DO's and DON'Ts: Choosing Your First Real Estate Agent Carefully
There are several good reasons to choose your first agent carefully.
After you have been out with a first agent, subsequent agents may have much less motivation to show you places because they risk time, expenses, and opportunity loss (on alternative customers), if you go back and close on a property by the first agent, *if* the first agent already showed you the best matches of properties.
It depends on how many properties and buildings or gated neighborhoods you've seen already, and which ones.
Good agents know the most popular buildings and gated neighborhoods, and once you've seen those, later agents may see you as a "high risk" customer, whereby they may waste their time and expenses when you are likely to go back to the other houses or buildings.
Agents with ethical decency normally will not take you back to a place you've already been to first with another agent (unless you have a serious issue with the other agent, which would be very unusual circumstances and still be problematic). Doing so may at least create an appearance of trying to take over the other agent's work and commission. (The word some agents and landlords use is "steal" instead of "take over".)
See also the discussion later in this article about issues which arise if/when a second agent takes you to the same place as a previous agent took you. Some buildings and neighborhoods have a process for registering the name of a customer you've taken there, either for the agent to write at the location or else followed up by email, but most people just remember faces. In either case, it becomes an issue which is usually not in the best interests of the tenant nor the landlord, in addition to possible business ethics issues.
It's possible you haven't seen all the houses in a neighborhood, or all the units in a particular building, but the later agent normally doesn't know exactly what you've seen and what you have not, and may presume that you have seen all of them already. If the first agent was good, then you should have seen everything available, whereby a second visit would be a waste of your time ... but often, the first agent does not show you all the units in a building if some have a significantly lower commission offered. Thus, a neighborhood or building may not be ruled out, and may be worth investigating further. It may depend on the particular situation.
One reason for not seeing all units in a building is because many agents will show places for which they get 100% commission but will not show places where they co-agent with a local specialist to split commission. (Our agency does co-agent deals often, but many agents and agencies avoid co-agent deals.) Many landlords designate an agent to also be their property manager, which may include a commission split (which is reasonable in my opinion, in principle). Other times, another agent has shown a condominium building or housing neighborhood but simply did not know all the units available there because they don't have good stock listings for that building or neighborhood in their database, and/or have not been surveying it for a long time.
Many customers express frustration that their home search seems to have "run out of gas" when they try to get showings from subsequent agents but have a difficult time getting much enthusiasm or priority from subsequent agents.
Likewise, a second agent may "run out of gas" if you visit the same building or neighborhood with this second agent without telling them you've been there already, as the staff or landlord there will normally tell the second agent (usually in a Thai whisper or a subsequent phone call immediately afterwards) that this customer has already been there with another agent (see my other article on seeing the same place with a second agent for the complications of this), and if you haven't been up front with the agent, then they will normally lose interest at that point, as well as trust and respect if you have been deceptive about the first agent.
It's best to carefully choose a first agent. If it's too late for that, then it's best to be honest with the second agent. That is usually appreciated.
If you like a particular neighborhood or building, then you can tell the second agent how many units you've seen there. The second agent should know how many total units are available and decide whether or not you have missed any houses or condominiums there. However, if they take you there and want to show you a house you've already seen with the first agent, then normally you should decline and move on to the next place.
It is very common for us to chart out an itinerary and then say "Have you seen the neighborhood Green Acres? Yes? How many houses did you see there?" If they say "two houses" and we have four available, then we just call the landlords of good houses and say "We have a potential tenant, British nationality, with a girl aged 10 and a boy aged 14 going to the New International School of Bangkok, and the father works for Acme Logistics in Lad Krabang" whereby we will find out whether the customer has already seen the houses of interest. If they have, then we don't show them those particular houses. If they have not, then we show good houses they haven't seen yet. Pretty simple. We also don't want to interrupt a landlord and have them drive a long ways with the keys just to find out the customer has already seen the place.
The same applies to buildings for apartments and condominiums. It is very common for customers to not have seen all the units in a particular condominium building.
So how do you choose a first agent? There are several potential ways.
One way to choose a first agent is based on the number and variety of properties they have. Another is from your general feel for a company and its agents, whereby you may prefer to deal with a particular agent.
It's risky to go with an agent based on just a few showcased properties on their website (fishing hooks for customers). Often, the displayed property is not actually available. This might be essentially "bait and switch". (Note that we display "RENTED" in red for a large number of our properties on our website, whereas many agents don't denote rented properties as "rented".) However, in all fairness, statistically, a minority of customers actually close on the property they picked off the internet, for various reasons. Many do, but many others don't.
