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Getting rid of real estate agents

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Sergei82
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Getting rid of real estate agents

Postby Sergei82 » Mon, 03 Nov 2014 11:38 am

I am about to renew the contract for my flat for the 4th time. My wife insists we stop using real estate agents' services and talk directly to landlord.

For the last 3.5 years I never called the agents and never asked for their services (what can they do if something is broken? I just fix it or ask landlord to call a plumber or somebody appropriate). They were just here every time during renewal to collect their agency fee (half of my rent is significant money).

My wife argues that agents are worthless in our case and I am throwing away money.

So what should I do? Is there any reason landlord is using agents herself (and paying agency fee each time)? Does it ensure landlord in anything? Can real estate agents sue us or do something nasty if we try dumping them? Do I undermine credibility with the landlord somehow? Or once agents found you a place to live, their job is done, repaying them their fee on each renewal is just "charity"?

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Re: Getting rid of real estate agents

Postby x9200 » Mon, 03 Nov 2014 12:59 pm

Your wife is completely right. Most people use the agents because they think they need them. I use my agent for looking for a new place but it is more of a personal assistant function and we normally "pay" him in beer and in recommendations. I have never used any agents for any contract renewal (done it a few times already).

Check your current TA if it contains a clause to pay your agent on the renewal, if not, you can just kick her/him out. For the renewal you typically copy the old TA with some minor amendments to the clauses (if necessary at all). As a tenant you pay (as the local custom requires) the stamping fee and you are done. If the new tenure is shorten than the current one, I typically request part of the deposit to be payed back.

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Re: Getting rid of real estate agents

Postby Sergei82 » Mon, 03 Nov 2014 4:53 pm

I have on one of the pages of my TA:

"SIGNED by the Landlord <...> in presence of <agent1_name/ic/sig>"

"SIGNED by the Tenant <...> in presence of <agent2_name/ic/sig>"

Does this page (mentioning agents) oblige me to anything?

In any case, kicking off agents is not a breach of anything, is it? No harm talking to landlord about it? (I have no idea whether it is a trivial question or there may be some hidden trap)

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Re: Getting rid of real estate agents

Postby taxico » Mon, 03 Nov 2014 11:14 pm

the (agent as a) witness thing doesn't create any obligation.

if your current TA does not mention having to pay an agent a commission if it's renewed, then you're in the clear.

if the land lord wishes to use an agent, it's his/her prerogative. they will have to pay their agent.

if you do not use one, you don't have to pay for one.
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Re: Getting rid of real estate agents

Postby ecureilx » Tue, 04 Nov 2014 7:46 am

Sergei82 wrote:I have on one of the pages of my TA:

"SIGNED by the Landlord <...> in presence of <agent1_name/ic/sig>"

"SIGNED by the Tenant <...> in presence of <agent2_name/ic/sig>"

Does this page (mentioning agents) oblige me to anything?

In any case, kicking off agents is not a breach of anything, is it? No harm talking to landlord about it? (I have no idea whether it is a trivial question or there may be some hidden trap)


From what I know, unless the contract has a hidden clause / small print, that any communication / renewal must be via the agent, as I have seen on some, you can discard the agent

If he/she throws a tantrum, report them to CEA !!

I had a useless agent once, who didn't do nothing, but come renewal threatened me for cutting her off

I told her nicely that she can compile a list of items she assisted me, in the then rental place, and I will consider. And reminded she didn't even help clarify the issue with Aircon, who pays etc, and virtually MIA

Then again, a lot of agents will get mad for loosing their residual income !!!!

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Re: Getting rid of real estate agents

Postby JR8 » Tue, 04 Nov 2014 11:51 am

Our agent is a relative and we don't pay them, so my experience may be skewed by that. That said, I would expect you to have two agreements. One is the TA that you have with the landlord, and the second is the 'engagement agreement/contract' that you have with the agent. This assumes you engaged the agent, and you agreed to pay them. It is the latter contract that will define the terms between you and them rather than the TA.

If you did not engage the agent, and do not have such a contract, then one has to ask on what legal basis are you bound to pay them? If the reply is 'industry practice' then that's just not good enough; it doesn't stand up.

