If you’re in the market for real estate in Australia, then it is almost a given that you will be dealing with a real estate agent at some point – they conduct the sale, auction, purchase, exchange, letting and leasing of property.
Given that the value of any of these transactions is likely to be the largest an average Australian will ever make, it’s hardly a surprise that real estate agents are, perhaps unfairly, one of the least trusted professions in the country.
The report from Roy Morgan Research found that for over 30 years now they’ve been hovering near the bottom of the list – sharing the space with the likes of federal MPs, advertising people and car salesmen.
Here are some tips for finding and dealing with your agent.
Legitimate agents are registered, licensed and bound by regulations. Attaining one of these licenses demands many factors.
In Queensland, for example, some of the requirements include a clean criminal record, the achievement of over 35 training courses and possession of a positive financial history.
The penalty for working without a license is more severe than operating a car without a driver’s license – a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment, compared to just half of that, respectively.
You can check an agent’s license status online, via your local state or territory consumer affairs sites.
According to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, a real estate agent must never mislead you, and always use fair contract terms in line with federal, state and territory laws.
Thus, feel free to ask questions such as: Can I see some testimonials from former and current clients? What have you previously been working on? What are your fees?
Stringent guidelines for licensed agents ensure that they should answer truthfully and without bias towards buyer, seller or renter – for instance, the current Property, Stock and Business Agents Act that governs those working in NSW alone has 231 different sections.
Depending on the answers you receive, you can then decide on which real estate agent to deal with.
While smaller agencies may be able to offer you a better price, larger businesses will generally:
• Offer more security and reliability
• Be more stringent around licensing
• Have access to a range of homes for sale in the market
• Possess more experience and knowledge of the industry
• Have more rental properties on offer
At the end of the day, by simply confirming that your agent has been through the rigorous process of real estate licensing, you will most likely be assuring yourself a smoother ride.