How do I choose an Agent?
Answer: Choosing an Agent these days is a difficult task. There are hundreds of Agents operating in Trinidad & Tobago but not all belong to AREA. Ask your Agent if he/she is a member of AREA before you make your decision to work with them. All AREA Agents have been trained in the principles of Real Estate Sales as well as many educational seminars which they attend every year. AREA members must follow a strict Code of Ethics. The list of AREA members is available through this website. The real estate industry in T&T is not yet covered by legislation and therefore Agents do not have to be licensed to operate. By choosing to deal with an AREA certified Agent you avoid the risk of being taken advantage of by unscrupulous persons and have recourse for and disciplinary matters.
If I want to list my house for sale do I have to give one Agent or can I give several Agents.
Answer: It is advisable to deal only with one Agent. He/She will put more effort into marketing your property if he/she has it exclusively and is more likely to get you’re a quick sale/rental. Having several Agents handling one property leads to confusion as many ads appear for the same property. Prospective purchasers may misinterpret these ads and end up visiting the same property with more than one Agent.
When you give your property exclusively to one Agent he/she will circulate the listing to others and they will work through him, giving you a wide coverage of the market.
What is the difference between a Listing Agent and a Selling Agent?
Answer: If you give an Agent your property to sell/rent he is called the Listing Agent. The property can be sold or rented by that Agent, or by another working through him.
If someone other than the Listing Agent sells the property he is considered the Selling Agent. The property owner usually deals with the Listing Agent but the buyer/tenant deals with the Selling Agent. When another Agent (other than your Listing Agent) sells/rents the property the two Agents split the commission.
Should I do anything to my property before putting it on the market?
Answer: It is advisable to have your property cleaned and painted and have the garden tidied up. If there are areas that need serious repairs, i.e. leaks in roof, termite damage, rust etc. these should be repaired, not passed on to the new owner or tenant.
If you are serious about selling it is also recommended that you start packing away the ‘ clutter’ in anticipation of moving. There’s no second chance for a first impression! Your agent is the best person to advise you on how to best present the property for showing.
What should I do before starting to look for a property to buy?
Answer: Before you start to search for a property you should check around for financing. The banking and financial institutions offer many packages geared to first time buyers with varied interest rates. Find the one that suits you best.
Your AREA Agent can guide you in the right direction once you know your pre-qualified limit.
I have paid a deposit on a property and signed an Agreement but now I’ve changed my mind. How do I get out of it?
Answer: This is not as easy as you may think. The document you have signed is a legal binding agreement. There may be certain contingencies where a cancellation is acceptable but for any other reason there are consequences (mainly loss of deposit) and such a decision should not be taken lightly.
Keep in mind that the seller has taken his property off the market and may have entered into his own contract to purchase another property. If you do not go through with it, your decision may affect many more people than just one seller.
Do I have to pay commission to the Agent if my sale has fallen through? The Attorneys have found a fault in my title and I have to refund the deposit.
Answer: From the Agent’s point of view he was hired to find a buyer and his fee is due once a Sale/ Purchase Agreement is signed. The fact that your title is defective is no fault of his. He may agree under the circumstances to compromise on a lower fee but he has provided a service and is entitled to be paid.
When is commission payable on a sale?
Answer: Once an Agent introduces a buyer and a Sale/ Purchase Agreement is signed by both Buyer and Seller the Agent is entitled to the commission. It is recommended that the deposit paid on the sale by held in escrow until completion and the commission be paid out of the final proceeds of the sale. This is an issue that should be discussed with your Agent when listing the property.
There is no law governing this practice and some Sellers still insist that the deposit be paid to them, in which case the Agent may insist on being paid at that time.
If I give my property to an Agent to sell and someone comes to me directly and buys it, do I owe the Agent commission?
Answer: If you signed an exclusive contract with an Agent giving him the authority to sell/rent your property and within the period of contract you sell it on your own, yes the Agent is entitled to commission. AREA Agents have a standard exclusive listing contract which outlines these terms and conditions quite clearly. One of the terms is that anyone approaching you directly must be referred to the Agent.
If you have not signed an exclusive and the Agent is aware that you are also trying to sell/ rent it on your own then no commission is due.
How should offers be handled?
