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Old 31.03.2011, 12:00
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Property agent idea - input please!

I just wrote a painstakingly long well written post and managed to delete it aaaaargh!! .....

I am a Swiss / British woman living in Montreux, and have lived in Vaud and Geneva for the last 6 years. I have worked in several fields including relocation. I have had this business idea come to me on and off since 2008 when I knew a British couple living in Geneva trying to buy a property (with only English language) who were having a tough time with real estate agents and the market in general. They both worked full time and said they would gladly pay somebody to search for a home for them full time fitting their criteria.

Last night on this forum (I will try to find the link) there was a Lady living in Zurich who was looking to buy a property in the centre for 2 million - she was talking about also how she would love somebody local and knowledgable to help, she said good properties seemed to go fast, and she mentioned that if it existed she would gladly pay a generous 'success fee' to someone that could find her the right property.

What do you think is this a good business idea? To help expatriates buy homes here? One good reason they would require (my theoretical so far only! :-)) my services is the language (i am fluent in french and english) also the 'time poor' factor, most people looking to buy property have demanding jobs and are very busy, also lack knowledge of the area. My company would be able to visit properties on the clients behalf, take photographs etc, find all new properties fitting the criteria of the clients, contact daily by telephone or email the client with desired properties and updates on properties they have expressed interest in, information about local schools, transport link etc etc.

i would have to charge a very small fee to cover telephone expenses and registration / paperwork etc. - say literally only about SFR200.00, and then the only cost to the client would be the end 'success fee' upon directly finding the client a suitable property that he or she then purchases.

Obviously this idea is still very rough - I just wanted to get some input and any comments you may have. Your a helpful bunch! I haven't heard of such a service here.. and there do seem to be a lot of expats that buy in the riviera region. Naturally there are relocation consultants (but even then they seem to only work with companies such as procter and gamble, nestle etc?) and obviously there are real estate agents - but as the woman from zurich pointed out in here post, they are biased to only their properties, there is the language barrier, and they do not cover all properties within the desired criteria of the client.

anyway, this post is loooooong - sorry!! thanks for any help, i look forward to your answers :-)

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Old 31.03.2011, 12:18
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Re: Property agent idea - input please!

You mean like an independent estate agent who speaks english? Lots of them exist already so how you would be different?
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Old 31.03.2011, 12:53
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Re: Property agent idea - input please!

I own my home, so have some experience of buying without an agent - and yes, it's a tad daunting not to have anyone on one's side when making a purchase of this magnitude. (I come from the US, where typically a property purchase involves both buyer's and seller's agents.) I am now looking to purchase another property more appropriate to my needs and then sell this one - but I've been searching for the right property for years without success.

I don't know the Vaud area, so my comments apply to my experiences looking for property in SZ - a market where prices are spiraling out of control, where competition is hot for even the worst properties, where warnings of a bubble seem to be in the news every week.

Here's my 5 Rp:

The market for the type of property I need is tighter than tight - only a few properties have come up in the last 5 years - those that do go for 2,3,5 times the suggested price. It's not a question of having local language skills - most people in my position already have that, nor a question of lack of time - after all, one can free up one's schedule for the one property per year that goes on the market. Rather, it's a question of connection, the proverbial Vitamin B.

So how connected are you? Do you play Jass with local notary? Do you regularly meet with the head of the local Bauamt through the school Elternverein? Are you part of the Bauerninnenverein coffee circle? In other words, how will you find the properties that are never advertised? Let's face it, anyone can find properties listed in Homegate. But most properties in this area are sold word-of-mouth. In the 2 mio market it seems connections are what lead to a successful sale - and connections are what expats lack often lack.

In the 5+ mio market, it's money, money, money - can you compete against the developers who plan to tear down the house and put up a development of 20 flats?

A concrete example: I recently looked at a property, the only Landwirtschaft property to come on the market in the last 18 months. The property was shown only at at two open houses, and offers must be made by closed bid. No negotiation. There were over 50 people each day at the open houses, most were accompanied by architects. It was made clear that any offer not a multiple of the suggest price would be laughable. Would you be in a position to help someone like me, what could you provide to even the odds in such a case?

And given that the competition for properties could mean years of searching - if you are using a fee for successful purchase model, do you think you'd be successful often enough to cover your costs?

To be honest, as a buyer I would be skeptical of anything other than a payment on successful completion bases, because of the odds - chances of success are so slim that any other fee structure would be money thrown out the window from my perspective.

I think there is a need, but given how tight the market is - how would you go about convincing someone like me that you can indeed get me my dream property?

(No need to answer these questions, just something to think about.)

Also, consider after-sale services. Are you in a position to help a new owner wade through the labyrinth of renovation permits, find contractors, etc.? If so, that is also a valuable service - and one a language challenged home owner might need.)

Good luck with your venture.
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Old 05.04.2011, 22:07
Alan Hill
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Re: Property agent idea - input please!

I am aware of two businesses that offer this service in Vaud.

I think the main issues you face are:

1) How many potential clients are there? e.g How many people want to move here and buy a property immediately? How many do not have the time/inclination to come house hunting?

For instance, I moved here to retire and bought a property. Part of the fun was finding a property. I did not want someone to look for me.

2) How would you find clients or rather how would they find you? A website is key but it is easier said than done to get a good profile on google.

3) How would you charge? Unless a person is very rich, most would want some kind of fixed fee service. This might make it difficult to make a profit.

4) In my experience the area where most people want help is finding a rented acommodation. I guess there is not much money in that though.

I hope these thoughts help.
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Old 05.04.2011, 22:32
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Re: Property agent idea - input please!

Considering your user name, are you already offering this service?

To be honest, there are plenty of very good real estate agents in the area that speak English. Anyone who can afford your services can afford to hire a translator, a PA or a relocation agent, all of whom can help in the property hunt.

I can't see what you would bring that would add value beyond what is already available. As Alan said, are there really that many clients for such a service?
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Old 06.04.2011, 22:32
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Re: Property agent idea - input please!

The swiss property market is not good for buyer's agents. A buyer needs an agent if there are hundreds of object on the market and going through all of them is time consuming. it's also useful if the buyer would like to negotiate more efficiently. In switzerland, there might be only ten objects at a given time on the market for a given region. Negotiation is also difficult.

Furthermore, Vaud has very peculiar laws, especially for condos. For example the sale of many apartments needs to be pre-approved by the Canton which can take months. You will need to learn all this if you don't already know about it.

And a final thought. In Vaud, the buyer pays about 5% of the purchase price for taxes, notary, etc. which is usually not financed by the bank (meaning that for property of 1million, the buyer need 50k (cash) on top of the 200k equity). Not sure many buyers would agree to pay an additional percentage to an agent. Perhaps there are more opportunities as a simple consultant charging a flat fee. you would explain the process, give them tips and maybe help them with some calls, but they would ultimately be doing everything (because there really isn't that much to do besides visiting all the 10 properties on the market).
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