Real Estate Agents Compared

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Compare real estate agents Century 21, First National, Harcourts, LJ Hooker, Professionals, Raine & Horne and Ray White on factors including their problem resolution, communication & advice, value for money, contract handling, marketing and overall customer satisfaction.

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Most Satisfied Customers | LJ Hooker

In a competitive market, LJ Hooker has topped Canstar Blue’s real estate agent customer satisfaction ratings in 2018. It rated five stars across multiple categories, including problem resolution and overall satisfaction.

LJ Hooker moves into top spot for real estate agents

The housing market can be a confusing place, whether you’re there to buy, sell, or purely look at what’s available. Regardless of what you’re after, chances are you’ll deal with a real estate agent at some stage, whether it’s in passing at a housing inspection, or spending long hours with them in an office to get that paperwork signed. Finding the perfect home is hard, and so is finding the right real estate agent to guide you through the leg work.

Real estate agents now take many different forms, including some online-only firms. For many, deciding which to trust will be one of the biggest challenges faced on the path to your next right move. And while some of us might have preconceived ideas about estate agents, having them on your side when it comes to contracts and price negotiations could not only save you hours of stress, but potentially thousands of dollars in the long run. But of course, you’ll have to pay for their help, and costs can be high.

That’s why Canstar Blue produces an annual review of estate agents, to find out which are rated highest by the people who know best – their customers. Whatever they have used an estate agent for – buying, selling, renting or leasing – we invited hundreds of survey respondents to tell us about their experiences with some of the biggest firms in Australia, when it comes to important factors like problem resolutions, communications & advice, contract handling and value for money.

The seven real estate agents included in our 2018 review have been rated in the following order for overall customer satisfaction:

  • 1st LJ Hooker
  • 2nd First National
  • 3rd Century 21
  • 4th Professionals
  • 5th Harcourts
  • 6th Ray White
  • 7th Raine & Horne

Read on for tips on what to look for when it comes to finding the best estate agent for you. Meanwhile here are some of the standout results from our latest survey:

What do real estate agents do?

While real estate agents are primarily a bridge between potential house buyers and sellers, or landlords and tenants, there’s plenty that goes on behind the scenes. In addition, real estate agents can be further classified into speciality fields, which may suit your needs better if you’re looking for something specific.

Real estate agents will not only have an idea about the general housing market, but can give you specific information on your local area, including demographics, average house prices, public transport options, schools and even local council regulations, which could be handy if you’re moving to a new area. And if you’re not comfortable with negotiating, some real estate agents can play hard ball on your behalf.

If you’re looking to buy a property, a buyer’s agent might be better-suited to your needs, with their job primarily to search, evaluate and negotiate the purchase on behalf of a buyer, both through private sale or auctions. Similarly, if you’re looking to become a landlord, a property manager may be the way to go, with a property manager better suited to screening tenants and dealing with repairs and inspections.

Costs of using a real estate agent

As handy as a real estate agent might prove to be when it comes to finding a home or tenant, their fees and commissions can quickly add up if you’re not careful. Here are a few standard expenses that you can expect to incur:

  • Fixed Rate Fee – a percentage of the final selling price of your house, agreed upon before the finalisation of the deal.
  • Tiered Percentage Commission – a specific percentage that increases once a certain sales value is reached. For example, a commission rate of 3% on the first $400,000, with a jump to 5.5% on anything over $400,000. This encourages agents to sell for a higher price.
  • Marketing and advertising fees – some estate agents include marketing and advertising within their commission, while others charge a separate fee for their marketing expenses, which might need to be paid even if you don’t sell your house.
  • Property managers usually charge either a monthly management fee or a fixed annual cost for processing all related bills and tenant paperwork, as well as undertaking property inspections and organising repairs.

If you’re buying or selling a property, it’s best to keep a bit of money aside for other expenses, including repairs, legal fees and stamp duty, so that you’re not met with bills as soon as you set foot through the front door. If you’re still not sure what you might be paying for, talk to your local real estate agent about what to expect when you sign on the dotted line.

