As an experienced property investor with a handful of houses and units in my portfolio, I should know better than to cut corners.
But when I decided to sell one of my investment properties in Queensland at the beginning of 2014, that’s exactly what I did – and I paid the price.
It all started just as a busy and chaotic Christmas season was coming to a close. My property manager, Dee, visited my investment property and knocked on the door, as the tenant had been dodging her phone calls (not to mention her rent payments) for more than three weeks.
Unfortunately, the news wasn’t good. Dee glanced at the vacated car space on approach. When she peered inside the front window and saw the empty living room, the bare laundry and the kitchen devoid of food, clutter and appliances, her suspicions were confirmed: our tenant had done a runner.
I felt deflated when I got the news. It was just the latest incident in a string of negative experiences with that property, including a tenant who did the same thing 12 months earlier, and a bathroom waterproofing disaster a few months back that had cost the better part of $9,000 to remedy.
The tenant was almost a month behind on her rent and while her bond covered that loss, it didn’t cover the cost of changing the locks and cleaning the property prior to re-letting.
Having to fork over another $300 to change the locks once again was the final straw. The property was going nowhere and it was fast becoming a financial drain, so I decided it was time to sell.
This is where I made a grave mistake…
You see, Dee had managed that property for me for more than six years and I’d developed a great relationship with her. She went above and beyond – how many property managers do you know who would go door-knocking on a Saturday to chase up late rent?
So, when it came time to appoint a sales agent, I appointed Dee’s boss, the agency’s principal, as my realtor. I felt confident, as I’d essentially found my agent through a personal recommendation – even though Dee’s agency traditionally handled house sales and I was selling a unit. I figured that wouldn’t make much difference but I really wish I had done a full market comparison to find the agent that was more suitable for me.
As it was, I didn’t do any research, or ask how they marketed their properties, or check out their competitors… I went with the path of least resistance, and boy was I sorry!
Very quickly, it was apparent that the campaign wasn’t going well.
To begin with, the photos they used were six years old – from when we first began renting the apartment – despite the fact and that the entire complex had since been repainted externally, from aqua green to a modern grey.
I asked for new photos, which they eventually arranged, at a cost to me of $150 to hire a professional. Needless to say, I could have taken better photos on my iPhone.
When it became clear that their lacklustre campaign was generating little interest, they said we would have more success if I’d spend $4,000 (the cheapest package, apparently) on newspaper advertising.
I politely declined and asked how the internet campaign was going. “Slow,” came the response. However, they refused to hold weekly open homes, advising that “they don’t tend to generate much interested in this market”.
Six months, one inspection, countless excuses
After six months and just one inspection, I became fed up with the excuses. I spent an afternoon online reviewing different agents, checking their sales history and reviewing their track record in the suburb I was selling in. Within two hours, I had appointed a new agent. He even contacted my old agent and arranged the paperwork!
After completely revamping the sales campaign, including new photos at no cost, he worked his database and lined up no fewer than 13 inspections in the first two weeks alone.
It was hardly surprising that within five weeks, I had two offers on the table – one of which became our buyer! I couldn’t be happier with my agent’s performance but I am kicking myself that I didn’t engage his services sooner.
The entire experience proved just how important it is to ‘interview’ your professionals before you sign them up, which involves so much more than simply comparing fees. In an industry as people-oriented as real estate, you can’t under-estimate instead the value of good service.
Most sellers don’t realise that they can sort the best agents from the rest by registering at LocalAgentFinder to compare local agents and their fees, to determine who will be the most suitable salesperson for their circumstances. The difference between the right and the wrong agent can literally make or break your property sale, so it’s well worth doing your homework.