How to find good real estate/property agents?

Why you should consider employing a real estate agent at all? What can he do for you that you may not be able to do yourself? First of all, if you select the right agent, he will be able to guide you from your initial goal setting phase through the selection, acquisition and management of your investment. His services may help make your venture an outstanding real estate investment, especially for the first time investor.

A knowledgeable property agent not only understands and practices the many different facets of real estate investing, but he also knows the market. When it comes to negotiating the purchase, he is a middleman, able to get a contract agreement more easily than when a buyer and seller meet face to face. When it comes to selling or renting a property, he is a salesperson, able to locate the right buyer/tenant for you.

However, there are many full-time real estate salespeople who have never been active or have never become knowledgeable in the filed of investment real estate. Since you are about to invest the largest sum of money or cash advance you have ever spent, you deserve the best.

The property agent you want should have the basic knowledge in real estate investing, taxation, depreciation, management and financing. He is experienced in the field because it is his only business.

How do you find this agent? Contact them through property listings/advertisements on local papers, Internet or referrers like your relatives and friends. Give them a call and ask them some questions about property investment to start the evaluation process.

When you are evaluating a property agent, watch out for agent with the following characteristics:
1. Cannot answer most of the questions you ask about a property and its prospect of investing, such as the age of the property, expected rents, rental demand, maintenance cost, etc – he may not be knowledgeable enough to assist you.

2. No reply at all after you have called them – he may be picky about his clients.

3. Respond to your enquiry slowly until you have to remind him – he may not be interested to serve you.

4. Prefer to SMS you instead of calling you, unless the SMS delivers details like numbers and addresses – he may be stingy and calculative (he may not even want to fork out money to advertise for clients).

Two simple rules of thumb of a good property agent:
1. Care to go for extra miles – able to provide more information and services than you wanted.

2. Fast response – time is the money.

Although normal custom seems to dictate that a property agent is employed by the seller of a property, there is nothing wrong with you, as a buyer, employing him to find you investment and you paying him professional fee. He should then represents you and is obligated to purchase the property you want at the lowest price and best terms.

In Johor Bahru, the market rate of agent’s professional fee or commission is seller pays 2% of the purchase price while buyer pays 1%. It seems to be a norm also in Johor Bahru that in most transactions there is only one property agent – a salespeople appointed by the seller.

It is always not advisable to just rely on seller’s agent in your purchase – there is conflict of interest because the agent tends to side the seller since their pay is proportional to the purchase price. In fact, according to the Board of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents Malaysia, a property/estate agent shall not accept fees from more than one client in any one transaction.

For example, if you are buying an auction property from a bank through a property agent assigned by the bank, the agent should only receive commission from the bank and you don’t need to pay the agent.

However, the services and investment guidance you can receive from a good property agent is well worth what you pay him. If you like his services, do pay him well and pay in time.


This article was published in 28th May 2015 issue of 1Klassifieds, New Straits Times.

About The Author


Coming from a humble little town named Tangkak in north Johor state of Malaysia, I am so lucky to have chances to learn and work both in Johor Bahru and Singapore - a conurbation with 6.49 million still fast growing population - since year 1996. Hope now I can have a chance to contribute back to the community by sharing what I see, what I know and what I learn in this wonderful place.


  • KCLau

    Reply Reply January 20, 2009

    Hi KL,

    Thanks for the sharing. Maybe you can come out with a set of questions we should ask our prospective real estate agents, before engaging any.
    In Penang, I’ve met many agents who don’t really know about the market. Only a handful of them are professional and knowledgeable.

    • ongkl

      Reply Reply January 21, 2009

      Thanks for the suggestion, KC.
      Some questions that we normally ask our real estate agents:

      How old is the property? Fully-furnished or unfurnished? Lease hold or free hold? How big is the built-up area? How much is the monthly maintenance cost, if any?

      Any other expenses for the property? Has the individual title issued? Why does the owner want to sell?

      What is the lowest offering price? Is the price reasonable in the market? Any room for negotiation?

