FAQ’s

A lot of seller’s real estate agents we meet seem very helpful. Why do we need a buyers’ agent?

Don’t be fooled. A seller’s real estate agent is just that – an agent of the vendor. That agent owes duties and responsibilities only to the vendor; particularly when it comes to getting the highest price possible from you. That agent is also forbidden by law to act for you or in your interests. For example, beware of the lists of comparable sales some agents distribute at open inspections. In our experience, such lists more often than not exclude other comparable sales less flattering to the seller exposed by our research methods which includes on line Land and Property Information (LPI) searches.

An exclusive buyers’ agent such as Curtis Associates acts only for you with the primary objectives, as all competent buyers agents should follow, of buying a property that best suits your criteria at the lowest possible price, with a minimum of stress and in the shortest possible time.

If a buyers’ agent is such a good idea, why do most property buyers in the Sydney property market still do it for themselves?

Do it yourself property buying has been the norm in Sydney’s real estate culture for many years and is one which seller’s real estate agents have keenly preserved as it keeps the balance of power weighed in favour of their vendor clients. This one sidedness has inevitably contributed to the high prices of real estate in the Sydney property market.

Just as all cultures change, because it has been that way does not mean it will stay or is any longer, that way.

Ten years ago, on line shopping was thought to be a fad. Today, it is seen as the greatest competitive threat facing traditional retailers.

The same is proving true with Sydney buyers’ agents as shown by the rapid growth both in their numbers and in the volume of property transactions buyers’ agents and buyers’ advocates around Australia handle every day.

The times, as they say, are “a – changin’”; with a significant moment occurring in November 2014 when the old standard form “Contract for sale of land” used in New South Wales was officially amended to add “and purchase” in its heading and a section was added on the front page allowing the “buyer’s agent” to be identified.

Why is Curtis Associates one of the only buyers’ agents with a web site not claiming to save money for its clients?

Unless a saving is measured against something, such a claim is both meaningless and of no assistance in helping you understand the value a buyers’ agent might give you. Whilst Curtis Associates regularly purchase properties below the seller’s asking price or the figure our clients were prepared to pay (often by a large multiple of our fee), the old property adage that ‘the money is in the buying’ is not all about price.

We believe there is a better way of assessing the value a buyer’s agent might add and to choose between buyers’ agents. We call it “The Hindsight Test” ™.

In selecting your Sydney buyers’ agents, we recommend you do not shortlist any buyers’ agent unable to pass the “The Hindsight Test” ™.

I have bought and sold a lot of real estate in the past. Why couldn’t I buy the property for the same price as Curtis Associates?

You might. And that is one of the problems with buyers’ agents claiming to save money. It can only ever be a hypothetical question with a hypothetical answer. However, on statistics published by RP Data Core Logic for the quarter ended December 2014, you are likely to have bought a Sydney home once every 11.2 years whereas we are doing it full time every day of the week. On those statistics, probabilities alone would favour a better outcome with a buyers’ agent like us than without one. And that is before you take into account the price reductions we achieve by, for example, challenging sellers’ real estate agents with comparable sales evidence sourced from our professional data bases and elsewhere as well leveraging the results of the penetrating due diligence we undertake for you.

How does Curtis Associates get access to properties before they hit the Sydney property market?

In many different ways.

One way, which usually happens every week, is from private sellers wanting to avoid a public marketing campaign or a selling agent’s commission.

Another way is by contacting developers and other operators in the Sydney property market whose details are kept on our extensive and data base which is updated on a daily basis.

Yet another is by direct approaches to owners of properties identified by our due diligence as possibly suiting your requirements and budgets; this being the practice known as canvassing and which has sometimes resulted in successful outcomes for past clients. As we prefer to work with rather than against selling agents, this method is rarely used.

One of the most frequent ways is through seller’s real estate agents either responding to our search enquiries or contacting us before a property is advertised or with properties that will never be advertised because the seller wants to avoid a public marketing campaign. Some Sydney buyer agents call these “silent listings”.

All seller’s real estate agents have monthly turnover targets. From their perspective, dealing with a competent buyers’ agent like Curtis Associates makes perfect sense as it may save them time finding qualified potential buyers. Our potential buyers are already qualified as the retainer fee they have paid only reinforces.

Buyer’s agents like Curtis Associates are also a source of repeat business.

More important however is the simple but essential matter of trust. No matter how robust past negotiations may have been, if a seller’s real estate agent’s past dealings with a buyers’ agent were handled professionally and with integrity, the buyers’ agent who commands such respect is likely to be the first buyers’ agent that seller’s real estate agents call with the next off market opportunity.

We are such a buyers’ agent.

