When it comes to a property buying or selling transaction, what does an excellent experience look like for buyers and sellers, and what proportion of agents are delivering excellent quality service?

As the author of the Consumer Perceptions of Real Estate Agents reports, I wanted to know the answer to this question. CoreLogic recently completed its second survey into consumer perceptions of real estate agents to do just that. 

We asked buyers what their experiences of agents were like and overlaid that on top of the data we obtained last year, when we examined sellers. The combined results show buyers and sellers are looking for very similar characteristics in their agents, even if they don’t know it when it comes to selection time. 

Instead, in the absence of knowing what to look for, too many people choose their agent based on who has the lowest commission. But if you use that as your starting point, your relationship is about a cheap transaction.

More than just a transaction

Do you want an agent that is just about a transaction? Or could your agent be like your lawyer or your accountant – someone you go to whenever you need genuine help and advice? To be that person, agents really need to prove their value proposition to you. 

“Too many people choose their agent based on who has the lowest commission”

Our research shows that what most buyers and sellers are looking for is an agent who is honest and trustworthy, interested in helping them and keen to understand their particular needs; someone who will guide them through the process and help them avoid any pitfalls. Of course they also want an agent who has great market knowledge and good negotiation and other product skills. 

But how do you assess these skills?

Use the following list of questions as your guide when selecting your agent – or getting to know agents if you’re buying – and you should be able to establish a relationship with your agent for life.

How well do they really know the market?

How good is your agent’s knowledge of the local market and the property in question, and how do they demonstrate that? 

Good agents will use data to back up what they are telling you and encourage you to do your own research. They will also supply information about the local area that will help you create an emotional attachment to the area – where are the best coffee shops, what are the schools like, what number bus offers an express service to the city?

What is their process?

This is a question too few buyers and sellers ask agents they are dealing with. Our research shows that those agents who deliver the best experiences are the ones who have a process that they explain to their vendors and buyers before they sign them up or accept an offer from them. 

Excellent agents will sit you down and explain how buying or selling through them works, why they believe in doing it that way, the things that can go wrong at various stages of the transaction, and exactly what action they take to both avoid those things or fi x them promptly when they do happen. But only 31% of vendors and 14% of buyers had agents who delivered excellent service in this way.

Are they a proactive communicator?

Good communication skills are more about listening than talking. Does your agent make time to listen to you? Do they genuinely want to know what you’re looking for? Are they prompt in returning return calls and proactive about getting back to you when they say they will? 

Testing how an agent behaves towards you when you go to an ‘open for inspection’ (even of a neighbour’s property) is a great way to get a feel for how your agent performs in this regard. One of the largest complaints  both sellers and buyers have about agents relates to their slowness in responding or doing what was promised.

What is their post-sale service like?

If an agent looks blankly at you when you ask this question, it’s a pretty good indication that you should end the relationship there. 

The sale of a property is not just about auction day or getting an offer signed and accepted. There is a lot of post-acceptance work that you may need to do with your bank or lender: the exchange of contracts, building inspections – a raft of things that can make exchanging or the move stressful or even cause it to go off the rails. 

Truly great agents have a process for making sure the post-acceptance stage runs smoothly, and they will keep you informed and continue to help you right until you’ve moved in and unpacked all your boxes. Ordinary agents will drop you like a stone once the contract is signed and expect you to pick up your own key from their receptionist. 

When we asked the buyers and sellers that we surveyed what they would do differently the next time they bought or sold property, invariably their advice came down to “doing more planning and research” – especially researching their agent.

Our survey showed that the more homework a buyer or seller does about individual agents and how they interact, the type of service they offer and the recommendations they get from friends, the more likely they are to find an agent that they will get to know and trust and who will give them a property experience that is truly excellent.