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How My Bid to Save a Buck Cost Me a Property Sale


Whether you’re buying or selling, the experts always warn that you should try and avoid becoming emotional about property.

“When you’re emotional you don’t think as clearly,” they caution, “and you risk making costly mistakes.”

On paper, this is a concept we can all agree with. But in practice, there are certain transactions that will always be a little sentimental – and selling your first home is chief amongst them.

I had been living in my first property, a two-bedroom townhouse in Queensland, for almost three years when a job opportunity in Sydney called me south. It wasn’t just the first property I’d ever owned, but it was also my first home with my now husband (then boyfriend) – a doubly whammy of emotional baggage!

As a result, when we decided to sell in preparation of our migration interstate, we appointed an agent for the completely wrong reasons.

Initially, we short-listed our search to two real estate agents. One was an older, more experienced female agent who sold property exclusively in our suburb; she was actually the agent we bought the property from initially.

She was an excellent agent however, she wouldn’t budge on her advertising and marketing fees, which we felt were exorbitant at $5,200.

The other agent, who was recommended to us by a friend, was prepared to cover the full cost of newspaper advertising and other marketing expenses. Furthermore, his commission structure meant we wouldn’t have to hand over a cent unless he sold the property. How can we lose, we thought?

Selecting an agent for all the wrong reasons

The younger male agent initially appealed to us because he was cheaper. But we also liked him because he was nice! Tall, friendly and warm, he was a lovely guy and when we packed up our worldly belongings and gave him the keys to our very first home, we felt like we were leaving our property in good hands.

And we were right – he was a genuinely lovely guy. But that didn’t necessarily make him a genuinely good agent, a lesson we learnt the hard way over the following weeks.

It was a hot market so he had no trouble achieving plenty of interest. Our townhouse was located just a block back from the beach, so it was hardly a tough sell.

In the space of seven weeks he held an open home every Saturday morning and after each one, he reported back that several parties were “very interested”. At one point, he even received a verbal offer for $50,000 less than our asking price of $269,000, but that buyer wouldn’t negotiate higher, and we weren’t prepared to sell at that price.

As our sales campaign reached the magic two-month mark, we had to concede that our agent, as nice a guy as he was, just wasn’t working out.

We ultimately had to fire him by terminating our agreement with him, for three main reasons:

  1. The agent wasn’t familiar with our area and therefore didn’t have a full database of local, qualified buyers to market to.
  2. With any buyers that did show genuine interest, the agent lacked the skills and experience to convert buyer interest into sales.
  3. He achieved no written offers in two months, despite it being a hot market.

With our tail between our legs, we then contacted the female agent and agreed to her advertising and marketing terms and fees.

Because she was native to our suburb, she immediately worked her database and lined up a number of inspections that week. She achieved a sale just 10 days later, landing a sale price of $244,000.

By this stage, we had lost over two months – time where we were paying both the mortgage in our old home in Queensland, and the rent in our new home in Sydney. We were under pressure to sell and accepted an offer that was ultimately around $10,000 less than what we wanted.

Had we listed with the more experienced local agent initially, we would have been under less financial pressure and we may have been able to negotiate further, or hold out for a higher offer. We’ll never know for sure; all we do know is that our quest to save $5,200 in advertising fees likely cost us a whole lot more.

Why did our first agent fail?

As vendors, we broke several cardinal rules when appointing our first real estate agent. We selected him for all the wrong reasons…

  • Because he was a nice guy.
  • Because he was prepared to waive marketing and advertising expenses.
  • In spite of the fact that he was less experienced than his competitors.
  • Even though our property was located outside his usual suburb/area of expertise.

At the end of the day, you can put a price on the value of good service as appointing the right agent the first time around can actually save you money in the long term. You can sort the best agents from the rest by registering at LocalAgentFinder to compare local agents and their fees, and determine who will be most suitable for your situation.

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