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3-step approach to eliminating bad agents

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It’s all fun and games until your home sits on the market for six months. This is not about the low-com/traditional/fixed fee debate. Looking for a discussion around sole versus open mandate? Move along; we’re going back to basics – the simple act of choosing a GOOD professional who’s able to provide the service they promise in your initial meeting.

Estate agents have a bandwagon they’re all jumping on – the “it’s not a commission it’s a professional fee” narrative. The missing link is that they are not all conducting their business in a manner that would have us willingly, and good-naturedly, hand over their professional fee; whatever they might set it at.

Here’s our ultimate 3-step approach to distinguishing the “agent” from the “property professional”.

Step 1: Facebook-stalk your short-list

Looking through the looking glass

You’ve identified a handful of area experts that you think might be able to sell your home, now you need to make the tough choice of who to go with. By all means research them online, look at their websites and phone to discuss your property or set up an introductory meeting. This process should already, just by the way this initial contact is handled and the efficiency of their office’s admin, eliminate some agents from your list.

But to really get serious spend some time researching your candidates on social media. Simply typing the name of the  agent into Facebook will give you access to any public posts by that person – this may include listings the agent shares on local community pages, opinions or debates the agent has taken part in on the industry, the local market, or current property prices. All of this will give you valuable insight into the agent, their expertise and knowledge; what’s more, you’ll get a first-hand look at how the agent conducts themselves socially and how professional they really are.

When to dump your agent

Next, have a look at their agency’s page. Look for when last something was posted and what kind of engagement the posts are getting. You want to be working with a professional that understands the importance of social media in doing business in today’s time.

Is the page’s review function and community posts disabled? Give the agency a skip. Ask yourself this: Do you want to entrust the sale of your most valuable asset to an agent, and agency, that is not open to dealing with complaints or concerns from past clients?

Can’t find a social media footprint for the agent or agency? Will they even be able to sell your home then? The way homes are being marketed, and people are looking for homes, has changed – you want an agent that can look past only show days and print media to the future.

Step 2: Search for current listings by the agent on major portals

Agent with all the skills needed

Once you’ve established that you like the social media presence of certain agents, you need to look at how serious they will take you and your property.

Approach the existing listings of your candidates as if you are a potential buyer. Are you enchanted by the photographs used on the properties? Is the description of the property well-written and exciting. Most importantly, does this listing, the marketing for which you will be paying, entice you to want to make an appointment and view the property?

First-time sellers: These two skills will help you pick your agent

Five reasons to scrap an agent:

  1. Horrible, dark, cellphone photos. Just no.
  2. Photographs focusing on unflattering, or unimportant details of the home. Is the agent showing off the toilet seat, the dinghy lapa or the beautiful extra-length king-size bed in the master bedroom, when what is actually important is the guest bathroom, the big garden and the newly carpeted main bedroom? You know what you have to do.
  3. Glaringly obvious spelling and grammatical mistakes. Frequently repeated no-no’s: dinning room, on-suite bathrooms, gas hop, tilled floors, build-in cupboards. If the agent describes the kitchen as amaising move along quickly. 
  4. Copy-and-pasted property descriptions – Is it clear that the agent has taken a basic template used for most properties and just changed it slightly to fit the respective property? Yes! No that’s a no!
  5. The obvious one: Listings that remain on the market month after month. The home was more than likely priced incorrectly. If it was the agent, you don’t want to work with them because, well, two words: False promises. If the seller insisted on the inaccurate price, the agent should have been more convincing in managing their seller’s expectations. If the agent cannot negotiate well with their own client, how are they ever going to negotiate with your potential buyers? Again, you know what you have to do.

Step 3: Ask for references

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If an agent has made it this far there’s only really one thing left to do – check the agent’s consistency. Ask to speak to some recent as well as repeat clients. This will give you a good view of the agent’s ability to consistently perform at the promised level. If an agent is unwilling or unable to provide this then, once again, you know what to do.

Agents often liken themselves to doctors, especially when they need to defend their fee, because of the deeply personal nature of the work they do. Why should sellers not get personal when deciding who to pay to sell their home?

After all, professionals are paid for their professionalism, not because they deserve it!


Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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