Licensed real estate agents are regulated by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) with consumers able to seek advice and lodge complaints about agents’ behaviour to that department. The Real Estate Institute of WA (REIWA) also has a community hotline where consumers can obtain real estate advice when dealing with a member agent.
Current market conditions of savagely low supply and strong demand for both sales and rentals often leads to a spike in enquiry with REIWA and DMIRS, especially from tenants and buyers that have missed out on the opportunity to either buy or rent a home. Most are just wanting clarification of the process.
When representing their vendors and landlords, agents have a role to play in ensuring their communication with interested buyers and tenants is clear and thorough, especially in circumstances where there is strong competition to either buy or rent the properties they represent.
In the first instance, agents should make it clear to buyers and tenants that there is competition for the home. This can include asking prospective buyers to sign a document that acknowledges an awareness that their offer is one of many and that they’ve had sufficient opportunity to put forward their best offer. Similarly for tenants, the sheer volume of visitors to a home open should indicate that renting a home will be competitive. It is unlikely your application to rent will be the only one submitted.
Local agents mostly manage competition amongst buyers and tenants in a professional, process-driven manner. However, it’s worth noting that agents are not obliged to inform you that there is competition for a property, albeit best practice to do so.
Buyers and tenants ought to remember the agent is duty bound to act for their client and is not working in your interests. Agents are merely obliged to be honest, ethical and fair in their dealings with tenants and buyers.
Despite this, buyers and tenants who miss out on a property are often quick to blame the agent. Some will lodge formal complaints against an agent even though the agent is simply discharging their responsibility to their client in seeking the best price or highest rent.
A recent experience from a buyer who was repeatedly told a property would likely sell for above $900,000, was aware they were in competition and still insisted on submitting an offer for $875,000, was livid when told someone else had paid $975,000. Similarly, a tenant who offered $80 per week above the asking rent lodged a formal complaint against the agent when their landlord accepted an offer to lease $130 above the asking rent.
Higher rents and selling outcomes are part of the natural market in action. Agents understand that buyers and tenants are trying to secure a property for the lowest possible price or rent, but it is not the agents’ role to achieve that outcome.