The real estate industry in Malaysia is one which is filled with a wide range of properties, and is represented by a wide range of agents. Open any online property classified portal to search for a property and you will probably end up wondering to yourself how do you find a good estate agent in a sea of them. Almost everyone seems to be very confidently claiming that they are your one-stop solution and that they are all that you will ever need, period.
Sit back and let the thought settle in for a while. What do you really need?
How do we actually pick a better agent from a sea of agents? Everyone probably values different qualities with different priorities, but for the most part we can agree that it comes down to these five key traits every agent should have:
In a perfect world we would expect all our agents to be reasonably competent at doing their jobs. Knowledge of the property market such as current going price psf, latest transactions and general performances of JMB/security of said property is important in this line, and your agent should be able to answer simple technical questions associated with the job such as:
- How much stamping fees are we expecting to pay for this rental case?
- What is the usual working timeframe we are looking at for the deal to go through till I get my disbursement from the bank?
- What is the difference between Schedule G versus Schedule H?
Their answers tell a lot about their knowledge, preparation, professionalism, experience and ultimately, their competency at serving your real estate needs.
A good agent need not look or market himself very much, a Credible agent will be sought after by word of mouth and recommendation. How do you test this trait in your agent? Randomly ask them to elaborate on something they’ve mentioned, and watch how long the elaboration goes. In most cases, you will find two types - the storyteller whose story never ends, and a storyteller whose story starts to dry up after a few sentences.
Question: “ Is dengue a cause of concern in this condominium?”
Answer 1: “Actually if you’ve walked in through the front gate you might have noticed this big awareness banner stating 36 reported cases over past 2 years. Yes, it is. The management understands the severity of this and has gotten those mosquito sprayer guys with fogging machines to fog the place every fortnight, besides getting the weeds at those edges trimmed regularly. Part of the cause is said to be the monsoon drain running beside the condominium which tends to stagnate during dry seasons, and MBPJ is working on proposals to build a covered landscape over it to tackle the issue.”
Answer 2: “Got-lah I heard, a few here and there. Normal for Malaysia weather, no surprises-lah, what you expect?”
In this industry, real estate agents are often directly involved with the movement of money. Agents are entrusted to handle the flow of money in every transaction, and are then paid for their services in cash too. The scope of work and boundaries of ethics gets blurry in reality when one realizes the amount of referral incentives being thrown all around as lawyers, bankers and other agents compete for clients too. There will be times when moral grounds are put into question, like when an agent has to decide between recommending a very suitable unit which pays one month’s commission, or a less suitable unit with a one and a half month’s commission. It boils down to the agent’s integrity of balancing between servicing their clients or serving themselves.
How do you test integrity?
The only way is to entrust them with jobs of proportionate trust level, moving forward to something bigger one step at a time.
“Here’s RM5, kindly bank in to this account.” And check. Repeat with RM50, RM500 and RM5,000.
No, this is not recommended. But if you insist (and have the cash to spare), you could always try.
A good agent is a person who replies promptly, tries to reply promptly, or at the very least replies promptly to inform you than they can’t reply promptly (if that makes any sense). A client with a responsive agent will have much more peace of mind in knowing that the person they have engaged is always ready and waiting for them, not vice versa.
Having to chase your agent all the time when you are at a crucial time of your deal is not fun, and you will eventually get the impression that the agent is only around when there’s money to be earned and will disappear as soon as he collects his commission.
There was a story of a property agent who lured a newbie investor into buying five houses at once while telling him to just sign everything, and disappeared the moment he collected his commission. When the newbie investor ran into issues and attempted to call his agent back, the agent never picked up the buyer’s call again.
How do you test their responsiveness? WhatsApp them questions and see how fast they respond, and how they respond. Is it an “I’m sorry I’m in a client meeting now, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can,” a few minutes after you send the message, or do you only get a nonchalant reply a few hours later? And how do they behave when you ask them 101 questions? Hurriedly or patiently?
Communication in this context refers to the interpersonal communication ability of understanding your needs, concerns and priorities, then being able to communicate it across to other parties (buyers, sellers, tenants, lawyers, bankers, government departments, etc.) in a concise manner without distorting the original message.
Real estate transactions often involve many individuals working around the clock, as such a miscommunication might cost days to which deals may be concluded or lost. In addition, having a strong grip in multiple languages is an added bonus which makes processes a whole lot smoother.
How do you test the strength of communication? Well, you communicate!
The All-Covering Question
A good way to gauge your agent is to ask very casually their opinion on something that you are very well versed with. It can be about the market price of the said property, expected rental or even on the latest governmental real estate policies. Maybe even ask them why did they choose this profession?
The idea isn’t about expecting the right answer all the time - nobody knows everything after all – but, to watch how they carry themselves when they can’t answer. Do they make up stories, do they admit they don’t know, or do half of both? Do they charm/distract you away from your question? Do they promise to get back to you later with an answer, and actually get back to you?
You will be able to understand the person better with this, and it may set the foundations for a healthy client-agent relationship.
In A Nutshell
While getting a good real estate agent does not always guarantee bringing you one step closer to your ideal property, it definitely saves you a lot of time, unnecessary hassle, pain and loss of money from dealing with semi-competent agents. Choose the right one, and you’ll have stories to share and experiences worth remembering always. Do share with us in the comments section below questions you have asked your agents before, and what answers you’ve received from them!
(Written by: Jordan Tan - http://www.propsocial.my/agent/findjordantan88 , 24th August 2015)