“Will you re-home my tortoise?” and other client demands

Nov 20, 2017 | Advice, Newsletter content

“Estate agents share the most outrageous demands that they have received from clients. Some are bound to have you nodding.”

Estate agents have to deal with their fair share of unreasonable demands from clients. Some of these are run of the mill: lowered commissions, open mandates or high price expectations. But even the most seasoned estate agent will sometimes encounter a request that really surprises them. These are some leading South African estate agents have received.

“Working on the Atlantic Seaboard brings its fair share of challenges and demanding clients on both sides, because money is frequently no object and the list of items and services requested can therefore be long,” says Brendan Miller, the CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty on the Atlantic Seaboard.

Chandeliers and feng shui

He says that the luxury market operates slightly differently from others in that respect, and in the last year alone his agents have had to deal with everything from sellers asking them to act as pet sitters, to buyers insisting that light fittings in the bathrooms be replaced by chandeliers of their choice – at the seller’s cost – before signing an offer to purchase.

“But perhaps the most challenging negotiation of the year – which eventually resulted in a successful sale – was with the buyer who said according to principles of feng shui the swimming pool was incorrectly located on the property and wanted it moved. We managed to negotiate the sale without any major construction on the property…”

He says that for agents, it’s simply a matter of maintaining absolute professionalism, calling on all their negotiation training to find a diplomatic solution, and “having the patience of a saint!”

Koi fish and tortoises

Herculene Visser, a veteran Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty specialist agent for the Tokai area of Cape Town’s southern suburbs, agrees, saying that going that extra mile for sellers isn’t optional; agents should consider it a standard part of their job description.

And an email sent to Visser from an appreciative seller in November 2017 illustrates that perfectly: “We are now comfortably settled… and have finally seen the last of the cardboard boxes. Many thanks, once again, for all that you did to facilitate the sale of our home and in particular for finding homes for our 25-year-old Koi fish, George, and our much-loved tortoise, Tilly. Both are very happy in their new homes and Tilly has just laid an egg!”

Berry Everitt, Chas Everitt International CEO, says agents have even been asked to double as plumbing inspectors. “The most unreasonable request I ever heard of was for the agent to get into the roof and check that the drip tray under the geyser had been fitted correctly by the plumber,” he says.

While estate agents should never overstep the boundaries of their expertise, it’s clear from these examples that the true professionals take unreasonable requests in their stride, and even use these as opportunities to negotiate with both the buyer and the seller to ensure a good deal, at the right price, for both parties – and with a little pet re-homing thrown in as part of the deal.

By Georgina Guedes