My first experience with an estate agent was not a pleasant one. I found his cell phone number by the roadside, nailed to a stick, close to a traffic light. The man who answered the call gave his name as Agya Yaw and asked my companion and I to meet him at a specified location. He was seated next to a roasted plantain seller busily munching on some roasted groundnuts when we got there. Immediately we got to him, he asked us to pay him what he called ‘registration fee’ upfront. We of course found it preposterous, but at that point we were already there and we didn’t want it to be a wasted trip. Besides he was able to convince us that he knew the hottest rentals in town. And so we paid him. When that money was safely in his pocket, he joined us in our car and we set off on our house hunt, with high expectations, confident that Agya Yaw will lead us to our dream rental home that very day. Even though we clearly stated at the onset exactly what kind of property we were looking to rent, and he specifically assured us that he could meet that need, he led us around to houses that were anything but what we wanted. Some of them were in very deplorable condition. At this point we started getting the sense that Agya Yaw had taken us for a ‘ride’. When we called him out on it, he became offended and called us ‘choosy’. He had the effrontery to appear frustrated and impatient with us, as though we were the ones who couldn’t make up our minds on what we wanted. At which point he got down from our car and off he went with our upfront money (which by the way is non-refundable), for no work done.
This was about five years ago when I had no clue as to what to look out for in Real Estate Agents. Since then I have learned to become less gullible. I have also gathered some experience as I am currently working in the real estate industry.
Agya Yaw is one of those Estate agents who fall into the category of ‘Area Agents’. While most of these agents are well experienced and know their trade very well, and can be quite helpful to home buyers , sellers, landlords and renters alike, others are just charlatans who are only looking to make quick money whilst sending unsuspecting house hunters on a wild goose chase and then ditching them to move on to their next victim.
Real estate agents these days are generally more sophisticated. They appear younger, well educated and much more professional about their business. They are usually dressed to impress, great communicators and technologically savvy, using the internet property portals, email and social media as their modus operandi. But still, one needs to be careful with their choice of agents.
So how can we avoid the ‘Agya Yaws’ of this world? Here is what to do:
- Investigate the Agents track record and his credibility Since real estate agents in Ghana are not yet regulated and therefore are not licensed, it presents quite a challenge easily finding professional background information on who you are dealing with and their track record. You may have to resort to word of mouth and recommendations. Only go with those who have proven themselves to be knowledgeable, respectful to the wishes of their customers, and who have delivered on their promises.
- Insist on a contract stating the terms of your agreement. This is very important. Your relationship with the Estate Agent should be summed up on a legally binding document to protect the interests of both parties.
- You might want to be circumspect and part with money only when your estate agent has delivered on the rental or the property you wanted to purchase. It is only then that you may go ahead to make payment which is usually 10% of the total rent or a compensation equivalent to one month rental ( for rental) or 5% of the total cost of the property( for purchase), which is usually stipulated in the contract.
- Sight the actual property before making a choice. Even though it might be easier to sit in your office or home and look at pictures or options presented to you by the agent through the email or whatsapp or any of the social media platforms, it is always best to insist on visiting the property and seeing it for yourself or getting someone you trust to do that in case you are abroad. It might surprise you how different the actual state of a property looks from how it is projected in the brochure or the internet.
When the Real Estate Agency Bill is finally passed, I believe this will give the Ghana Real Estate Proffessionals Association (GREPA) the mandate to regulate the operations of Real estate agents in the areas of licensing and streamlined operations, thereby protecting the interests of both the estate agents and their customers. And then guess what…? No more ‘Agya Yaw’ drama.
Written by Daphne Amarkai Quayson
Sales and Marketing Officer
This article was first published in the April 28, 2016 issue of the Business Finder newspaper