Photos on the internet can be misleading. Photos may be out of date, touched up on a computer, not show less desirable attributes, and so on.
Units with great prices are often in not-so-good locations due to traffic considerations, or next to a construction site or other noise generator (a main road, airplane flight path, nightclub, etc.), or have other reasons for a low price. Cherry picking units off a website can often waste time. A good real estate agent will analyze your needs and preferences and shortcut you to the best places.
When a unit is rented out, the vast majority of landlords do NOT call all the agents to update them that the unit has been rented out, so that the agency can take the unit off their website, or note it as "Rented", or remove all marketing ads. Indeed, many agents keep the place up anyway, because it brings in customer inquiries. (We take down some properties, but leave some others up though clearly noted as "RENTED" because they are not noted as "Rented" on some competitors' websites, and often because "we have similar properties".)
Much of an agency's rental stock is usually not shown on their website because it simply is not feasible to obtain good photos, process all the details, and upload it all within the rental turnover period. Good houses and condominiums are taken quickly.
With some agents, you can point out houses, apartments and condominiums you like from their website and the agent will be aware of many more properties similar to the same one which do not exist on the website yet.
If you want to see the widest selection of properties, then it is best to use a company which has a "co-agent" policy, i.e., they work with freelancers and other agencies who specialize in a particular region as well as management of the facilities who require a cut of the commission. Many companies do not coagent, as a policy, because it means they must split their commission with the other agent and they have many other properties to show you which do not require they give up any of their commission. We do coagent with many other agents, to find the best home for you, and to just close a deal. We normally split the work with the coagent in a reasonable and fair way. Surveying coagents have done a lot of work which many busy landlords did not.
Many large real estate companies build up a database stock of properties to show without needing to co-agent. However, it is impossible for them to present all the properties available without coagent relationships. They may conclude that they have a big enough stock and don't need to coagent and compromise their commission income.
The reality is that Bangkok is an immense place, and there simply are not enough very good people. The best coagents often live and stay within their particular specialized region, prefer to freelance their stock to multiple companies, and have been covering their specialized region for a long time. They are good enough to do this, and they know it. We coagent with many of these good people. We also know that many of these coagents refuse to coagent with some companies which try to "steal" their property.
One last thing worth noting. It is not uncommon to see men happily following a pretty and playful lady real estate sales agent around, and there are many stories... (It reminds me of some of the big bosses I've seen here in Thailand who are the boss of everybody except the little relative nobody Thai lady they are dating after work and who leads them around like a buffalo on a leash sowing the seeds of upcoming harvest.) We do not employ this tactic, despite being well aware of its effectiveness with many men, often leading their judgment astray to less than nominal homes. This is Thailand. In contrast, all agents of our company are professional.
(We occasionally caution men about this kind of thing. If they get misled, then their fantasy usually evaporates after payment, as the lady agent cuts back on some of her charms after closing the deal. However, beware of gold diggers...)
Human Resources (HR) Departments and Relocation Companies
We have worked well with many Human Resources (HR) departments and relocation companies internationally, but occasionally have had serious problems with some of them. Of the questionable ones, you may be able to see the warning signs yourself.
First, I must emphasize that we have worked with some very delightful HR and relocation company people, who were very helpful to the expat and worked with us to help the expat find the best home.
However, we have encountered many relocating expats who were forced by their company's HR department to rely on a monopoly real estate agent -- their relocation company or one particular real estate agency -- for finding a house or a condominium, and are not allowed the freedom of choice to choose their own real estate agent(s) nor to explore on their own. That may seem like a nice and simple solution to relieve you of work, such nice and eager people ... but ignorance of the vested interests and risks may be bliss, while it lasts.
Let us explain to you some of the Real World experiences of many home hunters, and how that monopoly over a customer naturally works in many cases:
Thailand accepts a lot of corruption in its culture which western Directors are not accustomed to, and this applies to many people who take advantage of their positions in HR departments. There are ways employees can quietly make extra money for themselves on the side, in addition to salary.
(Many Managing Directors are oblivious of what is going in lower ranks, especially in large companies. Under the table commissions are often kept secret.)
