How To Deal With Agents – An Insider’s Guide

GoodPlace Property Agent

This GoodPlace guide is a continuation of sorts from the last guide on how to find a good property deal. The tip in particular on dealing with real estate agents was admittedly rather short, and so I’m deciding to do it justice by writing a full fledged mini-guide on the topic.

An anonymous GoodPlace Digest subscriber emailed me this morning:-

How to find an agent

WHERE THE HECK CAN YOU FIND GOOD AGENTS! Well, there’s an easy way, and a hard way.

  • Easy Way: Tell me the properties you want through the GoodPlace Dealmatcher, and then let me go hunt for an agent I know and can vouch for.
  • Hard Way: Follow the rest of this guide.

The Problem With Property Agents

I remembered two years back when I was in a car ride with this property negotiator named Carlo on the way to see a client, and he remarked to me, “The biggest problem of the (Malaysia) property industry is that we suffer from bad reputation caused by the actions of a minority of bad agents.”

The problem when you meet up with agents is that you don’t know them from Joe. And that’s why I usually recommend to home buyers to deal with agents from well-established, branded agencies, and who are referred to you by someone you know and trust. If you’ve found an agent through an online classifieds site like iProperty or Prop Wall, you’ll need to be extra cautious 1.

Bad agents are bad news

No matter what, it’s important to understand these few “truths” when it comes to property agents no matter where you found them:-

  1. They have their own agenda. They want to make money.
  2. For (1) to happen, you will need to buy. They only get paid if they close the deal.

Average agents will want to close the deal quickly, and after this is done, chances are that you’ll never see them again. This means that the average agent will try to paint a rosy picture of the property while hiding the deficiencies. These are the people who’ll tell you that a certain “Mont Kiara serviced apartment” is in an upmarket neighbourhood even though in reality it’s next to the infamous Segambut slums and a dirty river. You know these people.

On the other hand, a good agent looks further ahead into the future – if he provides a good service then the customer will return with more deals, and with some referrals to boot. These are agents with integrity and a sense of service which you will need to work with, and from personal experience, these tend to belong to branded or boutique agencies where reputation is well safeguarded. I know I’ll get some hate mail over this, and sorry to piss off some of my negotiator friends from smaller agencies but it’s true.

The Mentor: How To Pick A Kickass Agent

When I talked to The Mentor last Saturday I asked him about screening for good agents, and his method was remarkably simple.

Easy. I ask them, “What’s bad about this property?” Nine times out of ten I get the usual, “Nothing much. This property is perfect!”. Nothing is perfect. My best agents know what I am looking for, and they help me look at a property with a critical eye instead of just wanting to sell me.
The Mentor

He then provided me with a list of questions and the “correct” answers that he used to screen agents:-

QuestionGood AnswerBad Answer
Why is this a good buy?It's good because... however, also watch out for...It's good because ... (only positive answers)
Is there anything bad about this property?Yes, watch out for...It's perfect. Nothing bad at all.
Can you show me a property in this neighbourhood you just sold?Yes (or no, I have not sold a property here).
I sold a unit here just last week, but I can't show you because...

When I was learning the trade I used to follow The Mentor while he called up random agents he found in the classifieds sections of newspapers, and he would purposely ask to look at “dud” properties – so that he can gauge the honesty of the agents that he dealt with.

You don’t have to go to that extreme obviously, but this shows that it pays to do the due diligence – if you are in this for the long term, then having a team of good agents bringing deals to you is the biggest competitive advantage that you can ever have in the real estate investment game.

  1. It’s not the fault of the property sites of course, but the openness of the platform means that anyone can join and post anything with minimal moderation.
About Khai Yin

When I am not writing for and helping my readers find properties though the DealMatcher service, I spend time doting on my three kids: Wenyi, Qinyi and Eian. My personal stuff, some published essays and contact details can be found at


  1. Good sharing, but hope it will be more details.

  2. Elizabeth Keogh says

    Nice website you have here! Congrats!

    My experience in Malaysia with realtor agents has been HORRIBLE!! Maybe 1 out of 15 has been honest, straight forward and looking out for the client’s best interest. My last experience would of been grounds for legal action elsewhere in the world. This agent was pressing me, to the point of annoyance, to buy a condo. One of her “strategies” to sell ASAP was to send me a picture of a deposit check from someone that was supposedly also interested in the condo… I have the account number and signature of that person’s check! Can you imagine??? How wrong is that??? That is confidential information! Needless to say, in as much as I loved that property, I do not want to do any business with this realtor… Unfortunately, I do not know how to get a hold of the very nice owner to tell him what this person does… This poor man was even telling me that he was not even sure that he wanted to sell! That is just one of many anecdotal stories! Unfortunately, Malaysia has a loooong way to go in improving their real estate agencies. A good realtor is LEGALLY certified in the business and presents the buyer with all the information needed with regards to the property (condominium fees, approx. yearly property taxes, goods and services in the area), and in the end, works for both the buyer and seller!
    Negotiating skills are a key factor in pleasing both parties and I have not experienced that here… My general feeling is that typically, the agent “bs’s” both parties, lying through the skin of their teeth to get that juicy deposit check and evaporate! It is a “take the money and run” type of business… No accountability required!
    My next concern is how reliable are interior designers and contractors??? What unpleasant or pleasant surprises should I prepare myself for?

