16 November 2023, Gulf News
The Dubai real estate market is unmatched, yet it harbors some perplexing behaviors on the part of real estate agents.
Statements like ‘I only deal with offplan properties’ strip the ‘real’ out of real estate, while ‘I don’t work with other agents’ signifies a worrying divergence from collaborative practice. Moreover, queries about accepting top-ups signal a decline in transparency, which should be the industry’s cornerstone.
On closer examination, the reasons behind these practices become apparent, primarily revolving around incentives and commissions. Firstly, offplan sales predominantly involve brochure presentations, thus encountering fewer objections.
Secondly, offplan properties often do not require full payment upfront, allowing significant transactions to be secured for a fraction of their total value, thereby swiftly securing commissions.
Thirdly, commissions from offplan sales are typically much higher—sometimes three to five times more than ready property sales—offered by developers to motivate agents to focus on these projects. More commissions, fewer physical showings, no family critiques, smaller down payments, and less buyer hesitation make offplan an attractive option for agents.
On the sentiment ‘I don’t deal with other agents’ also boils down to commissions. Agents often prefer not to split commissions, which leads to a disconnect. Normally, one agent would represent the seller and another the buyer, each advocating for their respective client’s best interests.
What’s with these ‘top-ups’?
Nowadays, agents may prioritize their interests, which leads to the practice of adding ‘top-ups’. It carries ethical concerns and can distort market values. It raises serious questions: Are properties being fairly valued or inflated?
In a market where neither sellers nor buyers are adequately represented, the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) needs to scrutinize these practices closely. While RERA has effectively adopted international best practices, recent trends have become a significant concern.
On top-ups, a typical sale will constitute of several agents who work at several agencies and where all parties take a cut of the commission. In a market where only the buyer pays commission, the agency and the agent will start coming up with all sorts of creative ways to increase the price to take a piece of the action. This is destructive to most deals taking place in the market.
Where the same buyer is represented by multiple agents, this creates a false buyer demand scenario. This must be amended for the collective good of the market.
RERA should enforce compliance with international norms, where both sellers and buyers pay commissions and with exclusive representation.
This change would ensure that transparency and integrity are at the forefront, creating a marketplace that protects the interests of all.