Real Estate Agents Compared

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Canstar Blue’s 2019 review of real estate agents compares Elders, LJ Hooker, Ray White, Century 21, First National, Raine & Horne and Harcourts on communication, problem resolution, knowledge and advice, contract handling and overall satisfaction.

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Most Satisfied Customers | Elders Real Estate

Moving into the top spot, Elders has been rated five stars in the majority of research categories in Canstar Blue’s 2019 real estate agents review, including top marks for overall satisfaction.

Good move: Elders comes out on top in estate agents review

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.

This year, Elders Real Estate has moved into the top spot, scoring five stars for communication, problem resolution, knowledge & advice, as well as overall satisfaction.

Best-Rated Real Estate Agents

Real estate agent handing over a house key

Canstar Blue’s 2019 real estate agent review saw seven firms compared and rated in the following order for overall customer satisfaction:

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

With Elders scoring five stars for overall satisfaction, LJ Hooker, Ray White and Century 21 were rated four stars, with First National, Raine & Horne and Harcourts rated three stars. While Elders took home the majority of five-star ratings, both LJ Hooker and Raine & Horne both scored top marks in respect of contract handling. Read on as we look closely at what real estate agents actually do – what you need to be aware of when dealing with them.

What do real estate agents do?

Female Real Estate agent shows interior

While real estate agents are basically a bridge between potential home buyers and sellers, or landlords and their tenants, there’s also plenty that goes on behind the scenes. In addition to understanding the housing market, they can also give you specific information on your local area, including demographics, average house prices, public transport options, schools and even local council regulations, which can be useful 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.

Real estate agents can also be classified into speciality fields, such as a buyer’s agent if you’re looking to buy a property and need someone to evaluate, negotiate and even attend buying auctions for you, or a property manager if you’re looking to become a landlord and need help with screening new tenants and dealing with repairs and inspections.

While most real estate businesses will have a number of agents on hand to help you with whatever property query you have, it doesn’t hurt to look into what type of agent is best suited for your needs, and just what you should expect them to help with.

Costs of using a real estate agent

As useful as a real estate agent may 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 & Advertising Fees – some real estate agents include marketing and advertising costs within their commission, while others charge a separate fee for their marketing expenses, which may 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

Hand picking golden house

When it comes to finding the best real estate agent for your needs, there’s no shortage of options out there to choose from, meaning finding one can be a challenge in itself. When asked about the biggest factor choosing their real estate agent, survey respondents stated the following reasons:

  • Location: 24%
  • Reputation: 23%
  • Was personally recommended to me: 17%
  • Price, such as fees and commissions: 16%
  • Range of properties: 5%

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: 29%
  • Knowing they’ll manage issues such as damage or non-payments: 29%
  • Collecting rent and managing requests from tenants: 28%
  • Managing repairs and maintenance: 7%

As a result, it’s best to explore your options to find the best fit 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.

Communication

realtor calling by phone

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, and with 39% of survey respondents stating they have had poor communication from a real estate agent in the past, it can be a make-or-break factor for potential customers.

  • Elders was the only brand to rate five stars for communication, with LJ Hooker, Ray White and Century 21 scoring four stars, with First National, Raine & Horne and Harcourts all finishing on three stars.

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.

  • Elders was again the sole brand at the top with five stars, with LJ Hooker and Ray White close behind on four stars. Century 21, First National, Raine & Horne and Harcourts rounded out the results with three stars apiece.

Knowledge & Advice

You want your real estate agent to know their stuff, considering a house is often the biggest purchase that you’ll ever make! Knowing where the housing market is currently sitting, as well as the other tips and tricks of the local market and what to look out for when dealing with other parties such as legal and pest inspections, can help save you more than a few headaches throughout the process, meaning a that knowledgeable agent is worth their weight in gold.

  • Elders was rated five stars for knowledge & advice, with LJ Hooker, Ray White, Century 21, Raine & Horne and Harcourts scoring four stars, with First National the single three-star recipient.

Contract Handling

Estate agent shaking hands

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 Raine & Horne shared the top spot on five stars, with Ray White, Century 21 and Harcourts all achieving four stars, while First National was rated three stars.

Which real estate agent should I use?

Understanding the housing market can be a tough challenge, particularly if you’re venturing into it for the first time. And with most options coming with a hefty price tag, it’s not always for the faint of heart, meaning that partnering with a real estate agent can help take some of the stress out of your time in the market.

But with plenty of options to consider when it comes to finding a guide for the real estate market, deciding which one is the best fit for your needs can be your first challenge. However, by looking into all of your options, as well as reading the fine print and understanding the fees and charges you’ll likely come up against when it comes to dealing with agents, you’ll be able to move in the right direction regardless if you’re looking to buy, sell, lease or rent.

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Photo Credits: Stock-Asso/shutterstock.com, Solis Images/shutterstock.com, Sasin Paraksa/shutterstock.com, Dragon Images/shutterstock.com, thodonal88/shutterstock.com

Frequently asked questions

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, 861 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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