Ah yes, the “Real Estate Agent” … profession of default for the mildly educated expatriate … second only to “English Teacher”.
Where I live on the Eastern Seaboard of Thailand, there are well over 300 Property agents and agencies hanging their shingle as purveyors of land, house and all other manner of abode. From corporate conglomerates like Colliers and CB Richard Ellis to humble little shop-house operations like “Location, Location, Location Property Partners”; everyone wants a piece of the real estate pie.
This past week I had the formidable task of sorting this list down to a manageable target and visiting those I thought were most capable of renting or selling my condo near Jomtien Beach. The agent who sold me the unit is the best candidate as his firm also built and now manages the low-rise luxury building. Naturally I listed with him. But, in Thailand there are no rules or even a clearly defined etiquette regarding property listing or sale. So, I decided to go on a road show, listing with as many agents as possible.
Lucky for me, my sales agent gave me a short list of companies that met 3 criteria; 1) they were familiar with the building 2) they were familiar with Jomtien Beach and 3) they advertise a lot.
My first visit was to Alan Bolton Property Consultants, a big slick agency that inhabits a huge chunk of ground-floor shopping mall space in the center of town. I saw at least 6 foreign agents and a handful of Thai helpers busily moving about, clicking computer keys and carrying on animated phone calls. The agent who helped me was a young Irish guy with spiked hair and a ridiculously thick accent. He efficiently loaded my pictures and information from my thumb-drive, had me sign the commission agreement, and I was out of there in 15 minutes.
There was no offer to visit the property. My listing would be added immediately to the website. Since the condo photographed well, my listing would be included in the next double page space ad in various local property publications. This was quite obviously a media-lead driven organization. I left wondering how they wrangled all those foreign work permits.
The next stop was what I thought was a mega-shop called Fair Properties. This company advertises heavily and takes up a big corner on a main road between Pattaya and Jomtien Beach. It’s the kind of building people reference as a landmark when giving directions. The giant storefront windows are plastered with dozens of property listings facing out for passersby to ogle; an oversized blue-and-white sign hanging over the road.
Inside the place looked like an empty airplane hangar. In the corner sat one pitiful desk with a young Thai girl slumped over her keyboard eating fried rice and playing video games. After we settled on a language somewhere between Thai and English, she accepted my thumb-drive and jammed it into her computer. Within 3 keyboard strokes she erased all the files on my thumb-drive and staring at me blankly proclaimed, “mot lao”. Roughly translated this means, “finished already”. In other words, she was telling me nothing was on my storage device. She went back to attending her rice and Pokemon game.
Stunned and amazed, I stumbled a few doors down to another well publicized local agent, Seaboard Properties. The place reminded me of one of those “Ice Bars” that are so popular now. Everything was stainless and hospital white. The air conditioner turned down to “glacier”, the 4-girl staff had to wear a few layers of clothing to keep their teeth from chattering.
Three of the agents were clones of each other; manicured, coifed and immaculately dressed in little “Jackie-O” outfits. The fourth agent, and obviously the boss, was an older Asian lady from somewhere other than Thailand. She checked my thumb-drive and confirmed that the information had been erased. “Sometimes they just keep pushing the buttons” she said, apologizing for her “competitor” a few doors down.
Miss Ja, the English speaking clone, helped me fill out an information form while one of the other clones served me a really nice cappuccino. When I left Miss Ja gave me a card with a reference ID number on it. She told me to e-mail the information and my listing would be up in 24 hours. An appointment was made to visit the condo the next day.
During the next week I would visit 7 other property agents. Every experience as varied as the first three. I stayed away from big multi-nationals like CB Richard Ellis as they tend to represent cadres of big developers and really have no interest in selling or renting my one unit for a measly 5% commission. I also avoided the really small mom and pop operators as they tend to be “buyer’s agents” interested more in bargaining than transaction.
Two weeks on, I am reviewing the efficacy of my effort as well as the agents.
Of the eleven agencies I listed with, 6 had me on their website within 48 hours. All 6 featured my listing as “new” or “hot” or some other promotional heading. 3 placed my condo in space advertising in one or more local property and investment publications. 2 visited the property before showing it (counting the agent who sold it to me).
To date the property has been seen by 8 prospective buyers. All were with the 2 agents who had actually seen the property before showing it. It doesn’t take long to separate professional realtors from “list it and they will come” property mills.
But, if the truth be told, I wouldn’t really appreciate the 2 outstanding agents if I hadn’t been exposed to the 9 others. Kissing the property frog … it’s a matter of research really.
About the Author: Bart Walters is a retired advertising executive from Orlando, Florida. He is now a part-time real estate developer celebrating his 10th year in Thailand. Bart lived several years in Bangkok, spent 3 years on the island of Phuket and now resides in Ban Amphur on Thailand’s eastern seaboard.
To view the condo he has for sale go to either http://www.towncountryproperty.com/condos/jomtien-condo/15401.html or http://www.seaboard-properties.com/?page=property&id=1439
[Editor’s note: I have corresponded with many fantastic people during my time with Escape Artist but Bart Walters is by far one of the most entertaining and genuine people I have had the pleasure to be in contact with. Bart writes about life in Thailand and permits me to use his work in exchange for a link back to the charity website that raises money for an orphanage in Thailand. Please take a moment to visit the site, donate if you can and help support a good cause. Please go to www.care4kids.info Thank you]