How far can one go when searching for a new property to sell? Buyers, sellers, and between them, estate agents in a race where it seems that anything goes.
Barcelona is a city with one of the largest movements of property trade in Spain, and in this competition without limits, real estate agents all want to be the first to the client.
But what is the process of acquiring properties?
The promise of a sale in less than a month, a complementary cruise, the fake visit, the behind the scenes of “no commissions”, are some of the means currently being practised to win over homeowners.
These are 7 of the most “conspicuous” current practices. It's important to bear them in mind when it come to choosing an estate agent.
“The moon and the stars”
“We’ll sell your flat in one month” is one of the most tempting phrases for sellers. Some slogans talk of doing so in 90 days, or even 7. But you shouldn't be misled by pretty phrases without first seeking guidance to understand the whole process in detail. Often it's just this; an advertising slogan very effective at persuading owners to sign a lower valuation, and once the promised time has passed, the estate agent will simply ask for the contract to be renewed for the same period, be it one month or 90 days.
The tool of seduction.
Iphone, scooter, and even a cruise! These are some of the “gifts” that sellers receive on behalf of the estate agents.
In a world where nothing comes for free, the first thought that comes to mind should be… Do they want something in exchange for this gift? Unfortunately, the answer is usually yes, and it will probably be exclusivity on the property.
“We sell at the highest price”
This is usually one of the strategies that works best when it comes to winning the race and convincing the seller. There are several reasons why an estate agent offers this type of benefit: they want to sell a stagnant property in the same area and in this way can revalue it, or to prolong its advertisement for some reason, or simply to earn more money.
Regardless of whether there are reasons or not, it is important to be aware of the impact that a price above its actual value has on both the market, and society. Further nourishing speculation can proliferate this avalanche of deception, bringing us once again nonstop, to 2008.
Behind the scenes of “no commissions”
What does no commissions really mean? Many agencies offer up to a 5% saving when competing with agencies that do operate on a commission basis. In light of this promise which seems to win over even the most demanding sellers, it’s important to be clear on the type of contract; normally it includes fixed monthly charges during 12 months, regardless of whether or not the property is sold. And on the other hand in some cases, it’s the owners who must invest their time to show the property to potential clients. It's true that there are “no commissions” but up to what point will the seller not be paying a price higher than that of a commission?
The fake visit
If the first practises could be described with as “conspicuous”, these last ones are most definitely, and without doubt, bad practices.
Someone apparently interested in buying a property, schedules a visit in the guise of a buyer, with the estate agent responsible for showing the property on sale. Once they have established the details of the property, they try to contact the seller directly to offer “better conditions”. This often done through the buildings concierge or by carrying out a little research to find the owner.
While it may seem like a story from the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, it is a reality and happens more often than we think.
Inspired by the same modus operandi as the fake visit, some estate agents pass themselves of as private individuals leaving messages on forums such as: “Individual looking to purchase a flat in this area…” In this way owners looking to sell bring themselves to the estate agent. Once in contact, sadly, there is a whole arsenal of bad practice employed in order to win the race and convert the seller into a client.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing
The elderly are the most vulnerable to becoming victims of bad real estate practice. Agents contact them offering to buy their property with the possibility that they can continue to live there. Up to here it seems like a dream come true, but there are 3 key factors that can turn this dream into a nightmare:
If this is about a race in which the best wins, perhaps first we should define what it means to be “the best”. Because if the only objective is to win from a machiavellian premise, we might all lose; as people, as a country, as a society, even as a business.
To compete and want to win is a positive attitiude and drives change, the question we should ask ourselves is: what is the limit of this race? How far am I willing to go?
And even more importantly, we are all part of the same cycle, those how are buyers today will be owners tomorrow, and for this reason we must think very hard when it comes to choosing an estate agency. Between us we can make this race fairer, without purposefully harming other runners, without leaving before the finish line and without taking shortcuts. We're all running, we play clean.
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