As testimony to our hard earned reputation, Curtis Associates receives such calls and emails on a daily basis and it is not unusual for property addresses to be disclosed even before the seller’s real estate agent has secured the listing with an agency agreement.

Does Curtis Associates receive commissions from any persons other than your clients?

No, because we regard the preservation of our independence as essential to the services we provide you.

Does Curtis Associates also offer vendor advocacy services like some other buyers’ agents?

No, because as outlined in the Who we are page, we regard avoiding any conflicts of interest as a fundamental term of our fiduciary relationship with you.

In this respect, our standards are even higher than those required of lawyers. Our view is simple. A buyers’ agent or buyers’ advocate who provides vendor advocacy services cannot also legitimately claim to be an exclusive or independent buyers’ agent – especially as the result of a conjunction arrangement where the vendor advocacy services are provided in return for a share of the selling agents’ commission however small. This is also one reason Curtis Associates chose to cease its membership of the Real Estate Buyers Agents Association of Australia (REBAA).

On 12 August 2011, the Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) advised buyers’ agent members against the provision of vendor advocacy services, being those services which are offered free to members of the public but as a result of which the buyers’ agent receives a referral fee or commission from the selling agent. In the REINSW’s view, this practice is likely to breach the Rules of Conduct prescribed by the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002. We also take the view that this practice cannot be cured by the buyers’ agent instead accounting direct to the client. We consider the substance of such a dealing to be more important than the form it takes.

None of these practices is conducive to building a mutual relationship of trust and confidence.

Similarly, you will not see our brand popping up as a sponsor of an Auction Centre along side selling agents’ portals and finance brokers. Our independence is your guarantee of our loyalty.

 

Does Curtis Associates also offer services such as finance brokerage, property and project management like some other Sydney buyers’ agents?

No, we are specialist buyers’ agents and buyers’ advocates who choose not to be distracted by other and not necessarily compatible activities in an attempt to supplement our income stream. This is especially so in the case of property management which we consider should not be undertaken by buyers’ agents so as to avoid any suggestion of conflict in inducing a purchase to secure a property management. We are also not prepared to risk becoming a Jack of all trades, Master of none.

Instead and free of charge, we are happy to refer you to trusted specialists in these and other areas with whom we have worked over the years.

Your Principal is not a former sellers’ real estate agent. Doesn’t that put Curtis Associates at a disadvantage relative to other Sydney buyers’ agents who are mostly all former sellers’ real estate agents?

Quite the opposite. Many clients choose Curtis Associates precisely because our Principal is not a former sellers’ real estate agent.

Whatever their precise motivations, the numerous property and other transactions worth well over a billion dollars which our Principal has negotiated speaks for itself as a guarantee that engaging Curtis Associates as your Sydney buyers’ agent is a decision changing the way you buy property.

Your Principal is a lawyer and you have a registered valuer on staff. Does that mean that Curtis Associates provides legal and valuation advice?

No. Whilst our legal and valuation expertise is available to you, we do not provide such advice and are not permitted to do so by law. If such advice is required, then and as with other specialists, we are happy to provide you with a list of recommended professionals of which these are some:

If I engage Curtis Associates to find and buy a property, what happens if I find something myself?

We appreciate that a lot of clients enjoy finding properties online and from other sources. The chances are that we would already have considered the property and not short listed it for one reason or another. If not, then in the spirit of openness and transparency that characterises our relationship and recognising that we are on your side and not in competition with you, our buyers’ agency agreement provides that you let us know about the property so that we can get working on it for you. We are entitled to our full fee regardless of who finds the property.

Does Curtis Associates put a limit on the number of suburbs you will cover for me?

No but we will help you narrow down those suburbs as part of immersing ourselves in your property requirements from the beginning of our retainer. Where possible, we often suggest that you accompany our Principal on a drive around hot spots in the Sydney property market of which you may not be aware – we call this a “caravan”; and it is something from which past clients have reported deriving great benefit.

How long does it usually take Curtis Associates to find and buy a property for its clients?

This always depends on where in the cycle the Sydney property market is when the search begins as well as the needs of individual clients.The important thing is not to rush the process of acquiring the right property unless of course, you strike it immediately lucky; in which case, we have been known to complete the process within 12  hours in order to provide our clients with the winning advantage.

How many properties are involved in such an assignment?

In such an assignment, Curtis Associates typically appraises anywhere between 15 and 50 properties for you of which three or four would be shortlisted for your private inspection. Typically, we do not shortlist any property that our Principal has not physically inspected.

What happens if, during the retainer, I change the suburbs in which I am interested and/or my budget?

In the same way that we ask you to be realistic with your property expectations relative to your budget and to have your finances approved from the start and continuously during the retainer, we strive to be fair, reasonable and flexible with our clients and recognize that your geographic preferences and fortunes can and sometimes do change as your property search unfolds. It is a question of degree. If you were to make a major change to either or both of those criteria several weeks into the retainer, we would ask to re negotiate our retainer fee.

