Real estate agents exist for at least one reason: homeowners looking to sell their houses can’t hawk them on streets or post them off to buyers. Houses are heavy things; people who own them are usually involved in some other business that pay more regularly. They need agents to hunt down buyers because they, probably, don’t have the time or connections, they’ll need to do so successfully.
Prospective buyers also have to make the most of the little free time they come upon to find the best houses they can afford. This mission could be stressful and energy sapping, even in the world’s most organized towns and cities. In developing countries like Nigeria, where the streets are mazy and intra-city transportation is a testing ordeal, house-scouting without an agent is a sure way to get yourself totally worn out and utterly disappointed.
There are good reasons to want a real estate agency job. Nigeria currently struggles with a huge housing supply deficit- the country has 17 million less houses than it should. A real estate boom in recent years has coincided with (or has been driven by) a growth in the size of the middle class (an expansion that has been halted by the recession).
New housing estates have sprung up in major urban centers- Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt -and even in second and third-tier cities. Estate development companies and single homeowner need people to rent or buy their property, and millions of people are searching for decent accomodation. Agents are in business to link these parties; consequently, their services are in demand.
If you’re interested in becoming a real estate agent, you should follow the following steps to getting into the business and succeeding in it.
- Educate yourself
Don’t panic. You don’t need any specific degree or certification to gain entry into the business. Perhaps people with, say, a degree in Estate Management might be preferred by big real estate firms or picky home owners. But even with these sorts of sellers, it’s not a rule. Because the real estate market in Nigeria is largely unregulated, there’s no standard eligibility requirement for people who want to become agents.
However, if you’re keen on doing it big and becoming a real estate expert and consultant, you may take a real estate management course with a training college or center. It’s true that most estate agents operate informally, but standing out of the whole lot of agents might require that you have some kind of formal training related to estate management.
- Learn and perfect the art of selling
There’s an art to selling houses. It’s not just about pasting your contact details on walls or capturing customers’ hearts with ego-massaging smooth talk. First, you’ll have to convince the seller that you are trustworthy and have what it takes to close good sales. Then, you need to learn to communicate with buyers in ways that show you know what they need. It’s marketing on at least two opposite fronts, so you should prepare different pitch messages for them.
In speaking to the selling party about your ability to get a suitable buyer (or tenant) for his property, you will do well to emphasize that you know what the seller wants: a person or people who can pay good money for his goods. Appearance is important too; if you present yourself as a smartly dressed business minded agent and speak as one who knows the housing market well, you’re likely to be taken seriously. As for negotiating for commissions, take care to thread the line between being a sheepish pushover and a greedy headstrong obstacle. In most cases, you’ll get between 5% and 20% of what the buyer pays.
Build a rapport with the potential buyer as well. Try to get beneath their demands to find what really motivates them. Listen to them speak; glean their wants, but also excavate for their mannerisms, biases and sentiments, loves and hates, and general conduct. Play along with the characteristics you find in them, and show sympathy, when you see that they’re moaning about costs or something similar.
The supply of future estate agency gigs may depend on how you’re perceived by home buyers and sellers. You’ll want to take your relationship with them seriously.
- Find mentors and learn from exemplary figures in your field
Mentorship from experienced real estate agents could be really valuable. Of course, you might do just fine without a wise head in the industry advising you on things, once in a while. But, you have a better chance of avoiding common mistakes and leapfrogging a few growth stages if you get good tips and contact linkups from a mentor.
Keep up with the trends in your line of business, watch the big hitters, and learn from them.
- Know the neighbourhood
Before you go off to find a buyer or tenant for a house, you should learn as much as you can about the community in which it is located. You don’t want to get embarrassed by simple questions about the neighbourhood posed by potential buyers. Visit the area once in a while, talk with the people who live and work there, and learn the name of the streets, restaurants, schools, hospitals, and popular landmarks. The confidence you get from having all this knowledge at your disposal will get you buoyed for successful sales.
There’s also a greater chance that you’ll get more referrals from previous clients. Someone they know may be looking to buy or rent a house or office space, in the area you’ve shown yourself to be knowledgeable about. They will likely send that person your way.
- Spread the word online and offline
Get the word out about your services via social media. Put up information about the houses you’re seeking buyers for, accompanied with pictures and videos of those properties. You can also have such details published on online listing websites such as Connect Nigeria’s portal.
Inform your friends, family and acquaintances that you’re a real estate agent. Tell them to give you a heads upwhenever they find someone who wants to buy or sell a house. Who knows, you might get a good flow of orders from them, something you can start off with. In fact, this is probably your best bet for a first gig as an agent. Never take those close to you for granted in matters related to business.