What some of these HR people do is arrange an exclusive agent (or a few) for whom they get a personal under the table kickback. Not the best agent to show you the best properties, but somebody they have a special personal relationship with, or else the highest willing bidder to the HR department -- the best agent for the HR people, not necessarily the best agent for you. Indeed, there are agencies who depend upon this simple method instead of doing all the hard work to compete otherwise for customers by merit.
Corruption includes competing based on relationships and money kickbacks rather than competing based on professional merit.
This is much more common in Thailand and much of Asia than in many European and other countries with a western civilization origin.
In the case of an employee relocation, the loser can be both the employee's family who may be railroaded into a non-optimal property and neighborhood, and the company which has an employee whose family may not be as happy in Thailand thereby affecting employee productivity, attitude and possibly even retention. The company and employee could also possibly be paying too much, too.
In contrast, a good HR department should allow you to use any agent you prefer. They might even suggest different, truly independent agents of obvious merit.
On the other hand, requiring exclusive agents can be a bit suspect.
If incoming employees start to stray by checking out other agents and agencies, then some of the HR departments and relocation agencies will start to cite administrative "requirements" that you use their monopoly agent, or try to instill fear in you with various arguments.
One such argument is the alleged risk of your not getting your security deposit back, or the company wanting to make sure they get it back, and other things like that about security deposit complications (which are actually not so complicated). I suggest you mention these to your third party agent to get a response, so that you can better assess the situation. (In short, it is very rare that we don't get a security deposit back, especially for medium and high end properties with Thai landlords of class who we would deal with. There is a simple process for settling utility bills at the end, a walk thru after moving out, and organizing return of money.)
Secondly, whether or not anybody is getting under the table money, if you have accepted an exclusive agent, then they have a monopoly on you. With such a monopoly, you run the risk that they might show you a subset of properties which are best for the agent's commission, not the best homes for you and your family to live in.
With a monopoly, where is there incentive to work hard? It is a lot of hard work to survey for the best properties -- a lot of effort, time, and expense. However, that is what you need -- an agent who competes with their stock, by merit, not by monopoly cronyism.
In addition to HR departments, some relocation companies who also have a monopoly on a customer may do likewise.
Let's be clear about this: Many relocation "consultants" actually have their own real estate people, and are not entirely objective and unbiased. Relocation companies take a fee from the expat's company for things like arranging hotel, travel visa, work permit, shopping, etc., ... and showing homes. However, if they work out a real estate deal, too, then these consultants can get a commission directly from the landlord as a bonus.
Many of these relocation agents will first try to find a place by themselves, so they do not need to "co-agent" with other brokers since they think they have a monopoly on you and don't need to split commission with anybody else, and essentially have no competition due to their monopoly control. Relocation agents have even had the gall to call us on the phone to ask where houses / condos / apartments are located -- which building or neighborhood, which unit number -- because their customer is insisting on seeing a unit from our website, and they don't know that unit. However, they have many times not been interested in any coagent relationship. We don't know what they eventually do, but it's possible that some might tell their customer that the place is already rented...
Do be aware that some relocation companies have a special relationship with one other real estate agency. Otherwise, sometimes, they might take you out with a "token" additional agent or two for show, possibly a small agent/agency, to appear to be consulting others.
Our experience trying to coagent with some particular relocation agencies has usually been bad, to say the least. We've had better experience in coagent relationships with other real estate agencies. Some other real estate agencies have told us that they had the same experience with some of the relocation companies.
Our policy is that if you have a relocation agent and we are showing you our stock, the relocation agent does not go for all the showings, too, because obviously this just shortcuts them to our best stock, saving them a lot of effort / time / expense surveying on their own, whereby then they can show their next customer the same places, so we lose our stock, too. (Many stories from other agents about this experience.)
Likewise, when a customer wants to use us without the relocation agent, some relocation agencies have requested a list of all properties we plan to show, allegedly so they don't show the same properties themselves. I have replied by suggesting that instead, they just send us their list. Their response, of course, has been noooooo...., that's different!
Relocation agencies have also used the tactic of saying that they risk wasting the time of the customer and landlord if they don't get our list, but let me explain why this is usually not so. When we make appointments with the landlords, the landlords normally want to know about the tenant, too, such as "working for ACME Co., a couple of ___ nationality, kids ages __ and __ going to ___ school ...". Even if they are a new landlord and don't ask us, we still tell these things to the landlord, because sometimes we find out that a particular customer is seeing their place with more than one agent even when the customer didn't tell us.
