Advice and Opinion

Estate agents often take the blame for hold-ups that are out of their control

The old joke about certain people gaining automatic entrance to heaven because their jobs on earth have already given them their fair share of hell has, it may surprise some to learn, often been quoted about estate agents.

Estate agency work is seen, mistakenly, as easy and not too demanding by many of the general public. However, a fair number of estate agents will always tell you that their lives can be made to be exceptionally difficult for long period of time, says Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group.

Despite large numbers of estate agents now achieving their NQF4 and NQF5 – the Estate Agency Affairs Board’s obligatory qualifications which are designed to improve all agents’ competency and professionalism – a constant flow of estate agents still leave the profession and one of the main reasons for this, said Clarke, is that, although they are quite possibly successful, they are simply not built to put up with the recriminations, back-biting and hostility that are regularly levelled against them in their line of duty.

“Obviously there are a hundred and one reasons that can make an estate agent’s life tough – but something that hurts a great many is that, too often, they are blamed for delays and mistakes in the transfer process for which they should never have been held accountable.”

It has to be accepted, said Clarke, that a whole range of people and institutions, in addition to the buyer and the seller, are involved in the sale and transfer of a house: banks, valuators, SARS, attorneys, conveyancers, municipalities and compliance accreditors working with or employing people such as plumbers and electricians. Any of these, he said, can make mistakes and any one of them can hold up a transfer.

“As the estate agent is the person with whom the client probably deals with most in a home sale, he is expected to monitor and control virtually the whole transaction but he cannot be blamed when others, such as municipalities or conveyancers, hold up the process.”

It is sometimes forgotten, said Clarke, that a conscientious estate agent will be at work five times longer than most people, for the simple reason that dealings take place after hours, even after supper. It should also be remembered, he said, that this is one job in which ‘no sale’ always equals ‘no gain’. Furthermore, if he does achieve a sale, his share of the commission will probably not be paid out for another six months and it is also important to note, said Clarke, that the sellers often have themselves to blame for sales not taking place because they insist on overpricing their properties.

“Going against the advice of the estate agent and very often the bank valuer, the seller may insist on overpricing. Then however when the home ‘sticks’ on the market, he will almost certainly blame the estate agent for his inefficiency and a lack of sales technique.”

The truly regrettably aspect of many of the estate agents leaving, added Clarke, is that those who get dispirited and resign are often the more conscientious, likeable and sensitive staff. Lacking the armour of cynicism and toughness, they can be easily wounded – especially when held responsible for mistakes and delays in a transaction over which they cannot have real control.

“It really is time for clients to adopt a more understanding and sympathetic attitude to the position that most estate agents often find themselves in,” said Clarke. “Do not criticise until you have walked a mile in an estate agent’s shoes.”

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