Answer: Serious offers should always be made in writing. An offer should outline the terms and conditions of the purchase and give a time limit. Quite often a buyer may make a lower offer for a property, with the intention of increasing if the Seller turns it down. This leaves the door open for the Seller to accept another offer, sometimes for very little higher.
In the Real Estate industry it is considered unethical to reveal one Buyer’s offer to another person in the hope of getting a higher offer so make sure your offer is handled by a trustworthy Agent. If several prospects are interested they should be all be asked to submit sealed bids and the highest bidder closes the deal.
When a deposit is paid who holds it?
Answer: It is recommended that the deposit be held in escrow until completion of the sale. Most AREA Agents have a separate Clients’ account where they will hold the deposit in trust and on closing it will be handed over to the Seller with accrued interest.
Most Sale/Purchase Agreements have a clause that if there is a problem with the title the deposit must be refunded to the Buyer with interest. On the other hand if the Buyer cannot close the Seller is entitled to forfeit the deposit.
I have paid a deposit on a parcel of land in a new development. The project has not been completed in the contracted time and there has been no indication as to when I will be able to close. What are my rights?
ANSWER: Many developers pre-sell lots before construction even begins. Normally they will have the ‘outline approvals’ from Town & Country and a plan of the development showing the layout and sizes of the lots. The developer must follow Town & Country requirements (which include roads, drainage, etc.) before he can be given final approvals and a completion certificate. Usually the Sale/Purchase Agreement allows for delays in construction. The buyer is usually given the option to cancel the deal and have his deposit refunded if he does not wish to wait or he can re-sell to another party. When the market is active the land value may increase since payment of the deposit so selling it may bring you a profit. Discuss this with the developer in case there are any stipulations about re-selling in the Agreements.
Who prepares and pays for the Sale/Purchase Agreement or Lease?
Answer: The Purchaser/Tenant bears this cost. It is the right of every Purchaser/Tenant to have his Attorney prepare the Agreement on his behalf. The Seller/Landlord has the right to vet it and make changes as needed.
AREA Agents have available to them a standard Agreement which they will prepare at no extra cost. This document can then be sent to the respective Attorneys for vetting, saving both parties time and money.
What is the Stamp Duty?
ANSWER: Stamp Duty is a tax charged by the Government on the purchase of a property or on the transfer or a property from one person to another. The formula used is as follows:
I have a Lease for one year but have to break it. I have given my landlord one month’s notice but he says I will have to pay for an additional month. Is this fair?
Answer: In all fairness if you have a Lease you should not break it at all. Your Landlord has probably estimated his income for the term of the lease and may have made financial commitments based on this. Your leaving early means he is out of pocket.
Sometimes circumstances change and it is not feasible to stay but remember the landlord now has to find another tenant to take your place and this may take more than one month.
I want to open a small office at the house which I rented. Do I have to inform my Landlord?
Answer: Yes absolutely. If you have rented a property as a residence you must get permission from the Landlord if you want to use it for any other purpose. If it is a leasehold property his Lease may stipulate that it can only to used for ‘residential purposes’ and you will then to jeopordising his position with the Lessor. Woodbrook properties are a prime example of this.
I have rented my property and the tenant hasn’t maintained the garden properly. What are my rights as the Landlord?
ANSWER: Most leases clearly state that the Tenant is responsible for up-keep and maintenance of the premises and surrounding areas including the garden. If it has not been done, you are within your rights to have it restored to its original condition and charge the Tenant accordingly. It is advisable for the Landlord to have his own regular gardener continue to maintain the grounds during the tenancy, with the Tenant paying him. This will usually ensure that the garden is kept in the same way as before.
I paid a deposit and the first month’s rent and both the owner and I signed a Lease. I was later informed by the Agent that the owner had changed her mind and the rental was being cancelled and my cheque returned. Is this right?
ANSWER: Once a document is signed by both parties and monetary consideration is made, this constitutes a legal contract and you probably had grounds to enforce the agreement. Unfortunately, this would have been a lengthy (and expensive) ordeal and you obviously would not want to live in a property where you and the landlord are in disagreement from the beginning. So, sometimes even if you are in the right, its easier to move on.
When I rent a house, who is responsible for cleaning it before I move in?
ANSWER: It is the Landlord’s responsibility to hand over the property in a good tenantable condition, i.e. thoroughly cleaned, including the garden. The electrics and plumbing should also be checked and all air conditioning units should be serviced or repaired before the tenant moves in.