Some buildings require that the customer's name be registered, because the building wants to avoid conflicts between real estate agencies. However, many landlords just go by the description of the customer, which is usually unique enough, and more of interest so it's more memorable.
We normally do what the relocation company does -- negotiate the lease, monitor progress, be there when the tenant checks in, be there when the tenant checks out, walk thru the house afterwards with the landlord and tenant to check for any damages beyond normal wear and tear, clear the final bills, and deal with the return of the security deposit. (It is very rare to have a security deposit seized or dealt with unfairly, especially on medium and higher end properties with Thai landlords of class.)
What is of primary importance is finding the best home in Bangkok for your family.
Sometimes they will portray themselves as your guardian, to protect you against real estate agencies who are allegedly out to railroad you into a non-optimal property, or give you had advice. Well, you might need saving from the relocation agency -- a monopoly or a controller. You should have the freedom to search on your own and try multiple real estate agencies. If you don't want to get railroaded to a non-optimal property, then shop around with agencies and look at a whole lot more stock than the relocation agent could possibly be railroading you past.
Sometimes, the relocation company tries to scare away the real estate agency, when they cannot scare the customer away from the real estate agency. If the relocation company insists on going along to see all the real estate agency's showings as an "objective" adviser, many highly competent real estate agencies will simply say "no". Then, the relocation agency has an excuse to not use that agency.
If you suspect anything, then I suggest you contact the real estate agency directly, to get both sides of the story.
It is funny -- they are claiming to be objective? Are they treating you like a child rather than a mature adult, who is vulnerable to big bad real estate agents? Expats being relocated to Thailand are normally already high achievers in business and social circles, and can take care of themselves. A much higher risk is that the relocation agency controls them too much so they don't see the best homes for their family.
Don't fall for fear tactics to force you into line whereby you may compromise on finding the best home and having the best living experience in Thailand.
Once you get past the fear factor, sometimes it comes down to the relocation company being adamant that they are "required" to accompany you, which may rule out some real estate agencies. This is when you need to go talk to your superiors about the requirements and this relocation company, and do an end run if necessary. It is unreasonable and risky to have a monopoly enforced on you, controlling you. Who do they think you are? Who do they think they are? Why not have freedom of choice?
We are happy to coordinate and work together with a relocation agent on the one house you choose with us. Some relocation agencies have been very accommodating on this, whereby we have a nice relationship. Others have only kept to self-serving positions.
Perhaps I should disclose that I have personally known agents as friends who worked in a relocation agency, friendship well beyond just business, so I know a lot of detail about how some relocation companies work. Nonetheless, many real estate agencies who don't have such a relationship are still wise to the obvious, either from experience or in theory.
It is best if you exercise your freedom of choice and explore and choose the best first Bangkok real estate agent carefully.
We get a lot of inquiries from people who have already seen houses shown by a relocation agent or by their company's sole agent but have not found a suitable house and are starting to wonder and wander.
Unfortunately, these people are coming to other agents with the "second agent" disincentive discussed above, so you would need to be prepared to explain things well. We have received a lot of inquiries from people who said they went out with their company's agent and were dissatisfied. Many have also noted that their colleagues who had arrived before them told them to look for an outside real estate agent.
If you wish for your relocation company or HR agent to work with us, that is OK with us, but they must honor our coagent policies, which are very simple and common sense. We deal with relocation companies the same way we deal with other real estate agencies.
We are happy to coagent with relocation companies as well as HR staff, as long as we are dealt with fairly and in the best interests of all. We are very experienced at this.
Please understand that to find properties for rent, go take photos of them, upload them to our website, run our office with overhead, and show you around, we spend a whole lot of time, effort, and expense! We have a lot of families of employees dependent upon our business for financial support. We are not just an object to exploit for others' greed. Unfortunately, countless times, certain relocation companies and human resources department agents have tried to "steal" properties from our stock by various tricks, sometimes flagrantly and shamelessly, with a lack of business ethics or morality, just greed. It's the M.O. of their peer groups. Groupthink. They may all agree with each other.
Many are so smiling, cheerful and pleasant at first. We are very clear about agreements from the start, and happy to put this in black and white whereby it's clearly with the best of intentions, as clarity prevents misunderstandings, so that everybody is smiling and cheerful and pleasant at the end, too. Good fences make good neighbors. Style and substance should go together.
Similarly, we are heavily invested in developing our expertise. We are real estate agents, and they are human resources and relocation specialists. We are very good at finding the best homes in the best locations at the best prices.
