Top 10 reasons why people don’t DIY their own property transactions
In this article, let us examine the top 10 reasons why people don’t DIY their own property transactions. This is despite the rise of low-cost brokers and HDB making resale transactions more streamlined.
There is still a significant number of buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants engaging professional realtors to represent them in their property transactions.
You don’t want a part-time, semi-professional to handle the transaction
As most property transactions go, it is likely the single largest transactional value they will have ever done in their lives. Although the process of selling, buying or renting isn’t terribly complicated. However, a simple mistake can be very costly and stressful.
Consumers, although armed with plenty of online resources for knowledge, recognise that their knowledge merely serves to qualify their realtors. They themselves may not possess the complete set of knowledge, commitment nor dedication for the success of this important task.
Professional agents have various processes streamlined. From listing creation, capturing photos, videography, online marketing, social media promotion, inquiries management etc.
Although much of the information for pricing, market condition, trends and regulations are increasingly becoming more readily available. The making sense of the mountain of data and the ability to cut through the noise – all these are acquired through months if not years of constant practise of our craft.
What properties are sought-after, the psychology of buyers and how to carry out staging to make the properties we are marketing more appealing are just some of the basic skill set realtors bring to the table.
Handling objections of your prospective buyers in a diplomatic and firm way is an art polished through years of engaging with a diverse range of people.
When serving buyers, we highlight observations that buyers missed when house hunting. We also offer a different point of view coming from a neutral third party.
Case study of a DIY HDB buyer
There was this DIY buyer for a HDB that I was marketing a few years back. They had so many questions, although they have done some preliminary reading from HDB’s website, I still had to patiently guide and educate them.
Hearing about near misses from my colleagues or the occasional screw-ups brought on by DIY buyers that thought they know everything, make us very nervous working on such deals.
Despite detailed guidance for these buyers, what I came to realise is that what I can’t impart to them is the emotional and temperament to make a decision. As mentioned earlier, buying or selling your home is likely the single largest purchase or sale you will make in your lifetime, it is normal to be a little jittery or emotional.
However, it is extremely difficult to assure buyers, as they are, by nature, the more cautious. It does not help that there is this saying, caveat emptor, or buyers beware. Moreover, any assurance coming from an agent that is trying to sell you a house is always met with some level of scepticism.
Given the earlier example, this is why many property owners or home seekers don’t want to DIY their property transactions. What if you meet with a counter-party that is a novice? How will you handle it?
Case study of a DIY HDB seller
In yet another case, a seller approached me to sell his house. He had tried selling it on his own for a few months, but after he griped about the difficulty to a friend, I was called in to help.
During our first meeting, I had a series of questions for him, and this is what I found out:
- Seller is the sole owner (a single parent)
- The seller did a part purchase of the son’s share just one year ago
- He did not know that he has to pay SSD (Seller’s Stamp Duty) on the 50% share
After informing him of that, he decided to wait for the SSD to run out. He is fortunate he didn’t find a buyer before our meeting, otherwise, he would have a rude shock when his sales proceeds comes back a lot lesser than expected.
Case study of a HDB buyer with trust issues
There was this lady, let’s call her L that was referred by a friend because she was lamenting to her friend about how untrustworthy the sellers’ agent was towards her.
Long story short, she has trust issues. She is naturally very distrustful of people, thus making the transaction very frustrating.
Coupled with the fact that this (and most HDB transactions) are fraught with complications like the timeline matching for funds and extension of stay.
It is not helpful that she had to ask a few friends and agents to assure herself that she is not making a mistake every single step of the purchase process!
Can you imagine how frustrating it must be for all the people dealing with her?
They don’t want to deal with unpleasant people or situations
Did you know that the current trend is that people do their property hunt during the night, after work, after dinner and just before bed? Most of my inquiries come in from 9 pm to past midnight.
Do you fancy yourself handling inquiries from strangers asking you which direction is your main door facing and whether you unit number adds up to 1 or 6? Or how negotiable the price? All this when you are tired from a long day at work and getting ready for bed?
Let’s talk about viewings. How long will you wait for the buyer or agent that is late? How will you feel when they are a no-show? How many viewings are you willing to do before a sale is successful? Most of the viewings won’t result in a deal, and on top of that, not all are pleasant. Some buyers aren’t the most tactful when it comes to giving feedback about the property.
What many agents don’t tell you are the abuse we help to shield from the seller. Those that have sold stuff on online marketplaces would understand what I’m on about. Some buyers are plain rude and insulting on your asking prices.
Often, people with no appreciation of your property will make low ball offers. No self-respecting homeowner would want to deal with such characters but they could be genuine buyers. Let the agent handle such people.