Am I locked in to your buyer’s agent’s agreement once I sign?

No, you are free to terminate the agreement on giving us seven days written notice for any reason which, in addition to our relatively small retainer fee, will however incur a larger termination fee.

What do you charge?

We charge a relatively small non refundable retainer with the bulk of our fee being payable on success defined as exchange of contracts to purchase a property. For certainty and your peace of mind, our success fee is a fixed amount in your price bracket and does not increase with every increase in the purchase price.

Of which professional bodies are you a member?

Our Principal is an Associate of the Australian Property Institute and a Certified Property Practitioner. Curtis Associates is also a full member of the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales and a corporate sponsor of the Australian Institute of International Affairs NSW (AIIA); the latter of which being one of Australia’s premier think tanks, promoting public engagement with international affairs across a wide range of topics and which we consider to be essential as the Sydney property market maintains its immense appeal to overseas buyers.

Does Curtis Associates have full professional indemnity insurance?

Yes, up to $5 million. As confirmed by our Certificate of Currency

Your focus seems to be over $1million. Do you buy property under $1 million?

Yes. Whilst we specialise in the bracket above $1 million, we do buy properties for less than that amount on behalf of select clients and our many repeat and referral clients.

Are buyers’ agents only for the rich?

No. regardless of your budget, a property purchase is likely to be one of the largest single transactions you make. Rather than being an expensive luxury item or an additional cost, retaining an independent and competent buyers’ agent to act exclusively in your interests is an investment made to mitigate the many risks associated with such a purchase and which could cost far more than your buyers’ agent’s fee to rectify. Viewed that way, buying a property without professional representation is a false economy.

What is a buyers’ agent?

Buyers’ agents are licensed agents who represent the buyer in a real estate purchase. Typically, this involves finding properties that satisfy their client’s purchasing criteria, carrying out due diligence on those properties and then acquiring them either by negotiation or at auction.

Why use a buyers’ agent?

A competent buyers’ agent or buyers’ advocate should:

  • give you access to many more properties than you can find, including properties listed off market – so called “silent listings”
  • reduce your risk including the risk of buyers’ remorse
  • save you wasting time trawling the internet and inspecting unsuitable properties
  • help you make a capital gain far exceeding the buyer agent’s fees.

Save you the stress of:

  • being gazumped
  • having to deal with selling agents
  • buying a property without knowing if it was the best one for you.

Curtis Associates is such a buyers’ agent. Looking for more information, download our Capability Statement and read through the NSW Fair Trading Factsheet on buying property with an agent

Note: Buyer’s agent is the name used in Sydney for such property buyers. World-wide they are known as a buyer’s agent realtor, buyer’s advocate, property buyer or property finder.

What do I need to know if buying a property with a water view?

We all understand the great Australian dream of owning a home and for a lot of buyers in the Sydney property market, that dream home often involves a harbour, ocean or beach view. Having a water view can make us feel more relaxed and in most instances can substantially increase the property’s value.

We outline below some matters to consider when purchasing a property with water views.

Can the view ever be built out or obscured?

Contrary to popular belief, the general rule in the Sydney property market is that ‘there is no property in a view’.

As such, you should look closely at what is on the ground in front of the view – is there an older style house? If so, a second or third storey could be added in future. If this happens will your view be affected? You will need to research the council’s height restrictions, not only for your street, but for any streets situated between the property and the view. You will also need to check the zoning as you would not want a 10 storey apartment complex to appear in front of your property and obscure it’s view.

Emotion

Many buyers will often be guided heavily and sometimes, unwisely influenced by emotion when purchasing a property with a water view.

Consider which rooms benefit from the view. Many properties are designed with the living areas located on the ground level towards the back of the property. Having a view which can only be seen from the top floor bathroom or from the front door is of little benefit. The most valuable views are seen from the living areas, kitchen and master bedroom. When considering the value added by a view, it is essential to consider it not just from the window but from different vantage points around each room.

Typically with apartments, the higher you go the more you pay. However, the higher levels will not necessarily provide the best views as in some instances it is possible to be above the view especially from a seated position in the main living areas. Most of us prefer to look at water – not down on it.

Property values can benefit significantly from a view, but the value of a view can and will vary inversely with distance from the view, declining quite rapidly over the first few kilometres before levelling out so that even distant views will provide some added value to property prices.

How is the trend of sustainable properties influencing buyers?

Energy Efficiency and your investment property

Residential tenants have always shown a preference for rental properties that have sufficient heating and cooling. On average heating and cooling accounts for approximately 40% of household energy use, making it the largest energy user in Australian homes. Increasingly, due to the rise in energy costs and an increasing environmental awareness, tenants are paying much closer attention to the energy efficiency of a property.

