BY PHILISA AUGUSTI
Recently, I was asked what I would change about my profession or its procedures if I had the chance.
The answer for me as a professional was easy. It would be the implementation of a fully-automated, functional, multiple listing service that would be approved and managed by the Real Estate Board and, offered only to licensed estate agents on the island. When I was working as a real estate agent in the USA and later as a broker, this tool was something I had taken for granted, even though oftentimes I would find myself complaining about the cost, fines and disciplinary action we were often faced with.
In retrospect, this tool governed professionalism, customer service, quality of service, co-operation between agencies, time management, and cost effectiveness and it led to a higher regard for agents and the invaluable service they provide to clients.
The importance of a national Multi Listing Service (MLS) system in Cyprus might be hard to be understood by consumers and professionals, and rightly so, as they have not experienced it.
Below are a few reasons why this complex system would make processes like purchasing, selling, representing or governing appropriate guidelines to the processes easier for all parties concerned.
Good for the public:
1) This internet-based tool means that there would only be 1 main source of properties for sale, so prospective purchasers would only need to surf 1 website to find all the houses, apartments, land, plots etc for sale throughout Cyprus.
2) The prices would be correct and up-to-date as the board would oversee discrepancies or outdated listings.
3) There would be security for purchasers because it would be board-approved and therefore non-compliance by agents would lead to disciplinary action and fines.
4) If a property has been reserved by a buyer, then the agent that took the deposit would be obliged to send all necessary documentation to prove the reservation to the board. The MLS system is updated to show status, e.g. reserved, under offer, sold, etc. Customers would not find themselves in the position of having paid a deposit to an agent and then be told a week later that that property has been sold via another agency.
5) Agents would not be allowed to ‘show’ properties that are not listed on the MLS system. Therefore, properties that are offered are known to all buyers at the same time, allowing purchasers the freedom to access great deals. Full disclosure of a buyer’s details to the board would help trace an agent who is not operating in accordance to the code of ethics, laws and regulations.
6) There is an independent toll free phone 24-hour for consumer complaints.
7) All complaints brought before the board are investigated. Consumers receive a written response within 40 days.
Good for the real estate agent:
1) The financial burden for the management and development of this website would not be each firm’s financial responsibility. Therefore, there would only be 1 website, office expenses would be reduced and search engine results for your properties would be maximised.
2) Competition between agencies would be a thing of the past, agents would co-operate much more as each agent would have the same database of products to work with.
3) Buyers would be inclined to sign exclusive agency agreements with agents they trust to be good negotiators, as they would know that a property is on the database and not unique to any agent. In this way agents will charge retainers and are guaranteed to get paid for the service they provide.
4) Specialisation products or high-end listings that attract fewer purchasers are often not listed by agents as they have limited knowledge of financially capable buyers and therefore if a buyer is found they do not have the product. With an MLS system the property is found at the touch of a button.
5) The public’s regard of the real estate agents’ professionalism will improve. The MLS will eradicate ruthless techniques such as ‘hook and grab’, whereby a product advertised ‘does not exist at a price that does not exist’. Agents that do not comply or are caught using these tricks would lose their license.
6) Product status is always up-to-date, so if a seller is using various listing agents, once that product is sold by another agent it is updated on everybody’s listing as well.
7) Sellers become more inclined to use exclusive agency agreements because they know all agencies use the same marketing tool.
Good for the real estate board:
1) Higher fees are charged to all licensed estate agents, in order to cover for the development, management and smooth running of the MLS.
2) Control of products.
3) Control of professionalism.
4) Control of documentation offered to the public.
5) Termination of the plague of unlicensed agents as they would not have access to MLS without being board-approved.
6) Quicker payment of fees.
7) Disciplinary action for non-compliance/misrepresentation.
8) Fees from fines.
Philisa Augusti is the manager of the FOX office in Ayia Napa/ Protaras.
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