Getting real about estate agents

Being a real estate agent isn’t as easy as it appears to be on the surface.

While it seems like a simple career that reels in big bucks by selling property with the skillful eloquence of describing how “appealing” it is, these professionals have a lot more to prove of themselves in the real world.

Unless they have credible and recognised qualifications in order to walk the talk, they could end up underserving their clients, says PPC International chief executive officer and Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA) president Siva Shanker.

“It sounds unfair, but unqualified, so-called ‘agents’ are a menace to society because they are unscrupulous and dishonest. They collect more in fees than is legally due to them by marking up the prices of the property they are selling and often misrepresent themselves in many instances.

“Unfortunately, such audacious acts are discovered by the buyer when it is too late,” explains Siva.

He says there are more than 1,700 registered real estate agents in Malaysia while those not registered (yet), are called negotiators.

For the layman, a real estate agent, or estate agent, is a professional who sells or lets residential or commercial properties, or land for their clients.

The role generally involves valuing properties by comparing the condition of property with others in the area to get the best price for the client.

A negotiator is a property salesperson who works with or for an estate agent to market the agency to potential clients using skills in negotiation, marketing and sales. One of their primary roles is to convince clients that their agency is the right one to handle the sale or lease of their property.

Get a real real estate agent

As an individual who appears to be forthright and perhaps even brutally honest about his concerns for the industry, Siva is very passionate about his personal views after more than 25 years of experience in the business. He has worked in both large international property consultancies as well as small local outfits.

He hopes to address one of his major concerns with MIEA’s efforts to embark on a mass education and awareness exercise that will teach the general public to recognise and identify illegal agents.

“If you do business with them and something goes wrong, you will not be protected by the law and it would be like handing your money to a thief.

“At the moment, strict enforcement against these people is lacking and the general public continues to put their trust in them,” says Siva.

Together with the Board of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents in Malaysia, MIEA will disseminate the message via print and television.

Currently, the campaign is still being planned and Siva indicates that if things go as scheduled, it will be launched between September and October.

These are just one of the major projects that MIEA is in the midst of rolling out this year. The institute’s other endeavours include providing holistic education for those interested in making real estate their career.

“We have tied up with Open University Malaysia (OUM) to provide a professional diploma in estate agency for yearly intakes. This course will be taught by members of the Board of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents.

The courses are available at subsidised rates as MIEA is a non-profit organisation and fees will be used to cover the institute’s basic costs and to continue running its secretariat.

The institute is also hoping to negotiate with OUM to make the course available in more states in Malaysia as well as to have multiple intakes each year. But there is yet to be a proper infrastructure to support these plans at least for the remaining part of this year.

MIEA also runs the Real Estate Professional seminars (Reps). Some of the material covered in the seminars includes opportunities and challenges in the condominium market, sale and purchase agreements, identifying property hot spots and how to sell properties via open houses.

For negotiators, MIEA organises monthly negotiator training courses. “Those who want to be negotiators can sign up for a two-day course to learn the basics of estate agencies that are taught by professionals in the field.

“Among the subject range, some topics that are covered include ethics and laws, how to make use of social media, making a property posting and how to deal with clients.

“We want as many negotiators as possible to study because we always want to improve the skills set in the industry,” explains Siva. Soft skills crucial for success

When it comes to the skills required in the industry, Siva says that soft skills are crucial for individuals to succeed in real estate.

The requirements for getting into real estate definitely lower than other professions like medicine, accounting and engineering.

“It’s true that there are fewer paper qualifications required for a real estate agent compared to other highly technical jobs, and that’s why many think they can become an agent.

“But they don’t realise that there is a high failure rate because of the immense pressure and hard work that is expected of them.

“Firstly, a person has to start as a negotiator and from experience, many people don’t make it past six months because they give up. This is because they set very unrealistic expectations and think it’s going to be smooth sailing, but when they are faced with the hard reality of the industry’s ruthless competitiveness, they find that they’re not cut out for it and give up easily.

“That’s why tenacity, perseverance and diligence are the most important attributes someone needs to have to make it as a negotiator and eventually a successful agent,” stresses Siva.

The starting salary for negotiators is RM900, which is the minimum wage, on top of commissions ranging from 10% to 40%.

Another initiative by MIEA that the public can look forward to is the Malaysian Annual Real Estate Convention (Marec) that is held in March every year.

“It is the biggest real estate convention organised by the professionals in the industry so visitors will get first-hand knowledge about the industry and current trends. The convention is attended by about 500 people each year,” says Siva.

The institute also held the Malaysian Secondary Property Exhibition 2013 (Maspex) from April 12 to 14 with a total of 22 exhibitors comprising real estate agents.

They were selling and representing secondary properties worth a total of RM1.8bil in the Klang Valley also Penang.

“Unlike property exhibitions that showcase properties by developers, Maspex is an exhibition featuring secondary properties and units that were purchased by the public and re-exhibited because they want to sell them.

“It was attended by 10,000 people and within the first two days, four properties were sold. Within three weeks of the exhibition another 108 properties were sold and it was an outstanding result,” says Siva.

The institute is currently working together with Maybank to run Maspex in Penang in October and in Johor in November. There will be another Maspex next year in Kuala Lumpur as well as a small secondary property exhibition in Singapore.

MIEA also hosts its annual dinner celebration for achievements and awards for real estate agents that’s held around October.

There are 22 categories of awards that are open nationwide and the institute wants to increase it to 25 categories to encourage more excellence and achievements in the industry.

For more information, visit - By KARINA FOO (The Star)

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