Something to keep in mind though is that many landlords engage an agent because maybe they are offshore, or not on hand to facilitate viewing the apartment at 10am or 3pm every day as might be required. I use an agent because they have a prime-spot shop-window, website, and know how to pitch a property... plus they are willing to walk up and down 500 stairs a day to show my property. But IME that is a service the landlord signs up for and pays for.

The situation appears similar in the US. Where perhaps you a flat-hunter reply to a small-ad for a property, advertised by the owners agent. In that case the agents fees are for the owner. But, if you have an agent you have signed up to find you a place (and you have entered into a contract with them) then the terms/fees for your agent should be clearly laid out in the agreement you have with them.

--- This was taken a step further in the UK (upon which SGn L+T law seems to be based, just with a 20-30 year time-lag) whereby as a landlord it was recently ruled impermissible for the agent to be charging the landlord tenant-finding fees for year after year. For example, I had tenants stay 10+ years, and still each year the agent charged me 10%+vat 'finders fee'... this they can no longer do. The principle being that after year one they are no longer providing any service to warrant payment.

So. What if any agreement do you have with this agent? If you have signed up to perpetual fees, short of the law here in SG being revised I suspect the best you might hope for is negotiating them lower.

It's a complex area, but I hope the above might provide some food for thought.

Witnessing a signature is 'nothing', it is certainly not engaging a person into some fee-paying obligation. For example, for my very first mortgage (many moons ago now), I simply walked out of the bank on Moorgate, London and stopped the very first person I saw, a complete stranger, to witness my signature on the mortgage application. That is all a witness is doing, saying 'I XYX confirm that ABC signed this in my presence'...


HTH
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Re: Getting rid of real estate agents

Postby taxico » Tue, 04 Nov 2014 1:11 pm

JR8 wrote:...I would expect you to have two agreements. One is the TA that you have with the landlord, and the second is the 'engagement agreement/contract' that you have with the agent. This assumes you engaged the agent, and you agreed to pay them. It is the latter contract that will define the terms between you and them rather than the TA...


the "pay fee on (like) renewal" clause, as ecure mentioned earlier, is sometimes in the TA itself (in singapore anyway).

the parties are deemed to have entered into contract because they are willing to be bound by its terms...
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Re: Getting rid of real estate agents

Postby x9200 » Tue, 04 Nov 2014 2:58 pm

JR8 wrote:If you did not engage the agent, and do not have such a contract, then one has to ask on what legal basis are you bound to pay them? If the reply is 'industry practice' then that's just not good enough; it doesn't stand up.

Legal basis is a verbal agreement, perfectly valid but with obvious problem of proving its scope and fees.

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Re: Getting rid of real estate agents

Postby JR8 » Tue, 04 Nov 2014 3:21 pm

x9200 wrote:
JR8 wrote:If you did not engage the agent, and do not have such a contract, then one has to ask on what legal basis are you bound to pay them? If the reply is 'industry practice' then that's just not good enough; it doesn't stand up.

Legal basis is a verbal agreement, perfectly valid but with obvious problem of proving its scope and fees.


I don't know many people who would enter into a verbal-only contract with an agent. But I'll rephrase it then, to accommodate those who might...

'If you did not engage the agent, and do not have such a contract (written or verbal), then one has to ask on what legal basis are you bound to pay them? If the reply is 'industry practice' then that's just not good enough; it doesn't stand up.'
'Do it or do not do it: You will regret both' - Kierkegaard

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Re: Getting rid of real estate agents

Postby x9200 » Tue, 04 Nov 2014 4:28 pm

JR8 wrote:
x9200 wrote:
JR8 wrote:If you did not engage the agent, and do not have such a contract, then one has to ask on what legal basis are you bound to pay them? If the reply is 'industry practice' then that's just not good enough; it doesn't stand up.

Legal basis is a verbal agreement, perfectly valid but with obvious problem of proving its scope and fees.


I don't know many people who would enter into a verbal-only contract with an agent. But I'll rephrase it then, to accommodate those who might...

'If you did not engage the agent, and do not have such a contract (written or verbal), then one has to ask on what legal basis are you bound to pay them? If the reply is 'industry practice' then that's just not good enough; it doesn't stand up.'


Verbal agreements are extremally common, this is only that people don't realize they enter such agreements. The reply is not an industrial practice but the fact of the engagement and the extent of the job done (and possible to be proven).


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