Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 20th 2014 Contents In the search for a home, one of the first points of
contact for many people---even before financing---is a
real estate agent or agency.
While several buyers, sellers and, more recently, developers
are opting to bypass real estate agents and deal directly with
customers, a real estate agent still remains an important go-
between for those who are looking for homes.
In the local context, the real estate agent acts usually on
the behalf of a seller looking for a buyer of property. To a
lesser extent, they also help buyers find places to live (see
Table on Duties of a Real Estate Agent).
The Association of Real Estate Agents (AREA), which was
incorporated in 1990, "has evolved into an organisation which
is leading the real estate industry and its related fields," this
according to its Web site. By the association s estimate, mem-
bership represents about 25 per cent of agents and agencies
in T&T, with the rest of the industry remaining largely unreg-
In a recent interview, the president of the Association of
Real Estate Agents (AREA) Mark Edghill, executive secretary,
Mary Jardine and long time member, Mark Farrell discussed
the current state of the real estate market from the perspective
of the agents.
One defining characteristic of the country s real estate
market, in recent years, is that sellers have the advantage.
Afra Raymond says in "Property Matters"---a compilation
of a series of articles penned for the Business Guardian---that
prevailing economic conditions of high liquidity and low
interest rates have created an environment where purchasing
property is seen as a preferred mode of investment and where
returns are sure, as the value of property continues to increase.
AREA confirmed this trend of a seller s market where vendors
are able to ask for and, for the most part, get what they want.
Meanwhile, because of low interest rates, buyers are able to
acquire loans at preferential rates. Because property acquisition
is taken with a view to investment, the AREA president says
most sellers do not need to offload properties right away.
In essence, the buyer and the seller are feeding off of each
other, creating in a cycle that pushes prices up. This Raymond
has termed the "property bubble."
According to Raymond, the "bubble" locks out all those
not contained within. These are usually younger people and
those of middle income who cannot compete in a market with
prices set under these conditions.
AREA is aware of a general perception by the public that
real estate agents are somehow colluding with other market
stakeholders to keep prices high but says this perception is
As Edghill explained, agents receive commission on the sale
of their properties, but this does not mean they will encourage
high prices in hopes of receiving higher percentages.
From his own experience, Edghill says vendors are advised
to sell at a certain price, but tend to believe they can get more
for their properties.
"Agents always get blamed. But the agents follow instructions
because that is their job. They are supposed to provide infor-
mation to the vendors based on what is going on in the market,
based on the demand and based on the values in the area,
how long ago it sold, the condition of the property. They are
to use that to guide what kind of price they can expect if they
want it to sell. The lower the price, the faster we will turn
it over. Why would we want to push the price up? It would
take longer to make marginally more, so it s not really practical
to do that."
Jardine acknowledges the need for middle income, middle-
class housing and, as agents, they have been advocating the
creation of more of these.
The 2011 Central Statistical Office Report has called central
Trinidad a "growth pole" and predicted that people looking
for housing will begin to view central Trinidad as an attractive
AREA admits this is partially true.
Edghill said: "People will want to find housing where ameni-
ties are available, employment is available. Chaguanas is a
developing area ...the cineplex, Price Plaza and Pricesmart.
People obviously want to be nearby or close to those types
He added that international energy companies were also
looking for locations their south and central-based employees
can get to easily. This, in turn, will fuel future demand for
properties in central Trinidad, as the companies increasingly
begin to base operations there.
The need for middle class, middle-income housing is so
acute that AREA says people have been going anywhere they
can afford property. The consensus of the AREA members
interviewed by the Sunday BG is that the search has pushed
potential homeowners into areas defined as "rural."
But AREA also believes the Government remains a critical
partner in helping people reach their goal of acquiring a home.
Government action necessary
AREA said it has served in an advisory capacity to successive
governments on real estate matters.
Edghill recalls one of the association s more recent projects:
working with the Ministry of Legal Affairs Consumer Division
on its public rent consultation in 2012.
He said even though there were recommendations coming
out of the consultation, no action appears to have been taken.
Edghill said they have also proposed the idea that government
focus on middle class, middle-income homeowners as opposed
to low-income housing. This way, government can earn a
profit from lands for housing by selling to the middle-income
earner, as opposed to using taxpayers money to subsidise low-
income. The profits generated can then be used to build homes
for low-income families.
So far, this is yet another idea AREA has seen no action on
and Edghill said it has become typical for the government to
talk about plans for sustainable development in the housing
market, but not to act on them.
"This would encourage tertiary educated, middle-income
graduates to stay in the country instead of looking for oppor-
tunities outside because they cannot afford to buy a home
based on their current income."
Calls to create and implement legislation designed to give
greater protection to real estate agents, sellers and buyers have
also gone largely unheeded, according to the association.
Edghill admits that as much as 75 per cent of the people
who deal in real estate fall outside of AREA s umbrella. And
usually, when there are complaints from home buyers, they
often come from agents in this bracket.
"There is no legislation mandating that people are qualified
for or have to be licensed to become real estate agents.
"We have many who get into real estate for a day or two
and cause problems. A lot of unethical practices take place."
But the situation extends to the macro-level. There is no
legal requirement for properties to be registered so this makes
it difficult to follow transactions over time.
Edghill complains it is difficult to get a true sense of the
market because of this lack of historical data.
APRIL 20 • 2014 www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN
The REAL advantage
AREA head, Mark Edghill, discusses
homeownership and the seller's market
Duties of a real estate agent/agency
• Negotiating price on behalf of the seller
• Advertising property through appropriate channels
• Organising open houses to view the property
• Answering queries about the property on behalf of a buyer
• Ensuring that potential buyers are pre-qualified
• Providing advice on mortgages
• Providing documentation needed by the buyer's attorney
• Assist with the drawing up of a sales agreement between
the seller and buyer
• Collect and deposit downpayment in seller's behalf
For more information on real estate agent duties and tips on
understanding the real estate market can be found on the asso-
ciation's Web site www.areatt.com.
They have proposed the idea that government focus on middle class, middle-income homeowners as
opposed to low-income housing. This way, government can earn a profit from lands for housing by selling to the
middle-income earners, as opposed to using taxpayers money to subsidise low-income.
The profits generated can then be used to build homes for low-income families.
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