Buying a new home is a huge milestone, whether it is to live in or as an investment. Those who are using an agent need to know how to choose the right one.
It is true that, as many in sales-related services, property agents have a somewhat dubious reputation. But this is generally undeserved and caused by the actions of a few bad apples.
According to the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA), agents can charge a commission up to 3% of the sale of the property, which is charged to either the buyer or the seller, depending on whom they represent.
It is not a small amount and can go into five digits, which means homebuyers need to find an agent they can trust. Here is how.
1. Check their credentials
All real estate agents (REA), real estate negotiators (REN) and probationary estate agents (PEA) are required to be registered with the Board of Valuers, Appraisers, Estate Agents and Property Managers (BOVAEAP).
Their status can be verified by checking their details on the official BOVAEAP website.
2. Familiarise yourself with the terms REA, REN and PEA
To become a real estate agent, one needs to pass Part 1 and 2 of the real estate examinations over a minimum period of two years, undergo post practical training for an additional two years and sit for a test of professional competence to be certified as an REA. REAs can open their own real estate agency.
An REN, on the other hand, does not have full qualifications and accreditation. However, they have attended a workshop and fulfilled the necessary prerequisites by BOVAEAP. They must be attached to a proper real estate agency as they are not allowed to operate independently or open their own company.
PEAs are those who have taken their real estate exams and are currently undergoing their two-year practical training as mentioned above.
3. Find out how long the agent has been in the market
The more experience they have, the better right? They must know all about the market prices and how to negotiate the best deals for their clients.
While experience means they are more confident and well-versed in the transaction process, but it is not fair to automatically rule out agents or negotiators who are just starting out.
What really matters is their attitude and motivation, which is important whether the client is a buyer or a seller.
4. Ask if they are an area specialist
Agents who specialise in a specific area can tell clients all the plus and minus points of every ‘taman’ or township.
They can also advise on upcoming work in the area, such as new highways or new train routes, in addition to new amenities or facilities that may be coming up.
An agent familiar with the neighbourhood can also provide reliable information about the traffic conditions, safety and other aspects one might only find out upon living there.
5. Look for reviews
In the age of the internet, reviews on practically everything can be found. The type of person who Googles a new brand of shampoo before they try it should definitely check the reviews of the property agent they are about to enlist.
Of course, some reviews may be biased, but if there are multiple positive reviews, it can be assumed the agent is reliable.
Be sure to read the reviews carefully as some reviewers may give their ratings based on other factors that are not in the agent’s control.
6. Establish personal communication
The homebuyer will be dealing with the agent very frequently over the next couple of months, so choose one who is easy to talk to.
You should be able to communicate well with them and they should also make you feel comfortable to ask anything at all about the process of purchasing a home – no matter how simple or obvious the question may be.
Basically, trust your gut on this. If you feel something is off, it’s okay to find another agent you get along well with better.
7. Make sure you know who’s paying the bill
Remember the 3% commission? In most cases, if you talk to the agent from their listing on portals such as PropertyGuru, they have been “hired” by the seller to help market the property and close the deal on their behalf.
On the other hand, if you have made a general enquiry with an area or condo expert and asked them to help find a suitable property, chances are they are not tied to a seller and you may end up with an extra 3% agent fee tacked on.
Buying a home is an exciting journey and you should be able to look back fondly at the memories and be grateful for having the right agent. Regardless of whether you are handling the deal yourself or going through an agent, it is still a good idea to do your own research on websites like Property Advisor to find out the market prices in your neighbourhood of choice.