As a practicing buyer’s agent for the last 15 years, it has been fascinating to watch the industry grow and mature. I did not know there was such a thing as a buyer’s agent when I first started. I fell into doing it even before I knew it was a real occupation.
I had been living in the Byron Bay area for a while before the property boom in the early naughties. As an adjunct to my usual occupation of TV and video producer, I was keen on property and architecture and was buying, building, renovating and selling. As it turned out, it was a lucrative sideline which I got quite good at. Good enough to get a constant stream of friends and acquaintances ringing me up and asking me to help them buy their own slice of paradise. Light bulb moment: I should charge money for this! So I switched careers.
The most rewarding thing I hear is a client who says they will always use a Buyer’s Agent in the future. The next most rewarding thing is building productive working relationships with most local agents. It was not immediate. Many agents were suspicious and cautious of having a buyer’s agent in the mix but soon got used to it and quickly saw that it was an advantage for all concerned.
I am now doing the same process with the role of a vendor’s advocate. What is a vendor’s advocate? This is a new service that many good buyer’s agents are including in their arsenal. It basically reverse engineers what a buyer’s agent does for a buyer and brings these same skills, local knowledge and research to a seller. But isn’t that exactly what a listing agent does? is probably your next question.
Yes, but there’s more. A vendor’s advocate is best utilized prior to the seller actually listing. A good VA will go through the whole process with the potential vendor so they will have an idea of the outcome at the beginning of the process instead of the end. The VA will help choose the best listing agent to use, negotiate the commission and stay involved during the selling campaign, supporting both the vendor and the listing agent to get the best possible outcome.
What makes this a good deal for the vendor is that the VA conjuncts with the selling agent so they do not pay any extra, as they do with a buyer’s agent. So why would this be an advantage for the selling agent, especially if they have to split their commission? Simply put, the answer is the VA does some of the work listing agent usually does but mainly, the VA brings to the agent a listing that is fully prepped and ready to sign.
How does a VA choose which is the right agent to use? Part of it is matching personalities and prior knowledge about agents who have expertise in a particular area or type of property. I often have an intuition about who will fit a new client but I always do the online research as well. I cross check which agent has been consistently selling in that area or postcode and price range. Does it match with their market share? Some agencies have biggest piece of the listing pie chart but fail to measure up in the important part: settling the sale. I also look at time on the market and price reductions so I have the full picture.
I have never had an agent say no to working with me as a vendor’s advocate. Admittedly, most have been with agents who I have an established relationship with. But even new ones from different areas quickly see the advantage of the vendor having their own “advocate”. It also leaves the selling agent to concentrate on the marketing campaign and getting the best deal for the client.
The development of buyer’s agents and vendor’s advocacy is just another piece in the changing real estate landscape. The Internet has changed everything. Online search has made it easier, and in other ways harder, for both buyers and sellers. People who are unfamiliar with the area they are moving to, or do not have the time or the temperament, want a professional service provider with local knowledge and experience. Many buyer’s are already well researched and do not want to be “sold to” by a traditional agent. Many sellers understandably require certainty and support in a major decision of maximising the potential of their biggest asset.
Fortunately, real estate agents are adapting well to working with buyer’s agents and vendor’s advocates. It is not competitive or adversarial but I can’t say there have never been problems. I once had an agent say directly to my client while I was there that they should be going directly to them and they don’t need a buyer’s agent. There have been cases where agents have refused to work with us.
This difficulty is not always the fault of the agents. As a relatively new industry, buyer’s agents are continually improving their game. There have been shonky and inexperienced cowboys who have hung up a shingle as a buyer’s agent and have not done the industry proud. Some real estate agents have advertised as buyer’s agents while promoting their own listings. Qualified buyer’s agents and vendor’s advocates will never list properties or accept commission or payments from agents.
To be certain of quality and experience it is best to use members of REBAA (Real Estate Buyer’s Agents of Australia). All good practitioners realise that whatever is good for the client is best for the industry as a whole. We are all in it together and there is enough business out there for everyone.