on your side

Lukman Hajje
Filed on May 8, 2018
Why you need a real estate agent on your side
Good agents are highly specialised in a single community, or sometimes a single building.

(File photo)

Scrimping to save costs will ultimately be counterproductive

Nine out of 10 people said the number one reason they use a real estate agent is to help them negotiate price, according to a consumer survey published in Propertyfinder Trends.

Although the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera) in Dubai has not set a standard percentage for commission that can be charged by agents, the market practice is 2 per cent on the total sale amount, often paid only by the buyer.

Expecting an agent to earn their commission from the buyer is a mistake many sellers make in this part of the world. If it's the buyer that's paying their commission, it's the buyer they're working for. If you're a seller, you want them working for you.

Real estate agents across the world often have a bad rep, and many deservedly so. Barriers to entry are low and there are those who shouldn't be in the business, but there are truly excellent agents out there who live and breathe real estate, who are on 24/7. These agents are driven, passionate and inspiring individuals: they know how to qualify a buyer, how to play off one against another, how to create urgency, when to push hard and when to hold back.

Good agents are highly specialised in a single community, or sometimes a single building. They know the owners, know the investors and they have personal relationships with a database of previous and prospective buyers and tenants. They set calendar reminders to send their well wishes on birthdays, anniversaries, Eid and Christmas.

They know which properties were transacted when and at what price. Good agents know the difference between a Type E and a Type F and which ones are easier to sell, are easier to rent, and how long they'll sit on the market at what price. They will be able to say, 'If you want to sell it within 4 weeks, this is the price you need to list at'.

This skill set takes years of training and experience, and if you're selling your most valuable asset, you want them in your corner. Not on the other side.

Two per cent commission on a Dh2.5 million property (Dh50,000) may sound like a lot, but how often do you sell or buy a property? If you come up against someone who does this day in, day out, 365 days a year, who's going to have the advantage? Here's a hint: not you.

Peer-to-peer sites give consumers the ability to transact all types of goods, big and small. Fine if you're selling those old bar stools your wife hates, but for larger transactions, these sites have been fertile ground for scammers.

Personally, I'm dumbfounded by the refusal of some vendors to pay a professional to sell their property. If you were charged with murder, would you hire a lawyer or would you think to yourself "the prosecution has a lawyer, so I don't need one. I'll just let their lawyer negotiate the terms."? If you needed open heart surgery, would you hold a mirror in one hand and scalpel in the other? Do you ever service your own car?

While buying and selling real estate is not usually a matter of life and death, few would argue that the stakes are not high. And scrimping to save costs is a false economy and will ultimately be counterproductive. Okay, but is 2 per cent commission reasonable?

Purplebricks, a flat-fee, online real estate brokerage that operates in the UK, Australia and now the US, has surged in popularity in recent years. Sellers pay a flat fee (849 to 1,119 in the UK) to be represented by an agent, instead of paying commission on the sale price.

The fee is paid either once the property is sold or after 10 months, whichever comes first.

Analysts have claimed that around half of Purplebricks customers end up paying the fee after 10 months, before the property is sold. Purplebricks disputes this, saying the figure is around 12 per cent. And while they don't publish details of their transactions, they do admit their figures do not take into account sellers who withdraw their listing.

If you're selling low-end generic property in high transparency markets, where transaction data going back decades (and centuries) exists and where viable automated valuation models are prevalent - some may ask if it's worth it to hire an agent and if paying 2 per cent (or more) is reasonable. In my view, it certainly is. If not for the time and convenience but even in such markets, good agents will always get you more than they cost.

Purplebricks' share price experienced phenomenal growth from December 2016 to July 2017, increasing by almost 400 per cent. And although it's since lost 40 per cent, it's caused some disruption in the UK market in particular.

It's interesting to note that of the 17,638 listings on their UK site, barely 1 per cent are priced above 1 million, while 50 per cent are priced below 250,000, which is counterintuitive. This service seems more popular with sellers with low-priced properties who at best will receive minimal benefit from its flat fee structure. Clearly, those with more valuable assets are opting to use and pay professional agents.

Take from that what you will.

The 'Find Agent' section showcases more than 3,000 verified UAE real estate agents complete with their transaction history. Searchable by service offered, areas of expertise, nationality and languages spoken, it is by far the largest and best database of professional real estate agents in the region. Find one that will look out for your interests.

The writer is chief commercial officer of Propertyfinder Group. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.

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