A house-hunting we will go with a broker in tow

Inquirer.net, 11-04-2014

MANILA, Philippines - Buying property can be a stressful task, but for Filipino families, getting the perfect home is the mark of a dream come true.

"One of the challenges that couples or families may face when selling, buying, or renting property is doing due diligence," says Angela Manese, residential division manager at the KMC Mag Group, a five-year real estate services firm at the Bonifiacio Global City that offers buying, selling, and leasing residential, office, and industrial properties as well as asset management and research and consultancy.

"This is important, especially when you're buying-you need to find out if there are other claims of ownership on the property or if it is being used as collateral for a bank loan. It can take a lot of time and effort to get all of this information, but a broker can do this on your behalf."

This is just one of the things that brokers can do for their clients, and Manese believes that families looking to invest in real estate can benefit from working with brokers because they offer value in terms of network, negotiations, and industry information.

"A broker can help connect buyers to sellers and landlords to tenants, and ensure that both parties get the most out of their deal," says Manese.

"First-time buyers may not know where to look, while sellers may be lowering their prices just to attract a buyer. A broker can provide information on the real estate market, and use that to help you make informed decisions," she says.

Despite the expertise that brokers offer, the lack of information on how to work with brokers and bad experiences with fly-by-night brokers still make a lot of Filipinos wary.

"There are brokers who just want to make a quick buck. Sometimes, they overprice the cost of the property to get more for themselves," says Manese. "Another thing that makes Filipino families wary is the cost of working with brokers. Some Filipino buyers or renters shy away from brokers because they think that there is an additional cost for them if they work with one, when in fact, it's usually the seller or the landlord who pays for the broker."

When should you start working with a broker? Manese recommends that families start looking for brokers before they start searching for property. "It's best to involve the broker in the beginning so that you can be directed to the right properties, based on your preferences," says Manese.

Manese shares some tips on how to find a broker, and how to work with your broker in order to get a space that best fits your needs:

Get in touch with a real estate services agency. "Working with a real estate services agency is a great way to make sure you're protected," advises Manese. "These firms usually have their own team of brokers, so you wouldn't need to spend a lot of time looking for one, and you can be assured that you can turn to someone if you have any questions or encounter problems with a transaction."

Other advantages of working with a real estate services agency include getting exposure and having access to quality properties. "Brokers don't just provide options. What we do is to make sure that you get to see the best properties in the market," says Manese.

Ask about your broker's license and their authority to sell or lease the property.  Before you start working with a broker, one thing that you should ask about is their license. Real estate brokers are required by the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) to take a licensure examination and to renew their license after three years.

Manese also advises buyers or tenants to ask for an authority to sell or lease the property, in order to ensure that the broker has been authorized by the owner or the landlord to offer it to you. "If your broker can't assure you that he has that authority, walk away," she emphasizes. "It might be difficult, because you've already spent a lot of time and effort, but starting over is easier than fighting over who really owns the property."

Don't be afraid to ask questions.  Buying, selling, or leasing out a property can involve a lot of documentation and processes and can be intimidating, but Manese encourages Filipinos to see their relationship with their broker as an opportunity to learn more about real estate.

"A broker can also help you figure out additional costs related to owning property, such as transfer taxes, payments for water and electricity meters, and real property taxes," shares Manese. "For expatriates, especially for those who have never been to Manila and have no idea where it's ideal to live, we sometimes act like tour guides, showing them the city."

If you're thinking of selling or leasing, invest in furnishing your unit.  "There are a lot of vacant properties, but not a lot of well-furnished ones. If you want to attract the best price or tenant for your property, don't treat the space as an object you want to sell," advises Manese. "Treat it as you would your own home. If you were looking, you should want to choose your unit."

Getting into specifics will bring you one step closer to your dream home. Manese notes that brokers typically offer properties based on location, budget, size, and unit condition. While some requests, such as proximity to schools and supermarkets, are applicable to most people, a 'good' home would mean different things for different families. One of her former clients, a single mother with two kids, chose a condo unit in Makati, as it fit her budget and was close to both her office and her children's daycare. Meanwhile, families of expatriates tend to go for bigger houses within exclusive villages, mainly for the space.

Manese shares that one of her clients once had a request that would actually determine if they moved at all.

"I recently found a home in Alabang for a family, and it was funny because the first thing that the Dad told me was "We have to be close to a school bus drop off, otherwise, we're not moving," says Manese. "His daughter was going to an international school, and when we were looking at houses, he was holding the list of streets where the school bus would pick up and drop off the kids. Because we knew exactly what he wanted, we were able to pick a house for him that's right across a designated pick up and drop off point."

Budgeting will also be critical, as the price difference among neighborhoods can be huge. "The price ranges are difficult to peg since it varies from neighborhood to neighborhood," Manese explains.  "It can range from Php160,000 to as much as Php400,000 per month, depending on the size of the house, the condition of the house, and the village where it is located."

For Manese, the most fulfilling part of the job would be learning more about the family she would be house-hunting with. "One of the clients I had most fun house-hunting with was a family with three kids," says Manese. "It's always fun to go to viewings with families with kids. It's interesting to get to know the kids that will eventually run along the hallways of the house, jump around the garden, and swim in the house's pool. When we were talking, the parents emphasized that being close to a good school was a priority over being close to their workplaces. It was cool to see that whatever their situation, parents put their kids' comfort over their own."

Enjoy the process.  House-hunting may be nerve-wracking-it might be difficult to find a place that would accommodate most, if not all, of your needs-but remember that aside from your spouse and your kids, your broker will be there to help you find the right home.

"As the broker, our goal is to be able to find the space that will best fit you and your family," says Manese. "House-hunting can be challenging, but with our support, you can find a home that will fit your budget, your routine, and your family's needs."