Guide to selling your property

How to find a good real estate agent and avoid the pitfalls.
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04.Interview agents

Selling without an agent is an option if you have the knowledge, confidence and ability to negotiate prices and contracts — and the time required. It’ll also save you thousands of dollars on agents’ fees.

But if you don’t want to go it alone:

  • The first step is to make sure any agent you consider is licensed in your state.
  • Each state and territory has education and eligibility criteria for licensed or registered estate agents. Most states require continuing professional development programs too. But in general, the hurdles for entry to the industry (such as qualifications) are a lot lower than for a profession like, say, accountancy.
  • Contact your relevant state government department. It seems like an obvious thing to do, but a recent NSW Fair Trading survey found that under 10% of sellers first checked if their agent was licensed.
  • Make appointments to see at least three agents. Compare their market appraisals to get a better sense of what your property’s worth.
  • Also take this time to evaluate agents’ personalities, sales experience, achievements and professionalism.
  • Check the credentials and qualifications of the person you meet. They could be a salesperson under the agent’s authority with less training and qualifications.
  • Don’t rush into making a decision about which agent to go with. While most of our shadow shoppers didn’t experience pressure to sign an agency agreement during their meetings, many people engage the first agent they visit, and some are then stuck with a sole or exclusive agency for a set period, even they’re not happy with it. See Signing an agreement for more.

Avoiding the ‘quote trap’

Warren McCarthy, Managing Director of LJ Hooker, says his company opposes the practice of agents overpricing to get a vendor’s listing, but agrees that some agents quote high prices to try to get sellers to sign up.

“This still exists but is not ethical conduct,” he says. “Sellers should be wary of the agent who overprices. If the agent is trying to woo business by giving an inflated price, you know they’re out for themselves and not the client.”

Michael Ramsay Property, a buyer’s agent which also provides services to sellers, agrees. “Agents are still inflating prices to get the seller’s business.”

Neil Jenman, former owner of a real estate agency, turned author, industry educator and the owner of a property referrals business, says avoiding the ‘quote trap’, where agents inflate their valuations to get your business, is a top priority for sellers.

“There’s an old saying in this industry that the biggest liar gets the job,” he says. “The number one reason that agents give high valuations is to avoid losing business. The best way to protect yourself from the quote trap is to have the agent sign a quotation guarantee. This means getting the quote in writing, and signing an agreement stating that the agent won’t be paid unless that price is achieved.”

One way to try to find the real worth of your home is by hiring an independent valuer. A valuation is different from an agent’s assessment, which is sometimes little more than an off-the-cuff estimate. An independent valuation is a professional estimation of the value of a property by a registered valuer, for a fee of around $500.


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