If you insist on using your relocation company or HR staff, then we suggest you contact us and give us the contact information of your point of contact within HR or the relocation company so that we can discuss our coagent policies with them, and offer to help out in a way that starts pleasantly and ends pleasantly.
There are many human resources departments and some relocation companies which we are happy to deal with, and continue to deal with over and again. Regarding competitors, we have developed quite cordial and good working relationships with others under a "good fences make good neighbors" initial guideline (and which occasionally expand into friends). It's just about fairness, good intentions, and mutual consideration.
However, there are others who seem to have few coagents, as coagents gain experience with them and word gets around.
After all, if they're tricky with us, then they will be tricky with you, too. That's basic, how to sort people.
The best policy for a company using a relocation agency is this:
This has become the policy of many companies, to not force their employees into using one monopoly real estate agency imposed upon them by the Human Resources Department and/or any vested agenda of a relocation company.
A large number of top properties are available on only a coagent basis.
Why? Because Bangkok is huge, and no one company can cover absolutely everything available in Bangkok. There are many local, niche people of highest entrepreneurial competency, who know they are the best in their area, and we also appreciate that they are the best, the go-to independently successful operators. (We often know of many of their properties already from direct landlord contacts, but we may coagent with them anyway for those properties, too, for various reasons, depending upon the coagent and the situation.)
There is no multiple listing service (MLS) in Bangkok which all the agents use, full stop.
Property owners often do not have the time or expertise to market their property, so they use one particular agent or associate to market the property for them and handle all inquiries, sometimes managing the property, too, including the keys, whereby all agents must go thru this particular coagent and split commission. Often, that coagent lives nearby.
That agent or associate may market with other agencies, on condition of a commission split (coagent). Some agencies may not be interested because they want to maximize their commission per customer, but others will coagent as standard practice, in order to find the best home for the customer and just close a deal and complete the process. There is always enough commission in coagent deals, and no need to get greedy. Coagents help us find some properties, and we appreciate all their costs, time, and overhead.
Another good reason to coagent is that the coagent is often specialized to a particular small region and knows it better than others -- usually because they have lived there a long time, are constantly surveying it, and have long established relationships there. They are diligent and good enough to run their own small business. (Surveying is different from sales, and many sales agents are interested in the customers who have the money now, but much less in the properties for the future.)
Our company has co-agent policies. We will show the best homes for the customer. That is company policy. We are not greedy. We get enough commission, and we are quite willing to split the work and overhead with the coagent. We just want to find the best home for the customer, and have the customer stick with us.
We all deserve a fair percentage of support for our work, both in the past to get into this position, and for the current customer.
DON'T try to close on the same place with a second agent
By this, we mean DON'T abuse agent trust by bringing a second agent to the same property which the first agent took you to.
Beware that there are many agents, especially those who have not done the legwork to have a lot of stock, who try to make up for it by aggressive tactics of questionable business ethics. What many do is something like this:
They ask you what is your favorite building or neighborhood thus far, then take you there whether or not they have particular stock, then try to get their foot in the door for the particular property you saw before. Even if you say "I've seen that property already", they may still try to push their way in. They may also allege that they can get you a better deal, to appeal to your money interests, though this is often just another trick. Whether or not they do negotiate anything better, it doesn't matter, if they've hijacked you by starting a negotiating process, as that's their best shot.
In most cases, this will backfire, because most landlords do not want to get into a conflict between agents, and/or do not want a crook living in their place, and/or want to avoid unpleasantries, and/or don't want a bad reputation themselves. The landlords usually call us, e.g., "An agent from ____ came here with your customer" or "Your customer came here with another agent". Often, it's "I've never seen nor heard from this agent before until they came on behalf of your customer." The landlord often rules out the property altogether to the customer, with us or the other agent, because they don't want to deal with that tenant, and will just wait for the next customer.
Landlords are cautious about what kind of person they have occupy their home. If somebody is not ethical, then they can do things like not pay their last two months rent in lieu of their deposit, not care about the landlord's property just like they don't care about other people, may be unstable with their wife and thereby their tenancy, etc. Also, landlords fear that once somebody is inside a property, if problems arise with the tenant, it is a headache for them. In extreme cases, it is difficult by Thai tenant laws for a landlord to evict a tenant, and who wants to go to court (time, hassle, expense, and the case could sit there for a long time ...).
