There is something of an anomaly going on in the property market at the moment. Over 50% of people looking to buy a home have never owned a property before and there just isn’t stock for everyone. The idea of finding the perfect home is almost impossible, with inventory changing hands in less than 48 hours in certain parts of the country.
As a recent first time home buyer in Cape Town, I have come into contact with this volatile market and often wondered how on earth I managed to find a piece of land to call my own. A major part of that ecosystem is the estate agents. Whether you’re looking on a website, through a classified ad or simply following the road signs, there is always one waiting for you at the end of the journey.
Estate agents seem to grow more abundantly than fynbos in the Cape and every first time home buyer will most likely encounter them by the dozen. It must be, without a doubt, the most competitive of professions! While on my 9 month odyssey to property ownership I encountered a fair variety of them:
- The Pros – these agents are slick, suited and booted. They come armed with pamphlets, 100s of copies of paperwork and are able to answer every question you can fire at them. The problem with this particular brand of estate agent is that their inventory sells – fast. One trip to a property in Claremont was particularly eye-opening: being ticked off a list of around 100 people for a midday viewing, not only did this agent come armed with every piece of paper possible but with two property side-kicks. While they’re great to deal with, you do feel like a number on a spreadsheet through it all.
- Great Aunt Gertrude – these agents are the smaller, private ones. Without the financial backing of a massive name like Rawson or Pam Golding, they mostly ply their trade through word of mouth. While viewing, and subsequently attempting to buy a flat in Newlands, I encounter one such “Aunt”. She was without a doubt the nicest person I’ve ever dealt with and supremely helpful. The one drawback with the Gertrude’s of the property world is that they generally push for top dollar – every cent impacting on their commission margin. This led me to me making a full asking-price offer, only for it to be rejected for a higher bid.
- Pretty in Private – these types of agents aren’t really agents at all. They’re either the sellers themselves, or relatives of the sellers. They come across as honest, open and unafraid to explore the property with you – warts and all. These are the type of agents who are not only the best to deal with but potentially the most dangerous. They come with no affiliation to any form of governing body and ignorance is a weapon that can be used at will. Be wary of the private seller and their favourite word – voetstoets.
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