Who is in control – the owner or agent?

WE refer to the letter “Consultant real estate agents or bogus middlemen?" (The Star, July 25; online at https://bit.ly/3OJaZdq) by SOHO Suite Owner. The Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA) understands the plight and shares the frustration of the writer, but it’s also important for property owners to know how to deal with and manage agents in the context of the Malaysia vs Australia model.

1. Real estate firms and RENS

In the first instance, all sales people – called real estate negotiators (RENs) – are attached to real estate firms. All RENs have to undergo a Negotiator Certification Course (NCC) before the regulatory body, the Board of Valuers, Appraisers, Estate Agents and Property Managers Malaysia (BOVAEP) issues them with a "REN Tag", certifying them to be attached to a firm to carry out sales and rental services.

Anyone without this tag is unregistered and deemed illegal. Using RENs with tags will allow any landlord or vendor to revert back to the firm on complaints, grievances, malpractice, etc. This provides the check and balance to the growth of the profession, and also protection for the parties concerned.

Agents or RENs are never considered as middlemen because they represent only one party in a sale or rental. In this country, the word "middleman" connotes illegal brokers.

2. How does an appointment work?

In a rental situation, a landlord would identify, select and appoint an agent to represent him based on his (agent's) knowledge and understanding of the market, the demand and supply, current rental rates, etc. There are also RENs who focus on particular suburbs or localities or certain condos.

Only after due diligence should you appoint a REN through a real estate firm that you feel can deliver your needs. Unlike in Australia where the “authorisation ” is given to only one firm to represent the seller/landlord to market his or her property for sale or to let, Malaysians prefer to appoint multiple agents because they think this is the best way to find a tenant or buyer. This adds to the complexities of working with many RENs.

We recommend that the owner, after going through the process of selecting the REN, appoint one and give him and his firm "exclusive" right to “transact” the property on his behalf. All other agents can work with the exclusive agent toward the same end.

With this in place, whenever the owner receives an enquiry from an agent, this enquiry is channeled to the exclusive agent to pursue. This will reduce unsolicited calls over time from other agents. It will also minimise “price war” situations, as the exclusive agent will receive the offers presented and negotiate for a settlement. There will then be no multiple offers or undercutting of prices from a single buyer/tenant via multiple agents.

3. Tenant requests

It isn’t uncommon for tenants to make many requests prior to renting a unit depending on their needs and wants. Agents are duty bound to present all offers and requests from prospective tenants for the consideration of the landlord. The landlord has the sole discretion to decide on the offer, terms and conditions of the rental or sale.

4. Rental rates

RENs do not determine the rental rates; they merely advise on what’s happening in the market. Rental rates are set by market forces on a "willing landlord/willing tenant" basis, its unique inventory lists and its own terms and conditions.

With the availability of data online, we encourage all landlords to do their own independent research/survey on the current going rental rates of similar properties in their vicinity. You can also ask your REN to provide such data. Only then should you discuss and agree with your appointed agent on the rental expectations. Again, the landlord retains the authority on this.

We don’t deny that there are some RENs out there who are overzealous with their actions, and we don’t condone their behaviour. But in the same instance, the standard of the profession is upheld by most of the RENs who carry out good work for their clients. That is why the profession is growing rapidly.

MIEA is playing a significant role to protect the public's interest by enhancing professionalism among its practitioners. But the Malaysian public also has a role to play in determining how the agents can best represent them by demanding for better service and integrity in their work.

We seek your support to reach out to MIEA via e-mail to complaint@miea.com.my or call 03-79602577 for complaints or suggestions.

Please note that the practice of estate agency comes under an Act of Parliament (ACT 242) and is regulated by BOVAEP.

Be sure to engage only registered estate agents, probationary estate agents and RENs approved by BOVAEP. The role of an agent is specified in ACT 242, Rules 1986 and the Malaysian Estate Agency Standards.


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