(Most landlords in Bangkok do not need the money -- they do not depend on rentals for their livelihood. Most are factory owners, investors, etc., and just own a lot of property, too. Many of them must stuff their money somewhere, and diversify. They are wise and experienced.)
However, some landlords will take whatever they can get. In this case, you should ask yourself whether you can really trust either the agent or landlord. Will the crooked agent negotiate the best deal for you, rather than for themselves? You may also get shafted from an unscrupulous landlord, too, who respects you less because of this, whereby they will just get what they can from you. Good luck from either one after you've paid up and moved in... for after sales service, and a fair shake at the end of your tenancy.
Likewise, from the tenant's viewpoint, if the landlord doesn't care about the first agent or what any of the neighborhood or building agents or employees think, and think of just the money, then maybe they won't care to return the tenant's deposit in whole or in part, either. (And do you think a predatory second agent would really care, either, in the end, once they've gotten what they want from you -- their commission? If they don't care about ethics and decency, then they won't care about you, too, after the money is in their pocket.)
There is an old saying, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." A corollary to this is people tend to treat another particular person like they think that person treats others. If it's a good person, they will treat them well. If they're a crook, they don't care to treat them well. "Do unto others as they do unto others." (This can become a vicious cycle.)
Everybody is not the same, but birds of a feather tend to flock together.
There are variations in personal and business ethics, as well as honor and honorability, of course, so the protocols our agency tries to follow are not shared by some other agents/agencies, customers, and companies/organizations ... though they ARE shared by many other agents/agencies, customer, and companies/organizations. Business ethics. You know the world out there ... However, it is best if you think these things through in advance, so that you don't get blacklisted by a landlord, an agency, or naively be pushed into something by an agent which may lead to some unpleasant surprises.
The worst offenders are a few particular moving/shipping/relocation companies. Many are good and honorable, but we know about others which have tried to practice these tactics many times, and with additional tricks. This is not just our experience. Other agencies have told us the same things about the same few particular moving/shipping/relocation companies.
However, there are also predator agents who seek out prey by other channels -- customers who have already been out with one or more other agents and have a good idea of where they want to stay, whereby the predator agent can simply establish a personal relationship, then trick the customer to shortcut them the property of the agent who put in all the time and expense before, to cut out the previous agent and try to get an easy commission for themselves. Shortcut business.
If the predator agent fails, they lose nothing. They wouldn't have gotten it anyway if they had not tried. The only potential loser is you, if the landlord withdraws the property from consideration as a result, and/or if the tricky agent actually negotiates a deal which is better for them rather than for you (surprised by their business ethics?), and/or if the landlord loses respect and care for you and later behaves accordingly.
Many people do unto others ... as others do unto them. Call it another one of the laws of karma.
You choose what kind of person you are in life.
You go by what people do, not what they say.
If somebody is tricky with others, then why would you think they wouldn't be tricky with you, too?
Next, there is a difference between virtual visits and physical visits:
About virtual visits on the web, it is OK to view multiple websites to find houses and condos you like, and point out links from some other websites to your favorite agent (though your favorite agent may not have a clue where that property is... but they can call to try to coagent, for example). That is OK as long as you don't engage the services of the first agent in a tricky way to reveal the location of their property stock with the intention of giving that to the second agent as a shortcut.
If a first agent took you to a place, don't bring a second agent there. Likewise, if the second agent physically brings to you a new place which the first agent did not, don't bring the first agent there. It's OK to show links from multiple websites, but physical visits are another matter.
There are some times when you may feel that you need a second agent. For example:
If you feel that an agent is showing you a gated community or a building which they don't really know, so maybe they don't show you the whole range of available properties. This is common when they don't keep up in their field, but just respond to customer inquiries and try to do last minute preparations for your particular region.
Sometimes, a customer just loses confidence or trust in an agent, and needs to switch. For example, if an agent shows you a place and only highlights the advantages and benefits, without giving you a balance of both the relative pluses and minuses, then you may feel you're not being given the best guidance. It's just a quick commission for the agent, but this is the home your family must live in, and the commute you must take every day. (It's good to double check an agent's claims for commute time -- during morning rush hour, not late morning or early afternoon. You can test commutes in a taxi at the specific times during the workweek.)
Another exception is if you notice that they didn't show you another house with a "For Rent" sign on it, which may have been put up by a co-agent who is managing the property for the landlord, whereby there would be a commission split between sales agent and survey co-agent. Many agents will not "co-agent" with other agents and property maintenance people, i.e., split the commission, but will show you only places which they get 100% commission on. That's better for them, but may not be better for finding the best home for you and your family.
