Without boring you with dictionary definitions, estate agency is a fiduciary relationship whereby a person (referred to as ‘an estate agent’) act as an intermediary between a principal (property owner/landlord) and another party (property buyer/tenant).
Many people (including some Estate agents) have misconstrued who an estate agent is, as well as the functions/roles of an estate agent. Almost everyone, especially if you had ever attempted to rent/lease or buy/sell a property would have come across an estate agent, or someone who claims to be one.
The business of estate agency in Nigeria is an all-comers affair, as there is no strict entry and exit barriers, hence, the prevalence and preponderance of ‘quacks’. To checkmate the harmful incidences of this group of people, some concerned bodies such as the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) established the Association of Estate Agents in Nigeria (AEAN), while the government of Lagos State established the Lagos States Real Estate Transaction Department (LASTREDA).
This article is written with Estate agents in mind, and it is targeted to all Estate agents and intending ones who want to stand-out, and at the same time be outstanding in the practice of real estate agency. Please note that estate agent and agent may be used interchangeably.
To this end, any estate agent who wants to be outstanding must take the following into consideration:
The most important ingredient in every relationship is Trust. Trust is the belief and confidence in the integrity, reliability and fairness of a person or organisation. Never ever take the values of honesty, truthfulness and sincerity with levity. As an agent, you need to earn the trust and respect of your clients and colleagues by being open and honest in all you say and do. This value is even much more important than academic and professional qualifications, as no client will ever buy or rent a property from you except they trust you. This is not to undermine the possession of these qualifications, but to emphasize the importance of trust, and to show that ‘trust’ is a tradable commodity.
Integrity is the twin sister of trust, as both go hand-in-hand, you can’t have one without having the other. Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. To be an estate agent of value, you must adhere to high standard of moral and ethical principles. Your word must be your bond; you must be uncompromisable. People must know you to be someone who say what you mean, and mean what you say. You must be guided by the need to always do the right things legally, ethically, morally and professionally.
Professionalism is the culmination of competence, knowledge, resourcefulness, expertise, quality service delivery, attitude, discipline and tenacity. A professional in any discipline is expected to have gone through periods of academic studies, professional experience and are usually well guided by code of conducts/ethics to be able to gain the confidence of the public. To this end, people will be more confident to deal with a person or company who is affiliated to well-known professional bodies. Moreso, members of such bodies can easily be traced, tracked and reported in the case of professional misconduct. This is much more important because investment in real estate usually involves large amount of money, and hence people will not want to take a gamble.
The importance of good appearance cannot be overemphasised. It has been said that ‘You will be addressed the way you are dressed’. Like it or not, a first impression can make or break a sale. Details of your appearance can show a lot about your work ethic, integrity, passion and professionalism. If what you demonstrate upon a first encounter is slouchy, people assume your business habits are probably equally slouchy. According to research by Dr. Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, as reported on www.businessknowhow.com by Nina Jamal and Judith Lindenberger in their article, How to Make a Great First Impression, “appearance and body language (visual image) accounts for fifty-five percent (55%) of an invaluable first impression. It is disheartening to see estate agents in rough shirts and jeans taking clients around; this is one of the reasons people do not regard agents as reputable. Most often, the writer of this article has been mistaken to be a banker by the way he dresses; and the question is, Is it only bankers that dress properly?
While personal appearance/dressing is external, amiable/ pleasing personality is internal. You must be friendly and have a genuine love for people. Having a great sense of humour is also a plus. You must have the ability to ‘connect’ with the client. You must have a good carriage and a confident personality. In summary, you must be a people’s person, you must be likable and you need to command the respect of your clients.
An estate agent of value must value clients and treat them with dignity, respect and empathy. You must listen to the needs of your clients and always strive to not only meet their needs, but to even surpass their expectations by giving them the maximum benefits/ values for their investments. Putting smiles on the face of your clients must be your goal, and try every possible means to gain their trust. And remember, customers are always right.
It is sad that some agents advertise properties without knowing the full details of the properties, such as the owner, the title, facilities in the house, etc. A very important principle in marketing is to really know what one is marketing. An estate agent of value must know the properties being marketed inside-out. He/ she must have a good understanding of the property vis-a-vis the location, unique attributes of the properties compared to other properties, how the property meet clients demand/expectations, etc.
An estate agent that will stand out must be very versatile and knowledgeable in almost every subject matter. The work of an estate agent must be seen beyond showing of properties to people, but must also include the ability of dealings with people and their emotions, because most times people can be very emotional when buying properties, and this is where empathy comes in. A good agent must put him or herself in the position of the client. You must understand the thinking of the client, the reasons for their decision or indecision. The client’s interest must override your own interest.
To be an estate agent that will stay very long in the real estate business, patience is a non-negotiable virtue you must cultivate. As there are multitudes of clients, so also there are varieties of behaviours/ attitudes they come with. We have gentle/ hot-tempered clients, patient/ impatient clients, innocent/ cunny clients, sincere/ insincere clients, humble/ arrogant clients, serious/ unserious clients, etc. They come in different shades. A good agent must be very patient and discerning to place the client in the right category. The caveat here is that you cannot always judge a book by the cover; at times, a client may look unserious at first, but surprisingly, they will be the one to buy a property from you, the reverse is also true, whereby a client will appear very serious and even ask you for title documents and offer letter, but he/ she will refuse to answer your calls when you follow up and they will not even bother to return your calls.
Branding makes you to be unique and distinct amongst several other people who render similar services like yours. The need for branding and standardisation is even more important because the business of estate agency is an all-comers affair, especially in Nigeria where there’s no strict standard of practice; hence, the need for you to stand out, and be outstanding amongst several other estate agents. Identify what is unique about you and your business and capitalise on that. Every individual is different and unique, so also is every business, and until you identify what experts call your ‘USP – Unique Selling Point or Proposition’, you may end up being frustrated by your competitors. You must also have a standard, people must know what you stand for, what you can do and can’t do. You must be specific about your mission, vision and core values. All these will stand you out in your real estate business practice and ultimately make you a sought-after agent.