Or what if you are a home seeker? Making dozens and dozens of inquiries to often unresponsive and discourteous agents. Or hitting stale or dummy listings over and over again. Many find this process of filtration very tedious and energy-sapping.
Most people are busy. Busy with work and with family, they may not respond in a timely fashion. You make an appointment and wait for their confirmation, but the confirmation is slow in coming. How long do you wait before moving on with another appointment?
1 July 2020 update: as we are now into the third week after the lifting of the circuit breaker measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. The level of activities in the property market is still increasing as more people start to resume what they have postponed.
Some of my resale buyers have started their search again and I was reminded of the importance of having a good agent marketing your unit.
It is really a pain to call agents and arrange for viewings. They don’t pick up calls, return calls or even answer messages. I wonder how their owners will feel having such agents marketing their unit?
There was this tenant that was living in a property that I’m marketed for a landlord that is based overseas. Late one night, this tenant called sounding very annoyed. He said that the drain in his bathroom was flooding and could I send someone down to fix it immediately.
After understanding his situation and accessing it to be non-urgent, we agreed to leave it to the next morning.
Guess what? It was merely a clog under the floor trap due to an excessive build-up of hair from the shower. Problem fixed without incurring the cost of calling a plumber and without disturbing the landlord.
It is understandable that when people are stressed they lose their cool and say things they regret. As intermediaries, we filter some of the nasty things said and maintain goodwill between the two parties.
24 March 2022 update: now that we are reopening and learning to live with COVID, the real estate market in Singapore is hotter than it was before the pandemic! Do you find that strange? Me too! However, strange as it is, we have investigated deep into the driving forces and mapped out some strategies to better navigate the way forward.
So, recently, I met one of the most duplicitous sellers in my career. And this incident reminded me of Donald Trump. This seller outright lies, will flip flop within the same sentence and is trigger happy litigious. My buyer really wanted and needed that property, fortunately for her, we were able to overcome the adversity and close the deal.
Dealing with all these takes patience, experience, creativity and also time. This leads us to the next reason why people engaged us to deal with their properties.
Your time is very precious
Property transactions are typically a tedious process and take a longer time to complete. In addition, it also involves a lot of legwork. From researching the market, getting your finances in place, searching for suitable listings, making viewing arrangements, going for viewings, shortlisting, weighing your options, making an offer, negotiating, closing on the property and getting a solicitor to do the conveyancing work.
All that on top of juggling your career or business, your family and possibly your other commitments. What if you are engaged in an important project at work that requires your complete attention? Isn’t making or answering calls for properties a distraction?
And what if you are busy with a sick child or with an urgent business call and you missed a phone call from a prospective buyer? What if you are at work and the buyer wants to view the property? All these scenarios are what clients find themselves facing and are relieved when they can find a suitable partner to work with for their property needs.
5 March 2021 addition: A few days earlier, a prospective landlord called. He asked me whether I was keen to help him market his unit. After finding out a bit more about his requirements, the unit details and the asking rent, I told him I’d be glad to take on the job.
As I was also marketing a few units in this condo, I got an inquiry not too long after we spoke. However, when I arranged for viewing with him, he started qualifying the prospective tenant in great detail. And was very doubtful about the tenant having the budget. (I did the prequalification as per his requirement thus this prospective tenant would have met ALL his criteria).
One thing about a budget that I learned over the year is that buyers and tenants aren’t always forthcoming with the price they are willing to pay. Thus, I do my best to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m happy to let them view and therefore a chance for me to meet them and get to understand them better.
Granted, this can be tiring as there may be many viewings before a suitable tenant or buyer can be found. And it can quickly become demoralising. But this is my job! My clients engaged me precisely because we have the tenacity and stamina to go though this tedious process.
It is true, even most agents (especially the “experienced” ones) are over-qualifying and reluctant when it comes to granting viewings. This is what I faced when serving my buyers and tenants while cobroking with other agents. This should not be the case, they are losing valuable opportunities because they are prejudging too much.
“You cannot prejudge a people in this business.” – Bob Golomb
Remove emotions from the equation
Ever notice, lawyers, don’t defend themselves. And doctors don’t treat their own illness. They will enlist the help of other lawyers to fight their case for them. Or a colleague for their medical care. Have you wondered why?
As humans, it is difficult to remain unemotional and detached from something as emotional as your home. The lawyers and doctors understand it firsthand.
This phenomenon, also known as the endowment effect, explains how we tend to overestimate the value of the things we own. And how we frequently don’t make rational decisions about ownership. We will also value something higher once we are assigned ownership of it. After learning of this peculiar behaviour, it becomes clear why sellers and buyers behave the way they do!