How to choose a real estate agent

With 65% of survey respondents claiming that they have experienced poor communication from a real estate agent in the past, finding one to take care of your property, tenants and all types of paperwork can be a big challenge. When asked about the biggest factor for choosing their real estate agent, survey respondents stated the following reasons:

  • Location: 28%
  • Price, such as fees and commissions: 20%
  • Range of properties: 17%
  • Reputation: 13%
  • Was personally recommended by others: 10%

However, finding an agent may also depend on your specific circumstances or needs, as those looking to buy their first home will require different needs to those looking to rent out their property. For example, landlords were asked what they valued most from their real estate agents, with the results listed below:

  • Finding quality tenants: 38%
  • Collecting rent and managing requests from tenants: 27%
  • Knowing they’ll manage issues such as non-payments and damages: 25%
  • Managing repairs and maintenance: 4%

As a result, it’s best to explore your options to find the best suit for you, as some agents may specialise in selling properties, while others are better suited to looking after tenants. To help you find the best fit, this year’s categories may give you a clearer idea of what you’re after.

Problem Resolution

Whether you’re a landlord or renting, buying or selling, you can be sure that a few problems are going to crop up along the way. For renters, this could be maintenance issues around the home or garden, while for landlords it could be maintenance problems caused by the tenants! Whatever the case, it’s the role of the estate agent to act as an intermediary and to solve the problems to everyone’s satisfaction. That’s much easier said than done, so a real estate agent that manages to keep all parties happy has earned its money. In 2018, LJ Hooker was the only firm to score a five-star rating on problem resolution, with First National, Century 21, Professionals and Harcourts rated four stars. Ray White and Raine & Horne both got three stars.

Communication & Advice

Real estate agents may be known for their gift-of-the-gab, but like any profession, poor communications can result in frustration for all parties. Whether you’re buying or selling and expecting an important call, or a tenant enquiring about a lease renewal, timely and professional communication from estate agents is the very least you should expect. It’s also important that customers are treated as individuals and not just a number. Are emails addressed personally to you, or are you just sent generic correspondence like everyone else? Good communicating is a cornerstone for many industries, with real estate no different. LJ Hooker earned the only five-star rating for communication and advice, with First National, Century 21, Professionals, Harcourts and Ray White all scoring four stars. Raine & Horne rounded out the results with three stars.

Value for Money

When you’re buying or selling a home, agent fees can quickly add up. These will be necessary costs for the service you receive, but it’s always worth asking yourself if you’re really getting a good price. Is your agent easy to deal with? Do they return your calls in a reasonable timeframe? Do they always have the answers to your questions? This rating is not a comparison of who provides the cheapest estate agent services, but instead who offers the best value for money. While no brand scored a five-star rating, LJ Hooker, First National and Century 21 all scored four stars, with Professionals, Harcourts and Ray White scoring three stars, while Raine & Horne was rated just two stars.

Contract Handling

You can tell a lot about a company by the way it handles contracts and other important details. Is your estate agent a stickler for detail and accuracy, or just keen to get the contract signed so they can move on to their next task? Taking care of the contracts associated with your sale or tenancy is arguably the most important thing that a real estate agent has to do – mistakes are simply not an option here. This involves communicating the finer details to all parties concerned and ensuring that everyone is 100% happy before proceeding. LJ Hooker and First National share top spot with five stars each, with Professionals and Ray White scoring four stars. Century 21, Harcourts and Raine & Horne all scored three stars.

Marketing

If you want to sell your home, or find tenants for your property, they’ll need to be able to find it. Once they find it, they need to be given a good impression. Marketing is a crucial part of a real estate agent’s job, so you’ll need your agent to put their money where their mouth is, and also do their homework so they can answer any questions people might have. LJ Hooker was the only agency to receive a five-star rating for marketing, with First National, Century 21, Professionals, Harcourts and Ray White given four stars. Raine & Horne finished with three stars.

Which real estate agent should I use?

Real estate can be a stressful market to deal with, particularly if you’re looking to invest or buy for the first time. With some of us quite literally putting our life savings into securing our dream house, most of us would want the best to help us ensure that nothing goes astray, which is where most estate agents come in to play. Ultimately which real estate agency you choose to help you look after your rental, or which you decide to buy or sell your home through, will depend on your particular circumstances, not to mention factors like your budget, location, and whether you’re in a hurry or not.

Doing your research into what local agencies are available to you, as well as important information such as property management charges and the current housing market, will help you make the best decision possible, as well as potentially save you money too. Additionally, some real estate agencies offer extras such as moving services, helping to make the transition into your new home that bit easier, so be sure to look into all your options, as you may be surprised with what you might find.

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Frequently asked questions

About this research

Canstar Blue surveyed 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have used the services of a real estate agent in the last 3 years – in this case, 938 people.

Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.

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