To have an energy efficient investment property could help attract and keep good tenants. Some ways of increasing the energy efficiency of your investment property are:

  • Install the air conditioner (or outdoor unit of a split system) on the shady side of the building (or shade the air conditioner itself) and make sure the air flow around it isn’t obstructed
  • Install ceiling fans to be used in conjunction with air conditioners
  • Install solar hot water systems
  • Install solar panels (depending upon which state your property is located, there may be some incentive rebate scheme to help offset the initial cost of purchase and installation)
  • Insulate the ceiling, roof, walls and floors if possible
  • Seal draughts around doors and windows with weather strips—these only cost a few dollars per roll and stop air coming in or leaking out which can make a big difference to comfort levels.
  • Windows can let in or leak away up to 40 per cent of your home heating or cooling energy. You can reduce this loss by up to 80 per cent by choosing energy-efficient windows. Look for the WERS (Window Energy Rating Scheme) label on windows
  • Provide sufficient window coverings and cover the tops of curtains with pelmet boxes to reduce heat loss through glass windows
  • Shade windows from the summer sun. External shading devices such as awnings and roller blinds on north-facing walls provide the most effective barrier against heat gain.
  • Locating appliances that require hot water as close as possible to your hot water service will help to reduce heat losses in pipes.
  • Use light-coloured interior paints to improve daylight levels inside your home and reduce the need for lighting during the day.
  • Use plants, trees and other landscape features to provide shelter from winds or harsh sunlight. Evergreen plants can provide permanent shading on west-facing walls in warmer climates. Deciduous plants and vine-covered pergolas work well on the north side to provide shade in summer and let in winter sun. This can reduce your heating and cooling costs.
  • Allow space for an outdoor clothes line if possible

A further bonus is that most of these energy efficient improvements can attract high rates of tax depreciation for investors.

Sustainable Properties

With increasing environmental awareness, tenants are paying closer attention to the sustainability factors of a property.

Not only are Residential tenants showing a preference for properties with higher energy efficiency, they are also looking for sustainability features such as solar energy, rainwater tanks and water saving showerheads, taps and fittings. Implementing these things into your investment property were possible can assist in attracting and keeping good tenants. Grey water recycling is an excellent method of reducing water consumption.

A similar trend is evident in the case of commercial properties with many large organisations demanding ‘green buildings’ both to enhance their corporate images and to comply with the Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) which is a national program designed to improve the energy efficiency of Australia’s large office buildings.

Under the program from 1 November 2010, most sellers or lessors of office space with a net lettable area of 2,000 square metres or more are required to obtain and disclose an up-to-date energy efficiency rating.

Also relevant to buyers in the Sydney commercial property market is NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System); a performance based rating system that measures an existing building’s overall environmental performance during operation. It is an initiative managed by the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) and a voluntary performance based environmental rating system for existing office, shopping centres and hotel premises.

NABERS rates a building on the basis of its measured operational impacts on the environment.

The scheme benchmarks a building’s environmental performance on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 1 star being poor and 5 star showing excellence. A 3 star rating is currently considered best practice for Office Buildings.

What to know about tax depreciation on properties.

One of the least understood and most often overlooked tax benefits from property investment is being able to claim a deduction for depreciation of items within the property and the building cost of the property.

If you own an investment property then the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will usually allow you to claim a tax deduction for depreciation of improvements to land (subject to ATO legislation – ITAA1997). The ATO defines an investment property as a property which is generating assessable income. Depreciation is a term used to describe the general wear and tear of an aging asset used to derive assessable income.

A residential building constructed after 16 September 1987 can be depreciated. As the actual building suffers wear and tear through age, this generally qualifies for a write down under capital works provision.

All investment properties are eligible to claim depreciation on capital allowance items regardless of age and even if constructed prior to 1987 and ineligible for capital works deductions. Some general examples include fittings such as blinds, curtains, carpet, hot water systems, kitchen appliances, pool filtration, pumps and motors.

Structural improvements such as fences, paving, renovations including extensions, kitchen and bathroom refurbishments also qualify for depreciation provided the works were undertaken after 26 February 1992. You may even be able to claim depreciation on renovations done by a previous owner.

To maximise your tax deduction for depreciation of an investment property we recommend you consult a Quantity Surveyor which is also a registered Tax Agent to provide a depreciation report. This will help you to make your investment property work even harder for you and the cost of the depreciation report provided by the Quantity Surveyor should also be tax deductible.

As your Sydney buyers’ agent, Curtis Associates can help you select a competent professional in that field.

Don’t let your dream property slip through your fingers.

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