There are some key indicators that will help you determine the legitimacy and the performance of a prospective agent. A quick read of the below will arm you with solid knowledge to filter your options and make a more informed choice.
Actual sales data:
A good agent will not only appear professional and polite etc, but will demonstrate a strong proven history of real sales in the area of your property, they should be able to recite accurate sales data (even if it is not the figures you want to hear), guide you on your valuation with evidence and previous results. Take a look at their website, note how many properties they have sold and how many they have listed. If they have 20 available on their website it would suggest that they only need to feed themselves and a few sales annual is sufficient. There is no advantage to gifting your business to such a small enterprise as you will be waiting longer whilst they try to find a buyer with limited resources at their disposal. What you really want to see is hundreds of listings, a constantly changing websites with new listings, prices changes and ‘sold’ banners appearing every day. A static appearance is indicative of the agency being too small or too unsuccessful, especially given the markets budgets required to achieve sales internationally.
Read all the reviews and testimonials:
We depend on independent reviews more and more, but most agencies are writing their own. How can you know? Read many of them, notice a patter in the specific promotion of the agent rather than a description of their varied experiences, similarities in the writing style, the same grammatical errors perhaps. Its because the one-man band promoting themselves as mainstream is writing a review a week and can’t hide their consistency. If you spot such trends you can be sure its not genuine and you better employ someone else.
Fix the commission:
When its too good to be true, it always is, especially in Bulgaria. There’s no harm pushing your agent for their best price, but when they either don’t resist or agree on highly favourable terms then you can be sure they are planning to make money from you elsewhere in the deal. They want you to pat yourself on your back and congratulate yourself for cracking a great deal, resist the urge and remain sceptical at all times.
We all need to earn money for a living, even estate agents, so when they stick to their bottom line and invite you to go elsewhere rather than discount further, you can be sure that they can afford for you to walk away and they are making what they declare to be (more information on this in the unlimited power of attorney section). This is a far better scenario that a maze of hidden costs and last minute extras so many agents depend upon. Seek an open, clear and transparent cost structure and never fall for the agent quoting the highest valuation and the lowest commission, that’s the brightest warning sign not to proceed!
Never forget you pay the agent, not the buyer:
It is true that most of Bulgaria is a buyer’s market, there is a lot of stock and that means agents have a lot more work on the buyer’s side than on the seller’s. However, never forget that in a buyer’s market the agent cannot charge the buyer a commission or a finder’s fee, there simply isn’t any room in the market to do so. The upside of this is that the agent is only paid by you, the seller, as such they should only be working for you and in your interests. It is critical for sellers to keep this in mind and remind the agent if needs be. You’re employing them, they are servicing your request to find a buyer and are getting paid for it. There is no favour and no charity here, just a regular business transaction, so the moment you feel it is unappreciated or disrespected, go elsewhere, there are many professional agencies hungry to grow who want your business and actually deserve it.
Want to be sure your agent is genuine? Test them with these questions.
If you are not travelling to Bulgaria to meet your chosen agent face to face then you might want to do some detective work to be sure of your choice. Most owners are quick to ask how many exhibitions an agent attends or where their property will be advertised etc. These aren’t bad questions, but they won’t help you identify who is real and who is not. If you really want to be sure an agent you have never met is capable, professional and properly established rather than just a website in Ireland, try the following:
- Go on Yandex.ru, which is Russia’s equivalent of Google. Type in ‘ недвижимость на продажу в Болгарии’ (property for sale in Bulgaria). Try to find your agent’s website. If you can’t in the first few pages then either they are: no good, not active in the key market that they should be, using third parties in Bulgaria (in which case you can just go directly to them) and most likely just a website in Ireland visible in English only. Not at all the international agency they purport to be.
- How many people do you employ on your payroll? Not subcontractors, not third parties, not commission only agents in a ‘network’. If they say 20 and their last year’s public accounts show a revenue of 50,000 Euros, you know they are lying.
- Do you lease or own your own offices in Bulgaria? If so, what’s the address, google it and if you find another names business at the premises you’ll have your answer.