While it’s commonly assumed that estate agents work solely for sellers, they are in fact a great asset to house buyers too. From navigating a labyrinth of legalese to scaling a mountain of paperwork, a qualified estate agent will help you negotiate the process of buying a home.
“It’s true that anyone can look for a home, and even get a peek inside, without the help of an estate agent but, unless you have the time to make house shopping a full-time job, chances are an agent will be able to match you with your perfect property considerably faster,” says Rhys Dyer, CEO of South Africa’s largest home loan comparison service, ooba home loans.
Here, he provides more positive proof that going it alone is not always the best idea…
1. An agent will know the market
While anyone can spend a few minutes online and pull information on sales of comparable houses, estate agents have the experience to know whether a specific house is over- or under-priced. “Most estate agents can price a house the minute they walk through the door,” says Dyer. “If they have a lot of experience in a market, they know how well a suburb holds its value, too. In the best-case scenario, an agent will have such a good idea of what you’re looking for that he or she won’t even waste your time on viewing houses that won’t work.”
Not only can agents provide all the data on local home sales that you want to see, they also bring assets to the deal that come from years of watching waves of transactions in your chosen neighbourhood, he adds.
2. An agent must be upfront
As members of the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB), the regulating body for the profession in South Africa, estate agents agree to abide by a code of ethics which effectively stipulates that they will deal with all parties in a transaction with honesty and integrity, Dyer explains. “Under the code, the estate agent is obligated to put the clients’ interests ahead of his own. They are also required to make full disclosure about any problems with a property and be truthful in advertising,” he adds.
3. An agent can see the cracks
Often, the touchiest part of the house-buying process involves the delicate dance of requesting repairs. “An estate agent will be able to identify trouble that you may not see, as well as recommend a good independent home inspector who will provide a detailed report on problems with the house,” says Dyer, who notes that these reports can be dozens of pages long. “Within all those pages, some problems are important and others aren’t. If the house is in reasonably good condition, requests for repairs can make or break a deal. The agent will have a good sense of what’s reasonable to request and what’s excessive.”
4. An agent can find available homes
Though most homes for sale are widely available for buyers to assess on websites, in some cases, sellers don’t want the fact that they’re selling to be widely publicised. In these cases, only the estate agents know the houses are for sale, says Dyer. “An estate agent will most likely know about unadvertised homes, broadening your search and giving you access to homes you might otherwise miss seeing.”
5. An agent will tackle the paperwork
If you’ve ever bought a house, you’ve probably dedicated a full shelf somewhere to the documents that were involved in the transaction. These probably include the written offer, the written and signed counteroffer, the little details (like specific repairs) and what exactly was and was not included in the sale. “The paperwork can be tiresome,” Dyer admits, adding that this is when a good estate agent can save the day. “Often, these offers and counteroffers are limited by a time frame. Estate agents come armed with printers and scanners that, in good economies, never stop churning out paper. The odds of missing something, not initialing a margin or not checking a box, can drop substantially when you’re working with someone who knows the paperwork inside and out.”
6. An agent has their finger on the pulse
Aside from the technical aspects of a sale and the mistakes people can make in the paperwork, estate agents know suburbs and the houses located in them inside and out. If you want a house with a purple room, an experienced estate agent will know the house that’s for sale that has just that room. “Generally, agents will be aware of features that don’t show as well on the Internet,” Dyer adds. If a buyer is looking for a house with a space that could be used as an office, an attached mother-in-law cottage or a room that’s perfect for showing off a prized grandfather clock, a human agent is more likely to find a match than a property website.
7. An agent can take the heat
As levelheaded as you think you are, when you’re fighting with a seller over fixing cracked tiling, it’s easy to lose your cool. “Having an agent to write the requests objectively and forward them to the seller saves you the trouble of getting overly emotional about the deal,” says Dyer. Indeed, experts advise that the best way to make a deal is to look for the positive part of every offer and counteroffer, and to never let the other party see you make a sour face. “Often, the most effective way to do this is to present the face that’s doing business – not your own.”
8. An agent knows the law
Let’s say, you want to buy a charming little house and turn the front room into a small clothing boutique. You’ll need to know if you’re legally allowed to do this. “An experienced estate agent should be familiar enough with the local zoning ordinances to make sure you don’t buy the wrong house,” says Dyer. By the same token, he adds, if you want to build a fence in the back garden or add a bedroom, an agent should be able to make sure you’re buying a property where the city allows it.
9. An agent may work with a home loan comparison service
Your estate agent might work with a home loan comparison service like ooba to ensure you get approved and get the best deal on your home loan. A home loan comparison service will submit your application to up to eight banks, improving your chances of approval and of getting the best possible interest rate – at no cost to you.
10. An agent can help seal the deal
When it comes to taking ownership of your new home, it’s nice to have someone there to ensure the process goes smoothly. “When you’re getting close to the time of transfer, you want to make sure there aren’t any unexpected title issues, that the financing has come through and that all of the professionals involved are staying on task and on track,” Dyer explains. “Estate agents are used to dealing with these types of issues and can work through almost any challenge that arises.”
11. An agent costs you nothing
Because the agent’s commission is paid by the seller, you have the full use of his or her services at absolutely no charge. “The bottom line,” concludes Dyer, “It might not cost you anything, but it can really pay to have a professional by your side.”
To make the home-buying process that much easier, South Africa’s leading home loan comparison service offers a range of home loan calculators, including those that determine bond affordability and bond repayments.