How to spot a good estate agent?
When one starts looking for a property to buy, it is important to ask the right questions, even ones that you may not think are important at the time! Different rules will apply whether you are intending to live in the property or whether you are buying the property as an investment to rent out, but the most important one to ask YOURSELF is: “Will it make me money and be a good investment in the long run?” Here the answer should always be an affirmative “Yes!”
We look at some of the most important additional questions to ask your agent when buying.
How long has the property been on the market?
This will give you a good indication of how the property has been received by the market. If it has not been advertised for long, it will be very difficult to use the property’s exposure time as leverage to negotiate a better price. In the case where a property has been on the market for a very long time, you should ask yourself “Why?” This brings us to the other questions:
Is it priced competitively and realistically?
The agent should give you an honest answer as it is not in their best interest to support an inflated price as the property is unlikely to sell and serves no purpose. A good agent will confirm if the property is correctly priced.
What have similar properties in the area sold for recently?
Any agent would have done their research about other properties in the area and will be able to quote sales prices achieved for similar properties.
Is there anything wrong with the property structurally I should know about?
Agents are legally obliged to declare anything they are aware of. Keep in mind that agents are salespeople and not structural engineers, so cannot be held responsible for anything that have not been made known to them or that you may discover on your own further down the line.
Is there any uncertainty regarding ownership?
Once again, due diligence and research of the chronological ownership line of a property will be available to the agent and if there are any doubts, this can be clarified in conjunction with a notary and/or the deeds office.
Does anything regarding the property need to be regulated?
Older properties especially may require to be regulated as many of them have been in the same ownership for decades, long before some of the current legislation came into effect regarding alterations and add-ons. This should not be an issue and the due process needs to be followed for compliancy.
Is a property report by an architect available?
Neither the agent nor the owner is obliged to provide you with this. If you are keen on buying a property you will have to engage the services of a specialist such as an architect or engineer at your own expense.
Does the property qualify for any discounts or subsidies from the government?
Many properties benefit from incentives made available by the government. Factors playing a role whether properties qualify may be design, age, location and more. The agent will be able to confirm which schemes apply to the property that you are viewing or keen on.
Are the views guaranteed?
This is a favourite of many a buyer but alas, no views are guaranteed in Malta or Gozo.
What deposit is expected?
This is usually 10% of the agreed purchase price and a good agent will be able to tell you whether a seller is open to being more flexible, especially with more expensive properties.
Can I choose the notary?
The agent will already have a notary in mind and to keep things simple and expedite a sale, it is better to keep it under one roof, but as a buyer you have the right to appoint the notary of your choice.
What other amounts am I looking at paying besides the purchase price and what are they for?
The agent will be able to provide you with on the spot with unofficial amounts or percentages related to a property’s acquisition but as this change from time to time, the agent will need to do a little bit of research and speak to the notary and seller as well to confirm exact amounts.
Will the seller be prepared to fix a few things if I make an offer?
The agent will be able to negotiate this as a condition of sale with the vendor and in most cases the seller will be amicable about it. Leave it to the agent but if you proceed to make an offer, make sure it is stipulated in all of the contracts.
How long do you expect the entire process to take?
If you want an exact timeframe, your agent will be able to assess the time it will take based on the complexity surrounding the property you intend to buy and this usually is unique, as each property has different rules or conditions that apply to it.
Does the property have any ground rent or levies?
This is one many people forget about and only find out much later when a bill arrives. Your agent will be able to tell you if ground rent applies to the property and whether an apartment falls under the newly-introduced regulations where a block of apartments consisting of more than 4 units now require the appointment of a managing agent by law.
Are there any further savings that you can tell me about?
Some real estate companies like Frank Salt Real Estate have fantastic buyer’s packages available to first-time and second-time buyers. Through their network of suppliers, retailers, and legal connections they have put together some amazing deals that can save buyers like you tens of thousands of euros. Ask your agent about it!