Disclaimer: These comments are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the current opinions and policies of the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia.
When the time comes to sell or lease your property, would-be vendors and landlords increasingly look to the internet to help shortlist agents that might meet their needs.
Well established methods of choosing your agent such as re-employing an agent previously used, adverts in the Herald, recommendations from friends and relatives or visiting Home Opens to meet agents remain effective methods.
In the on-line space, REIWA offers reiwa.com Agent Finder; a free, independent, credible source of finding professional agents. Also occupying the portal space are a myriad of commercial operators that purport to “find the best agent near you”.
Conducting a Google search of “Real Estate Agents Fremantle” for example will throw up paid for adverts for http://www.localagentfinder.com.au, http://www.whichrealestateagent.com.au, http://www.openagent.com.au and http://www.agentselect.com.au
These “intermediaries” claim they can find you the best agent. The truth is they merely run a portal and a call centre whereby they contact local agents offering them a lead for a property listing in exchange for about 20 per cent of their sales commission. Participating agents competing for the listing seek to cover the cost of the referral by demanding a higher commission– hardly a consumer benefit – and clients are astonished to learn their agent is paying a referral in the first place.
The main problem, however, is that successful, leading agents (the best ones) don’t use these intermediaries to get business and why would they? The best agents get business on their merit with no need to pay a referral to an intermediary for running a portal and slick advertising campaigns. Consumers should know that in using these sites, you’re not getting access to the best agents, just the least experienced and most desperate.
These intermediaries are not the vendor advocates they purport to be. They don’t interview or thoroughly research all agents and they only put forward those who’ll pay them a referral. The REIA has recently lodged a submission to the Royal Commission investigating banking misconduct arguing that if these intermediaries are the genuine vendor advocates they claim to be, then it’s the client – the vendor – who ought to pay for this service, as is the case for financial advisory services. The REIA thought the Commission (and the public) ought to know that the Commonwealth Bank now has a financial interest in the largest of these groups, LocalAgentFinder.
by Hayden Groves
REIA Deputy President