I really feel for buyers at the moment.  Stock levels for properties available to purchase are at historically low levels, 120,000 less than the same time five years ago.

Couple this with the massive increase in migration (see graph below which maps approximately 600,000 migrating to Australia in 2023), and you can understand the reason the property market is hot right now, with no signs of slowing down.

Markets like this bring up a range of new challenges, and it also means agents have an increasing amount of power in the buying process.

Good v bad

Professional agents are adapting to the market and continuing to manage buyer interactions with respect and care – after all buyers will eventually be sellers so good agents will always take a long term view to building relationships.

But we’re seeing an increase in extremely bad agent behaviour, and last week was a prime example of this.

Here’s a summary of what happened

Grab a coffee and settle in.

The property was listed a few weeks ago, and was picked up by our early alert system. We contacted the agent to collect background and the agent guided the price expectations at $1,050,000. An open was scheduled for the coming Saturday.

Saturday arrives – the open has been cancelled and the property has been withdrawn from the market. Called the agent – who we will call ‘Larry’ (not his real name but a close representation). Larry says the owner is ‘away’ so they have postponed the open. Weird because the property was vacant so the owner clearly wasn’t living there. First red flag.

Larry starts calling us. Frequently. Asks us to put in an offer on the property. We haven’t yet viewed the property, so we explain we want to view the property before submitting an offer. Larry asks why we would bother viewing in person. Second red flag.

The property is finally re-listed with a new open time. We speak to Larry who says the guide price is now $1,200,000. Starts pressuring us to put in an offer. But . . we still haven’t viewed the property. Larry jokes he will give us a good price. Red flag number 3.

We attend the first open with only two other groups in attendance. Larry increases his frequency of calls and texts to us. Now says price guide is $1,180,000 but jokes he will decrease the guide to $1,150,000 next week. Like . . what an idiot . . right? I mean . .we’re good at building relationships with agents, but why would he tell us he’s going to keep reducing the price guide? We know his game is to hunt for the first offer, so he can shop it around to other buyers and then start driving the price up again . .but Larry’s approach is pretty stupid. Red flag number 4. We’re settling in for a great game.

A few days after the ‘I’m going to keep dropping the guide’ conversation we notice the property is now listed for auction . . but in seven weeks’ time. Larry stupidly has to leap across the sales death spiral of Easter, school holidays, and Anzac Day, so really can’t do much else than choose an exceptionally long sales period. We check in with Larry who tells us the property is DEFINITELY going to auction and no offers will be taken prior to auction. Mmm . . maybe he’s just an idiot or his vendor is wavering . . still earns another red flag . . Number 5.

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Mini problem . .our buyers are a couple, and one of the people in the couple LOVED this property and was starting to lose patience with Larry. So . . she decided to give Larry a quick, incognito call to ask about the price expectations. This meant Larry had our client’s number and he went in hard. Our side’s fault, but still red flag number 6.

An intense amount of calls and texts are sent by Larry to our client – amping up the pressure and telling her he had multiple offers and the only way Larry could present offers was with a signed contract, 10% deposit and a 66W (the property was in NSW and the 66W document means you’re buying under auction conditions, effectively taking the property ‘as is’ with no cooling period). AND the price is now back to $1,200,000. Larry says our client would need to be at this price or better to have any chance of buying it. More red flags – just going to stop counting.

More pressure on our client. Larry says he is going to take offers to his owner within a few hours and that the property will sell ‘this evening’. Let’s set aside the fact that Larry wanted our buyer to sign a ‘blank’ contract which didn’t have the inclusions listed. So the quick deadline meant no time to coordinate a contract review which Larry says isn’t anything to worry about. Geeez.  Our buyer tells Larry she wants to do a building + pest inspection . . Larry texts her back saying she can do this after she signs the contract and the 66W. TOTALLY misleading our client . . note to you – if you find a major issue during the building and pest inspection after you have signed a contract with a 66W you cannot withdraw from the purchase. You have no leverage.