Contrary to popular belief, not all agents say things our clients want to hear. Clients who engaged such an adviser values their unbiased opinions. We act as a neutral sounding board for our clients so that they can make the very best decision. If you haven’t met such an adviser, it is difficult to fathom this point.
No safety net
An agent is like an insurance policy. Nobody gets insurance expecting to claim it. Yet, everyone knows that life is fraught with risk. An experienced agent can prevent costly and painful mistakes.
All too often the client doesn’t even realise that we have prevented very bad things from happening by the virtue of us being experienced and knowing what we are doing. Thus, those that aren’t very experienced tend to think that property transactions are really simple. And not much can go wrong.
There was a classmate of mine that once remarked, “It is so easy, I’ve sold and brought my own home before, saving lots of commission in the process.” It is true, when things go smoothly it IS easy.
Maybe she got lucky with one or two transactions without incident. We transact dozens or more cases per year. And over years of being in this trade, we know things can go wrong. And when it does, we are equipped to rescue the situation.
Take for example this buyer that made an offer for a condo that I was marketing a few years back, he appeared very self-assured and have all the latest pricing info. Made an offer that was accepted and went ahead to exercise the option – without first getting the loan approved! Fortunately, I was able to mediate a solution together with the seller.
Even with years of experience, sometimes we do come across situations we have no prior encounters. And when our experience falls short, we have the collective wisdom of our group and agency’s expertise to fall back on. Surely there are more interesting cases than we can possibly impart in a blog post or over a casual chat?
The recent COVID situation is yet another example. Due to the extraordinary circumstances, many businesses were in dire straits. One particular tenant was rather combative and kept threatening the landlord. Fortunately, the tenant vented out on me and not directly at the landlord.
Cut a long story short, after much discussion over the course of 2 weeks, we arrived at a solution whereby both considered it as a win-win situation. What is the price the landlord paid to get this kind of insurance?
It is advantageous to negotiate via an intermediary
Ever notice Japanese businessmen uses a translator to negotiate business deals. Or most of our world leaders that can understand English, resorting to interacting with other world leaders through interpreters?
They all know a key technique in negotiation. Never let the decision-maker do the negotiations directly.
Every so often buyers or sellers might say the wrong thing or reveal a little too much information that jeopardises their positions. An intermediary is able to filter and rephrase the message to the other party. And it is a must for me, to share tips with my clients on what to say and do before we embark on viewings or allow buyers to view the property.
Let me share this fable of the 3 sons and their 17 camels.
A father left 17 camels as assets for his three sons.
When the father passed away, his sons gather to read the will.
The father’s will stated that the eldest son should get half of 17 camels.
The middle son should be given one-third of the camels.
And he youngest son should be given one-ninth of all the camels.
Try as they might, it is impossible to divide 17 into half or by a third or by ninths, the sons started to argue with each other.
They then decided to seek help from a wise old man.
The wise man listened patiently about the will. After giving it a thought, he brought one camel of his own & added it to the 17 camels. That increased the total to 18.
Now, he started reading the deceased father’s will.
Half of 18 = 9.
So he gave 9 camels to the eldest son.
1/3 of 18 = 6.
So he gave 6 camels to the middle son.
1/9 of 18 = 2.
So he gave 2 camels to the youngest son.
Adding the camels up:
9 + 6 + 2 = 17
This leaves 1 camel, which the wise man took back.
The art of negotiation is problem-solving. Being emotionally detached helps. Having an arbitrator to seek for common ground makes for a win-win solution.
However, to reach a solution, the first step is to believe that there is a solution. If we think that there is no solution, we won’t be able to reach any!
Separate the wheat from the chaff
If you have searched for your home you will know that it is a pain to sieve through all that listings and get down to the real stuff. Let me share some tips here to help those that still prefer to DIY. Look out for telltale signs that the listing is no longer available or a fake.
The photos must look genuine. Some post photos of show suites or don’t have a single photo. These listings are highly likely to be duds. Next is the description. Copied and paste text about the amenities or of the condo facilities are also telltale signs. Past those initial screening, you will then have to reach out to those listings that look promising.
Here lies the difference between a buyer inquiring and an inquiry from an agent. Conventional wisdom says the buyer will have a better response from the listing agents. However, those listing agents that replies and arranges viewings for the buyer’s agent are those that are the most serious about selling!
Lastly, I was once asked by my client a question which set me thinking. He wanted to make an offer to buy his next home. And he wondered if the seller was genuine about selling the house. I thought for a moment and then realised that the seller must be serious.
