Property Stories An Introvert Buys Property: Finding A Property Agent To Trust (Part 2)
- November 24, 2021
- 8 min read
As a self-professed introvert, I’m used to doing things on my own. But after months of fruitless solo property hunting, I finally conceded that I needed a property agent.
It was just after Circuit Breaker ended in 2020 when I made the decision to engage a property agent. After spending weeks living, working, and socialising almost entirely out of my bedroom, I was desperate to find my own home. I had to step up my property search, and I needed help.
I had plenty of hopes for my would-be agent. They’d help sift through listings, arrange viewing appointments, and accompany me on viewings. I also needed someone much more knowledgeable about the property market. And even though I’m an introvert, the thought of having a sounding board in this huge life decision was very appealing.
From the numbers in Stacked’s article on property agencies, I estimate there are at least 30,000 property agents in Singapore. And I just needed one. Easy, no?
I met Sandra (not her real name) through a family member. Sandra worked for one of the larger property agencies and had a stable of higher net worth clients. She was a middle-aged, bullish woman who looked like she’d fought tooth and nail to get to where she was in life. Surely having someone like her on my side was a good thing.
When we first talked, I said I was looking for a resale property to purchase and move into preferably by early next year. Even over the phone, I could hear the disdain in her voice as she was explaining why resale properties were a no-no.
In fact, over the next few weeks, whenever I sent her a resale listing I was interested in, I would get a call from Sandra almost immediately. In her low but insistent smoker’s voice, she’d explain that the value of every resale property would sink faster than the Titanic.
Her solution? Only buy new launch condo units.
And as a (relatively) young homebuyer, Sandra said I needed to take advantage of the longest and largest mortgage possible. That would effectively double my original budget by almost 50%. I even received a “wealth generation” report with the same conclusion, the caveat being that I had to drain my CPF and borrow an amount way larger than I was comfortable with from the bank.
Most of my phone conversations with Sandra lasted an hour as she extolled the virtues of brand-new properties. On a number of occasions, I’d protest about neither wanting to wait three years, nor being so heavily in debt, but Sandra would always dismiss it with the same gravelly “you’re-not-married what’s the rush”. I’d hang up the phone with my heart racing with anxiety and ears burning with shame.
Eventually, I stopped answering her calls and texts.
Not gonna lie – I was really upset after my experience with Sandra. I was seriously considering searching for property all on my own again, or even throwing in the towel completely. But that was when I found William, an agent with one of the smaller property agencies.
I came across William’s website through an ad, and what lifted my spirits was his client philosophy: “Never a fan of high pressure sales tactics, or template solutions, I believe that real estate advisory is not a one-size-fits-all. Every client has his/her own unique needs and financial status, and my role as a realtor is to tailor a custom strategy to help them achieve their goals – be it a dream home or a property for investment.”
“Hi William,” I typed. “I was hoping you’d help me find a home.” (Dramatic, I know.)
We connected in July 2020. William was a dapper man in his 40s, and carried himself with the kind of confidence I’d always wished for. He was also the owner of a beautifully renovated HDB flat that had been featured in the media, so I knew assessing the interior design potential of a property was something we’d see eye to eye on.
William soon proved he was trustworthy, especially because I was a terrible client. If you remember from Part 1, I had no clue where I wanted to stay or what I wanted to live in, so we viewed a wide range of properties all across the island. And despite the possibility of earning a smaller commission, William recommended both private and HDB resale properties that fit my needs.
Property StoriesAn Introvert Buys Property In Singapore: Going It Alone (Part 1)by Dan
William and I packed in viewings on weekends, and even made a couple of offers that were rejected. In between viewings, William advised me on investment and exit strategies for all possible scenarios, and we even discussed interior design possibilities for various layouts.
In late August, we visited a recently MOPed four-room flat in Bukit Panjang that I decided was the one. William negotiated a better price on my behalf that was accepted, and by late November, I was the sole owner of my first home!
It would be easy to conclude Sandra was a “bad” property agent and William, a “good” one. But the reality of it is that they’re both successful agents with solid track records. One just happened to suit me better than the other.
I’m not always a great judge of character, but from my experiences with Sandra and William, I’ve come up with three questions that can help you decide if you’ve found the right property agent:
Firstly, are they listening? I found Sandra to be patronising, but it took me a while to recognise that because after all, I was the property noob and she was the experienced agent. I can imagine naysayers wanting to say to me that if I’d listen to her, I could be rich and living in a condo.
But as an introvert, I do rely on my emotions when logic fails me. And with Sandra, not being listened to made me feel small and ashamed.
William demonstrated through his recommendations and advice that he had listened to what I wanted, and he was going to help me find my dream home on my terms.
And these experiences also taught me there’s a difference between being pushed out of your comfort zone and dragged past your boundaries. Both make you feel scared, but one makes you grow, and the other, shrink. And it all comes down to whether you’re truly being heard and seen by your property agent.
Consider ‘listening’ the lowest bar to evaluate a property agent by. If at any point you feel like you’re not being heard, it’s a sure sign to turn around and walk away.
Secondly, are they able to help you? The point of engaging a property agent is for them to help you. It’s such a straightforward point, but it can be challenging to recognise and call out when a situation is not helpful to you. If you’re like me and typically non-confrontational, you’d rather swallow your discomfort and trust in expert opinion.
Sandra specialised in the private end of the property market, and very likely only in investment properties. If I were in the market for something like that, Sandra would’ve been the right agent for me. But I simply wasn’t.
William had experience in almost all segments of the property market. His breadth of knowledge was more suited to my property search, which was also wide and varied. William’s advice extended to long-term property strategies and opportunities that suited both my single lifestyle and low-risk disposition.
Help comes in all forms. Maybe you need a William that can help you make your property dreams come true. Or sometimes, you may need a Sandra to push you into dreaming bigger, if that doesn’t overstep your boundaries.
Thirdly, can you trust them? The first two questions can help you gauge the trustworthiness of an agent.
You can also look at other signs, such as a strong sales track record and glowing client testimonials, but I wouldn’t place too much stock in them. These accolades seem to be a dime in a dozen judging by the ton of property agent flyers I’ve been receiving that all say pretty much the same thing.
Some people take shortcuts by looking for agents that they already have a relationship with. Or they go by the recommendation of someone they do trust. But that’s how I landed Sandra, and look how that worked out for me.
I wish I could give you a set of questions that will help you suss out untrustworthy agents, but the fact of the matter is, no test of trust is foolproof. You’ll just have to go into a relationship with any property agent with your eyes, ears, and heart wide open. And like in any relationship, if it’s not working for you, just leave.
I was going to conclude by comparing finding a property agent to dating, but as a single person, I probably shouldn’t be doling out that sort of advice. Besides, they are not quite the same thing. If you’re dreaming of a home for yourself, the property agent is someone that can make that dream come true. That’s too huge a responsibility for a loved one to shoulder, but that is the job of a property agent.
And fellow introverts, when deciding if a property agent can help you, use your natural skepticism and sensitivity to your advantage. And before you learn to place your trust in someone else, learn, above all, to trust yourself.
Come back for Part 3 when I’ll tell you about the properties I had to sadly let go.