In many of my previous articles, I have referred to realtors, or estate agents as they are called here, but often the concept of what an agent does or is supposed to do is misunderstood by clients and even the agents themselves.
Until about 20 years ago, anyone could work as a real-estate agent in Israel since there were no licensing requirements or supervision of the industry.
Since 1995, however, anyone wanting to work in the industry must meet certain criteria and pass an exam set by the Justice Ministry before becoming licensed to practice.
Many of the serious agents also belong to the Chamber of Real Estate Agents (Lishkat Hametavchim), which provides ongoing professional training and supervision of ethics. Many of the larger brokerage offices also provide this ongoing training, which keeps agents abreast of changes in the market.
Twenty years ago, before the Internet and advent of modern information technology, realtors in Israel were largely information brokers. They kept manual databases of properties for sale and buyers, and basically worked to make the necessary “shiduchim,” or matches. Clients used agents because these brokers were the only ones with the information. Today, however, everyone has a great deal of real-estate information available at the touch of a button.
Obviously, agents have more in-depth knowledge of the various properties shown on websites such as Yad 2 or the sites of the brokers themselves and do provide added value in the information area of the buying or selling process. However, more and more, a good agent must provide a far more encompassing service to his/her clients, including helping the buyer or seller understand the market and understanding each client’s needs and wants.
Referrals to good lawyers who can help with sometimes complex legal issues, banks and mortgage brokers for financing, engineers, contractors, licensing specialists, interior designers, etc. the list is endless.
A good agent will identify a need and solve it or make sure that it is solved by the right person.
Buying or selling a home is an extremely emotional experience for most people and often the agent will also find himself or herself acting as a “psychologist,” or even just a sympathetic ear to the client. If the agent does not have the patience to really listen to what a buyer or seller is saying, not only will he/ she not help the client find the right property or buyer, but, far more important, he runs the risk of guiding clients in directions that are wrong for them. Above all, the agent must have the client’s welfare foremost in mind and provide value – not just information.
So, in this changing environment, we have seen that good agents have moved from being in the “information” business to being in the “service” business. Obviously, information still plays a part but an agent who ignores the rest of the package is missing the boat and someone who relies on such an agent is short changing himself.
Raphi Bloch is the manager of Re/Max Vision Real Estate agency in Jerusalem. He previously worked for the Finance Ministry.