    Thanks for reading, I guess I needed to vent!

  3. I find some responses to your article unreasonable especially those who want realtor agents to be impartial and very willingly reveal all the negatives of the houses they are selling. Pray, please tell us, which salesmen of whatever products or industry, would kill their own sales by revealing negatives especially extreme ones? I believe the performance of salespeople are based on their sales quantum. The good and too honest realtors would soon quit the job as his buyers are not going to buy from him as he is too honest. The good ones will soon learn that it is not good to be too honest and change and remain in the job. So you see, it is us, the consumers that really play a big part in having ‘bad’ realtors in the industry, in fact to the whole society as a culture.

    In all sales situation, I strongly believe in the principle of ‘caveat emptor’? The buyers must do his homework and ask the right questions.Thereafter he must substantiate the answers from other sources and not happily accept all that the realtor agents say.

    Remember, he who pays the piper calls the tune? The principal is the seller who pays the realtor his commission. If you want to ensure that you get right answers, then formally engage a realtor for a fee and he is then obliged to perform to your requirements.

    • From the customer point of view, not necessarily when a salesperson pointed out some negative items will turn off the customer. Instead, a good salesperson should be more transparent and give recommendation to solve that problem. By just praising your product, you might be able to easier sell your product, but i can assure you there won’t be a repeated customer if they find you painted them a wrong picture. To be a successful salesperson is not thinking about short term profit but long term when the satisfied customer comes back.

    • Albert Lim says

      I agree with your views to a large extent. It would be rather unprofessional for the negotiator to offer his/her personal views to a prospective buyer with regards a property he/she is promoting. However, as a negotiator myself and having been in the business for some time, I take it upon myself to offer FACTUAL information about the property I am selling, but without my personal views in it. For example, if a property is 30 years old, I would disclose this information to the prospect. But it would be unprofessional of me to tell the prospect that I felt the building looked a little run-down. I’d prefer the prospect to view the property and form his/her own opinion about its appearance. Had I shared my personal opinion about the appearance of the building, I may have prematurely “killed” the prospect of selling the property as the potential buyer may have already concocted a negative image about the property without actually seeing it himself/herself. For all we know, the property may turn out to be totally acceptable to the prospect.

    • Very shallow minded. You would surprised my friend, how far honest goes. I as a potential buyer would dedinately want honesty. Honestly if the property has faults that can be fixed i would buy it with a discount of course if, but believw me i will talk to my friends and family about the honest agent.

  4. Interesting article, and a valid point of view. Ironically, I personally entered into the role as a Real Estate Negotiator mainly because as a landlord and investor, I could not find any agents that I could continually work with. There was either one issue or another. Main reason bring trust, next would be language barriers, or geographical barriers (the agent wasn’t keen to focus on my area of interest).

    Now that I’m in the shoes of the Real Estate Negotiator, I can finally understand the perpective from all 3 parties. That is the purchaser, the vendor, and the agent. And it is true, it does make sense to be transparent. That way the purchaser and vendor can make an informed decision to purchase/sell the property.

    And it’s not true that the agent gets paid when they close the deal. That is really just the first stage. The purchaser needs to be able to be eligible for a bank loan, the S&P needs to be signed & stamped by LHDN, the developer or land office approval need to be obtained (for some properties). The agent needs to obtain soft copies of these valid documents to be presented to the agency, and then… the agent is paid their portion of the commission.

  5. Dear Khai Yin,
    I recently want to rent my property which is in a new development area. The agent (which I met through PropWall) requested me to give him the Sole Agency for 6 months, which means barring other agents from coming in. Do you think I should agree to that? Appreciate your advise.

    • Doreen: short answer:- no.

      • Why not?

        • Hi Doreen, Im currently majoring in real estate management. So I’ll try to answer to the best of my ability. Having a sole joint is just a minor version of an exclusive, it gives you more flexibility than an exclusive but less than that of a joint or ad hoc type of agency. Good news is if you manage to rent it out yourself, you dont have to pay the agent a dime.

          • Albert Lim says

            I suppose nothing comes free. If a negotiator were to be appointed on a Sole Agency basis knowing that his/her principal is very actively involved in the marketing of the property, and worse, is inclined to “undercut” the deal, I doubt the negotiator will invest too much money and effort in the job. For such owners/landlords it would make more sense to NOT appoint an agent.

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