Not very long ago, just about anyone who had the gift of the gab and who owned a vehicle could become a reasonably successful real estate agent.

Real estate agents need to relearn ways of functioning effectively within a niche

Should one draw up a list of the necessary qualities a modern, professional real estate agent needs today, among the most essential qualities one would look for are honesty, product and market knowledge.

One would look for efficiency, punctuality, a proactive attitude and a confident communicator. The real estate agent needs to be highly organised and resourceful, customer-centric, reliable and possess advanced, win-win negotiating skills. They would need to be assertive yet friendly, computer and social media-literate and able to maintain a face-to-face, personable relationship with clients.

The modern real estate agent needs to possess a deep understanding of budgeting and finance. One should not underestimate the importance of the agent also having the patience and tolerance of Job, while being both tactful and adaptable. Most important of all, an estate agent should be open to learning.

The list provides an insight into the intricacies of what it takes to become a successful real estate agent in the new millennium.

Clearly, today’s real estate agent needs to be an all-rounder who is able to keep up with market trends as well as the ever-changing local and international laws and regulations.

With the advent of new technological innovations, such as social media, tablets and smartphones, it is more urgent for today’s real estate agencies to learn how to manage the ever-increasing demands made by a more learned and empowered consumer.

This is especially so when one considers that it is far easier today for a customer to erroneously assume that they can get by without using the professional services of a real estate agency.

Ever since Malta’s accession to the EU, we have seen an influx of established international real estate organisations operating through their local counterparts. These partnerships have brought with them higher operating standards, which in turn are fuelling the expectations of buyers and sellers. This has transferred into new challenges for property agents representing these organisations.

In 2009, the EU agreed on a voluntary real estate standard entitled EN15733. The standard applies to both business-to-business and business-to-consumer services within the real estate sector.

The standard established guidelines regarding the ethical parameters an agent should observe include technical, legal and commercial knowledge they should possess to better serve the customer.

The standard specifies the need for adequate training in a variety of disciplines and emphasises the need for ongoing training and development. This may be a voluntary standard. However, it indicates the drive across the EU towards improving services within the industry.

There are a variety of people functioning as agents within the local industry, some with tertiary education and a sizeable percentage having secondary-level education.

It is not unusual to find people who previously ran their own business operating in the industry. Indeed, the most common profile of the successful real estate agent is one who enjoys meeting people, is great at networking and who is able to work long hours. Yet, being a real estate agent requires far more than this.

The local industry is self-regulated and in recent years there has been a tangible attempt by the most established organisations to offer improved service and product quality. The driving factor for this is the increased competition as well as the need to generate revenue both faster and more reliably.

With a drive towards providing a second-to-none service to the customer, in order to encourage referrals and retain customers, planned and formalised real estate specific training is essential.

The traditional training model of the past focused principally on business development skills, such as negotiating, sales and closing techniques. Much of the agents’ product knowledge stemmed from experience out on the field. This situation is untenable today, as real estate agents are better trained from the outset.

The modern real estate agent requires a holistic range of specific technical and soft skills. These include core business supporting skills, such as time management, administration skills, marketing and writing skills, social media and budgeting and general business administration competences. The market demands that the agent become a rich resource who can cater for a far wider range of customer needs.

Training is ever more necessary as specialisation is becoming more widespread. Both buyers and sellers are progressively seeking the real estate agent who is the local expert, one who can confidently answer a host of questions ranging from property, immediate surroundings, building restrictions and planned projects within the locality. Consequently, real estate agents need to relearn ways of functioning effectively within a niche.

Training in the real estate industry is not optional therefore, at least not for the organisation that intends to survive.

Paul Vincenti is regional and international trainer for Re/Max and lecturer in real estate studies at the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia.

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