Thankfully, our buyer had been keeping us in the loop and she ended up telling Larry to just deal with us. This opened up a whole other avenue of argument from Larry . . “you’re better off dealing with me directly”, “deal with me directly and you’ll get a much better price”, “I will look after you better than those pesky buyers agents”, etc.

Long story short, our buyer blanked Larry after telling him once and for all to work through us. We took over the negotiations and submitted a written offer – which of course was substantially lower than $1,200,000 and without 10% deposit. Despite push back from Larry – who wanted the signed contract etc – the offer was presented to the owner . . we ‘reminded’ Larry he was required to take the offer to the owner.

What a surprise (I say wryly) . . Larry comes back to us the following day. Oh . . the owner would be prepared to sell to us for the price we offered. To ‘help us’ get it over the line, he will need a signed contract and 66W. Ugh. So . . we organised our solicitor to liaise with the owner’s solicitor and ended up with all our conditions accepted – this included an extended settlement timeframe, 5% deposit, early access, use of the sale images, and an extensive range of other conditions – basically the owner approved every request we made.

While the contract negotiations were in progress, we booked a building and pest inspection. This meant Larry would run another open before we could review the inspection report. Adding to the long list of all the shonky things Larry had said and done by this point, when we booked the building and pest he told us the inspector would be restricted to only 30 minutes to conduct the inspection, and that it would need to be done at the same time as the open. Oh my gxxd. What an absolute dirtbag. Of course, having an inspector go through the property while other potential buyers were viewing it would be worked in Larry’s favour. But restricting the time is absolutely unprofessional to say the least.

We’re up for the challenge though, so we made this situation work in our favour. We sent a fresh ‘viewer’ to visit the property so we could check how many buyers where there and also to see what Larry would say about the price. You’ll never guess what happened. Larry shockingly tells our viewer there’s two offers ‘on the table’ . . one at $1,115,000 and one at ‘our price’ which Larry proudly tells our viewer has been submitted by a buyers agent. So, Larry says, if our viewer can get over our price . . by even just a thousand dollars . . they can have the property. I’m seeing so much red now, I’ve stopped counting flags and starting to plan out my revenge. In reality, we know agents shop prices around, but usually they’re smart enough to not actually say the actual number.

Meanwhile, we’re being polite and biding our time. Larry continues his campaign . . hurry up, buyers mounting up, better put in your offer. So . . what happened with the auction . . you might be wondering? We asked about that. Larry tells us the owner is just keen to sell now. Yep. I bet he is. Because Larry’s approach has driven away other buyers and now everyone is standing back waiting to see what happens as the property still shows it being listed for auction.

Result – we won of course. We purchased at a substantially lower price than our client would have paid, plus we also completed our due diligence and had conditions approved that suited our clients.

The property was actually worth the fight, otherwise we wouldn’t have even attended the first open. The message though is that it’s important to understand the purchase process and your rights as a buyer.

If you would like to share your shonky agent examples, please send them on through to me at debra@propertyfrontline.com.au

Alternatively, If you’re over dealing with these weirdos, give us a call and we will take over the negotiations for you. We’re fresh from the fight : – ).

About the author

Debra Beck-Mewing is the Editor of the Property Portfolio Magazine and CEO of The Property Frontline.  She has more than 20 years’ experience in buying property Australia-wide and has extensive experience in helping buyers use a range of strategies including renovating, granny flats, sub-division and development. Debra is a skilled property strategist, and a master in identifying tailored opportunities, homes and sourcing properties that have multiple uses.  She is a Qualified Property Investment Advisor, licensed real estate agent and also holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Business. As a passionate advocate for increasing transparency in the property and wealth industries, Debra is a popular speaker on these topics.  She is also an author, podcast host, and participates on numerous committees including the Property Owners’ Association.

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Disclaimer – This information is of a general nature only and does not constitute professional advice.  We strongly recommend you seek your own professional advice in relation to your particular circumstances.