How to choose a real estate agent

The flashiest sales board and an agent in the sleekest suit isn’t necessary the best candidate to sell your house.

Achieving a lower than expected price on your property, or failing to immediately find a buyer, are the least of your worries if you pick the wrong person.

An agency agreement authorises the agent to act on your behalf, so a vendor can be exposed to legal action if something goes awry, experts say.

Ask the agent how they will tailor their marketing strategy to suit your needs. Photo: Josh Robenstone

Melbourned-based Justin Lawrence, partner at Henderson & Ball Lawyers, says some agents often talk about issues they don’t have expertise in, and it can land the vendor in trouble.

For example, a buyer might sign a contract on the basis the agent has told them they can knock the house down to build a two-storey mansion with a basement.

If it turns out not to be the case, Mr Lawrence says, the buyer has a cause of legal action against the vendor for misrepresentation.

It’s not about choosing the right agency, but rather the individual agent within the organisation. Photo: Luis Ascui

“What most people don’t appreciate is that the agent is an extension of themselves, that everything the agent says is as if it’s coming from the mouth of the vendor,” he says.

“So it can be a really, really dangerous business if you get an agent who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”

Brisbane-based Slater and Gordon conveyancing lawyer Robert Kern says it does depend on the representations made, and whether the agent has been authorised to make them.

New research shows an attractive agent can add up to $23,000 to the price of your home. Photo: Getty Images

Wakelin Property Advisory director Paul Nugent says the vendor would enjoin the agent in any legal action.

A vendor need to disclose any issues related to the property – for example, not having obtained a permit for works, he says.

Mystery shop them

It’s not about choosing the right agency, but rather, the individual agent within the organisation.

Starr Partners chief executive Douglas Driscoll says agents promote themselves on billboards, bus stops and ads in countless letter boxes among the pizza menus, but they can’t all be number one.

He says vendors should mystery shop and compare the handful of agents they’re considering.

“All of them have probably said the same thing, given them the CMA (comparative market analysis) report, shown them the nice glossy brochures, pictures of what the ad will look like and the sign board,” he says.

“If you’re choosing based on someone’s presentation skills, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a brilliant sales agent or they’re as hard working as the next guy.”

Mr Driscoll says sellers should attend the agent’s open for inspections, call them and pose as a buyer.

Where possible, call other vendors who are currently selling with the agent for a reference, he says.

“There are some standouts who will sell more than others, but that doesn’t necessarily always mean they’re the best person for the job, or get you the very best price.”

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