Many landlords have one agent hold the keys to their house, and this agent takes care of the house for the landlord -- advertises it with other agents, shows it and often manages it as the point of contact for anything going wrong. The owner is too busy or otherwise disconnected, and leaves it to an agent. It is normal for that agent to split the commission with another agent who brings a customer, i.e., to be a kind of coagent. However, many agents will not bring their customer to that property because they don't want to split a commission, and will bring you only to places where they will get 100% commission.
The co-agent issue is a very common reason you don't see all properties.
For example: If an agent covers a vast region of Bangkok, then they will always be able to get some listings of houses in neighborhoods simply from internet connections, but will not get all the listings because they don't specialize in that region. Their only alternative is to co-agent with a local expert. Many agents and agencies won't do this.
When an agent does have a co-agent relationship, there will normally be a second agent which you all will meet up with in a particular building or neighborhood, the one with the keys and some knowledge of the property. If there is no such co-agent, only landlords and maids with keys, then maybe they didn't show you everything, only what they get 100% commission for. Of course, if asked, who would say they haven't shown you everything? It's up to you to make that assessment.
Like our websites say, "Yes, we co-agent". We co-agent often, whatever is necessary to find the best home for the customer to live in, for the best life experience in Thailand, all in good karma. It's good for everybody -- we close deals, the customer gets the best home, and all agents work together for a better future.
Our general policy and procedure is to "trust but verify", so normally, the sales agent will meet the survey coagent when they bring the customer, whereby the survey agent protects their territory. However, over time, relationships develop and we have many coagents we work with very efficiently, e.g., they just send the maid with the keys, or we can refer the customer to the coagent without our presence all the time. We may go together, but we have some good coagents, too, who we trust.
Well established and trusting relationships don't happen in a day or with just one customer.
Of course, we do not co-agent with everybody. We coagent only with agents who we find honorable, and reasonably knowledgeable of their territory. Surveying for properties consumes a large part of an agent's time, effort, and overhead expenses, and is not quick money, unlike showing customers as a sales person.
In some cases, we are the "survey agent" with the stock of properties, which the "sales" or "showing agents" want to bring their customers to; in other cases, we are the "showing agent" who has discovered a property advertised by a "survey agent" who works on behalf of the owner. (Often, we are both -- we found the property, and we are showing it -- but this section is about coagents.)
The "showing" agent must not "steal" a surveyed property by trying to bypass the survey agent, and a surveyor must not steal a salesperson's customer.
The landlord or survey coagent should never take the business card of the customer -- nor should the customer offer their business card to the landlord or survey coagent. You should deal with only the sales agent.
The showing/sales agent should not take photos of a survey co-agent's property, unless it is with their permission.
The showing/sales agent should not contact the surveyor's owner directly (unless there is an exceptionally trusting relationship and permission).
(All this and more is covered in our agreements with our coagents, which the customer doesn't need to know the details of, but it is good for the customer to know about coagents and very generally about these relationships.)
Of course, the above are not laws nor regulations, these are general protocols which many agencies and agents honor, but not all agents or agencies follow them. For many unscrupulous agents, agencies, and landlords, it's the law of the jungle. Under the law of the nation, we are all free to do as we please -- agents, agencies, customers, and landlords. We have heard the rationalizations before that "other people ripped me off, so I can do the same." Well, yeah, many people in this world steal and do a lot of bad things, but that doesn't mean it's OK for us to do the same. We choose which school of thought to follow.
In some other parts of society, this may not be the case (e.g., many reports of various Thailand government contracts allegedly going the the highest under the table bidder), but everybody chooses to be the kind of person they want to be.
Mainstream Thais generally know the difference between right and wrong. This is one of the pleasant things about Thai society. Most expats from western societies do, too. However, every society has its good and bad people. Many people simply cave in to money. (This is especially so of people in debt, and who live for the moment without thinking about the long term.)
Greed is not good. The world must work together in reasonable ways so that the best system is sustainable. There is enough commission to share fairly, and no need for conflicts like these. It is in the customer's best interests to work with agents who coagent, in order to find the best selection of homes and locations.
If you simply follow the rules of honor in real estate, then you can normally get the home you want, and feel good about it.
"In an insane world, the sane man must appear to be insane." -- Capt. James T. Kirk
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