If you have ever tried to look for an apartment to rent or buy in Macau, you might have been surprised to find that two or more agents show up to help you view the property. Some may wonder why so many people need to get involved in the seemingly simple exercise of showing you a property. Let me try to explain.
It all starts with the property itself, and behind that, the owner. As you know, as property agencies we do not have our own products, but we help promote and market properties that are listed with us by the owners. Owners can usually choose to list their properties with as many or few agencies as they like, and they select agencies to work with based on a number of different reasons including personal relationships, proximity to their property, marketing horsepower or language.
If an owner lists property A through JML Property and someone contacts one of JML’s agents to view the same property, it’s a very straight forward process. We either have the keys on hand or can arrange access through the owner. In all cases, we protect our client’s interests by making sure that the owner and potential tenant are represented by separate agents and ensuring that the matter is dealt with professionally and diplomatically.
However, if the potential tenant contacts ABC agency that does not have the listing for property A, that agent might contact JML Property to arrange the viewing and cooperate.
In this case, JML’s agent that represents the owner will meet the agent from ABC agency and his tenant client at the unit to give them access. If there are junior agents shadowing a more experienced agent or multiple agents from the same agency have agreed to represent the same client together and share the commissions, there might be up to 4 or 5 agents at the scene! (Quick Tip: It is considered inappropriate for the owner’s agent to share their contact information directly with the client during the viewing)
Regardless of how many agents there might be at the viewing, it ultimately makes little difference to the client. He will pay the same amount in commissions of one month’s rent for rentals or usually 1% of sales price for a purchase. This is split between the agents as agreed.
The only difference is that as more agencies get involved, communication becomes more difficult as any message between the tenant and the landlord has to pass through two separate agents. In a negotiation setting this is less than ideal, and miscommunications can sometimes occur in this elaborate game of real estate Chinese whispers.
As you can see, the current system can be very inefficient. A better approach would be if property listing information was organised, digitised and centralised in an online platform like Rightmove in the UK or Zillow in the US. We have somewhat similar platforms in Macau, but nothing that really compares. An agent can only dream.