According to Macau law, the duties of real estate agencies and agents cover the acquisition, disposal or leasing of real estate and the assignment of lease contracts. Whether you’re a new arrival or a long-term Macau resident, a local or an expat, when it comes to renting, buying or selling, it is always advisable to check around town for a reputable real estate agent to support you.
‘Separating the wheat from the chaff’
Go online and check the various agency websites, ask friends for recommendations. Make up a short list of two or three. Next step, send them an email and see how quick they are to respond (or if they reply at all!) From the tone of their email, do they sound like they’re genuinely interested to be helpful, or do they sound more ‘transactional’?
Then set up a time to meet them, in person, ideally in their office. If for whatever reason this is not possible then at the very least have a phone call with them. Emails are too impersonal; when it comes to something as important as finding your next home or office, or getting the very best deal for a place you are selling, it’s crucial to build a relationship with your agent so that there is clear understanding and trust on both sides.
Be sure you know what you want, and list it
For your initial meeting or call, have a prepared detailed list of your requirements and take note of how attentive the agents are to these, are they asking sensible, appropriate questions to really drill down on how best to support you? From this you should be able to judge who you want to work with.
Your requirements list should cover more than ‘I need 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms’. Do you need furniture for example and if so, exactly what furniture? as you may already have a bed and a sofa you cant part with and your agent will need to know this before starting their search. Timing – when can you realistically sign a lease and will you have all the necessary funds in place by then? A thorough agent will be able to help guide you through any ‘hidden agendas’ that you might not have thought of – waiting for your Macau ID to come through before accepting a sale for example, or that you’ve got 3 cats so will need a pet-friendly landlord.
Trust, loyalty and transparency
You’ll find in particular that your chosen agent will go the extra mile, and more, if they feel that they can trust you to stay loyal and transparent with them. Likewise, they will be loyal and transparent with you.
In some countries, when you view properties with an agent, one is legally obliged, should you wish to lease or buy one of these properties, to use the agent who showed it to you. Usually, you are expected to sign some kind of documentation in this regard. In Macau, agents are also obliged under their licensing practice to produce similar documentation for signing, though its quite rare that you’ll be asked to do so. It’s more a case of polite protocol and frankly good manners to stay loyal to the agent who has introduced and shown you the property.
Even though the nature of the business can be time-consuming and often unrewarding, its thoroughly disheartening to an agent who will spend time carefully planning and organizing viewings of suitable properties, coordinating with owners, buyers and partner agents, and spending hours driving potential tenants/buyers from one place to another, only to be unceremoniously dumped without even the politeness of a phone call, if the right place or the right buyer has been found with others. As a real estate agent myself I’ve certainly experienced this on more than a few occasions, and then, if something goes wrong, the tenant or buyers come back to me for help to fix things!
Macau is a small town, and a little respect goes a long way. If you treat your agent respectfully you’ll find you’ll get it back from them in spades!
Having an agent who knows the ‘inside track’ of the local real estate market is invaluable. They will guide you in the market conditions which govern your selling, buying or leasing process. A good agent, once they have a clear understanding of your needs, will scan the market thoroughly for properties to introduce you to and importantly, not just their own listings, but listings that are with other, trusted agents. Too often I see in Macau that potential tenants or buyers are only shown properties that their agent has a direct listing with the owner – thereby being able to earn agency commission from both sides. So double-check with your agent exactly what marketing channels they are using, and ask to see examples. You want to make sure that you’re being shown ALL options that they can reasonably identify.
Negotiation on your behalf is, of course, a key component to the value of a good agent. However, remember that it’s not always the price that can be negotiated. If you’re looking to rent a property, for example, don’t be just hung up by the rent. Remember the old adage that ‘the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten’!
There are a number of creative ways to structure a deal that can be a win-win for both landlord and tenant. There’s usually some rent-free move-in period, or there may be a car park or a clubhouse membership, or internet, CableTV or even utilities that can be included. Likewise with purchases and sales, variables such as transaction time, furnishings, maybe even a leaseback arrangement can be part of the negotiations.
Due Diligence and Documentation
In all property transactions, good, clear, correct documentation is crucial. Under Macau law, the agents’ fiduciary duties include the exercise of reasonable diligence and disclosure of necessary information. A real estate agent won’t replace a lawyer but they should be expected to provide knowledgeable advice to ensure that all correct procedures are followed.
In Macau, buyers and sellers pay their agents the equivalent of 1% of the final sale/purchase price. For leasing, the industry practice is payment by the tenant of the equivalent of one month rent. Its worth to note that sometimes, depending on individual landlords and also market situation, that landlords will not pay their agent any commission. So their agent will either depend on the tenant’s commission or if the tenant is coming through another agent, will require a share of that agent’s earnings. In these cases, the amount of effort taken by the agent can reap slim rewards. And this can lead to shoddy service. This is another reason why some agents only want to show their potential tenants to properties that they have directly listed with an owner.
Once a tenant has been settled into their new home, their agent is under no obligation to continue giving further assistance. However, most reputable agents will maintain the relationship and help wherever possible during the lease period.
Agency fees for lease renewals vary from one agent to another in Macau. Some may charge a few hundred dollars, some charge up to a full month equivalent of rent. Its important to establish with your agent what service these fees are covering. If they will be staying in touch with you throughout the new lease and continuing to support you as the conduit to the landlord for any maintenance issues that crop up, then its certainly fair to pay renewal fees to cover their time and effort spent.
For any real estate-related inquiries, don’t hesitate to contact Suzanne Watkinson:
Ambiente Properties 2F Comercial Infante Building, 17a Rua do Dr. Pedro Jose Lobo, Macau, +853 6622 8541, www.ambiente.mo, [email protected]