Why? It must be, why else engage an agent to market the property. And the agent marketing the unit must have done his due diligence before spending time and resources to market the unit. Therefore, with the presence of these real estate professionals, we can be assured that the transaction will be swift and proper.
Good to have a friendly ally
A property transaction isn’t always as straightforward as just a sale or a purchase. Often when we do our fact-finding before commencing on our work. We uncover many other nuances and underlying factors.
Thus, a listening ear and an open heart are necessary to uncover some of the issues hidden under the surface. Property sometimes isn’t always the complete solution. It only forms part of the solution. By listening and understanding, we can provide the best advice.
One time, I met this old lady in her 70s and we got chatting. I found out that she wants to sell her flat because she was going to move in with her daughter’s family. I asked her, why not keep the flat and rent it out for income*. But she was reluctant to do so.
After some further probing, she revealed that she is unsure of the leasing process. Not a problem, explained the whole process to her, patiently ensuring the process is clear to her. Then another new nugget of information surfaced. Actually her daughter wanted the sale proceeds to pay off her home loan.
Are you going to keep some of the sales proceeds for yourself, I asked. She kept quiet. At this point, I suggested that we all have a discussion. She, her daughter, her son-in-law and myself. Assured her that there is no obligation.
Long story short, after a few meetups and after a few months, the daughter contacted me one day and said that they have come to a decision. And they would like to adopt one of the solutions I proposed. To keep the flat, help her mother do a will. Rent the flat out and split part of the rental income so that it can help with the mortgage payment and still give the old aunty some pocket money.
*As agents, we would rather take the easy and more lucrative route of selling. But that is against good conscience.
Leverage on a wider network
Every agent has their own network of clients, but we also have a network of agents. No one person can have a vast enough network to enjoy a 100% coverage. Thus, it is important to also build a network of agents, so that we can tap on their network too. This is 6 degrees of separation in action!
When conducting viewings it’s important to be friendly and network. Another good avenue is during seminars, conventions, classes and briefings when many agents gather.
We often start off the conversation talking about what our clients are looking for or what we are marketing. We make a mental note of all that.
Occasionally when we meet up with another agent that has a matching case, we do the other agent a favour and link them up. Although this is not often done. Some agents do act altruistically* and in the process helps everyone.
In some instances, we may have a commercial tenant that is winding up their business and is looking for a buyer of their business. We are involved because the business is tied to the lease of the premise. In order to help the tenant and the landlord settle the tenancy, we leverage our network to play the role of a broker of businesses.
For residential leases, occasionally the incoming tenant doesn’t require the existing furniture, and in order to help the landlord secure the tenant, we have to help the landlord get rid of some of the furniture. This not just involves finding takers for the said furniture but also often involves the logistic of moving the furniture.
One interesting aspect of our work is that we get to meet people from all walks of life, a diverse swath of industries and folks from all over the world. The broad base comes with a shortcoming though, the network may be wide, but it is certainly not deep.
So, if you need movers, plumbers, electricians, renovation contractors, maids, these are obvious groups you can check with us. But you’d be surprised how often it is that we get to link up businesses or even job-seekers!
*Why altruistic? It is because the referrer between agents generally does not benefit financially from doing so. Of course, the benefiting parties may reward the introducer with a token of appreciation.
They want a pleasant, smooth and enjoyable journey
Don’t we all. Real estate services, like any other services we procure, we want to get the best value for our spending. It is also about the experience. And how it makes you feel.
Take for example when we fly, if we are on a tight budget, we might go for the cheapest fare from the most budget of all airlines.
Have you stop and wondered what is the compromise we are making? Is it safety? How thorough is the maintenance? What happens when there is a cancellation or delay? What are the chances the flight will be delayed? How about the level of service? The overall experience? Is that worth the cost savings?
Likewise, for property transactions, there are also low-cost routes. But you will need to weight the cost of risking your largest asset to low-cost options.
Sticking with the airline analogy, when choosing your next airline, you do your research before making a decision. You check out reviews and the track record of the various airlines before trusting your hard earn dollars and lives to it.
But when you have done your homework and made your decision, you don’t doubt the ability of the pilot when you board the plane. You will just sit back and let the pilot do what he is trained to do and trust that he will get the job done properly. As for your property transaction, you can focus on making the best decision without the need to worry about the details nor things going wrong.
Hope these 10 reasons are food for thought that can help you with the decision to whether to leave your property in the hands of a professional or you are equipped and prepared to take on this task yourself. Either way, it is still important to well informed and this is what I hope this article and future article can do for you. Cheers!