      How much is the highest and lowest rent I can get from the property? How long will you need to find a tenant for the property?

      Once you have asked the same questions to several agents, you will be able to identify who can serve you better.

      Happy Lunar New Year


  • wy

    Reply Reply January 21, 2009

    Hi Ong,

    Glad that you like my blog’s post on Malaysian National House Buyer Association.

    You are really well versed in real estate. Your blog is really insightful.
    I have put it in my blogroll. Thx.

    • ongkl

      Reply Reply January 21, 2009

      Hi WY,

      Thank you. Hope we can learn and hear more from you.

      Happy Lunar New Year


  • LYY

    Reply Reply February 9, 2009

    how would u know if the agent u’re hiring won’t be trying to sell for his clients? wouldn’t there still be conflict of interest as agents would likely already have a pool of clients they’re already serving and earning commission from?

    • ongkl

      Reply Reply February 9, 2009

      Hi LYY,

      In today’s market where sellers are more than buyers, agents start to know they have to serve buyers better in order to close any deal. However, we always encourage home buyers and investors to do their ground work like learning how to estimate the property value, how to identify a property worth investing and borrowing before negotiating any price with the seller through agent.

      No doubt most of the agents today still tend to sell for their clients and the conflit of interest is there. It’s our own responsibility to protect our own interest. And the best way to do so is to equiped ourselves with the right investing and market knowledge.


  • LYY

    Reply Reply February 9, 2009

    Hi OngKL,

    Thanks for the reply. May I know what’s the standard fee like for hiring/paying an agent in KL or PJ area? Is it 1% of the property purchase price like in JB?

    • ongkl

      Reply Reply February 11, 2009

      Yes, you are right, LYY. But for certain higher value transactions you may negotiate with the agent to have some discount on the commission. For example, for a RM500k transaction we normally expect to get 20%-30% discount from property agent, i.e. 0.7%-0.8% of the purchase price instead of 1% for agent’s commission.


      • kent

        Reply Reply April 19, 2011

        wow…then Singapore Agents should be grateful, because normally a HDB flat nowadays cost around SGD 400K (depending on locations), and they are getting the full comm. Unless if private properties, where buyer or seller would negotiate the commission with the agent.

  • Fauzi

    Reply Reply February 13, 2009

    This is another great article… God job Ong.. 🙂

  • syed muhammad

    Reply Reply April 14, 2009

    Hi Ong,

    I intend to buy a condo in jb. Is it the norm for buyers to pay 1% commission plus govt tax to the agent? according to my lawyer buyers dont pay any commission. Pls advise ASAP as i’m suppose to sign this friday. Tks.

    • ongkl

      Reply Reply April 14, 2009

      Hi Syed Muhammad,

      If the agent is engaged by you to look for a particular condo, yes, you have to pay the agent 1% commission for his/her service upon signing the sell and purchase agreement (SPA), but no government tax is required.

      If the agent sells the condo on behalf of the owner, you can choose not to pay this commission because real estate agent can get commission from one party ONLY according to the code of conduct imposed by the Board of Valuer and Real Estate Agent Malaysia. However, if you like his/her service to locate certain condos that you have been looking for, paying the commission will save you a lot of time.


  • syedmuhammad

    Reply Reply April 16, 2009

    With regards to property agents, I saw the unit on the internet, called him and he arranged for viewing. That was all. But he requested that i pay him the 1% commision. Is that the norm? Tks

    • ongkl

      Reply Reply April 16, 2009

      Hi Syedmuhammad,

      Have you viewed the property? If so, how many agents were there during the viewing? If there was only one agent, you can negotiate with him since he will get his commission from the seller. If he co-brokes with other agent, then you should pay him the 1% commission because he can’t get any commission from the seller.


      • Rose

        Reply Reply January 8, 2021

        Maybi hve personal watapp numb of agents -condo in Jbahru. Im far to view t area several times.

        Kindly assist.

  • Farah

    Reply Reply July 2, 2009

    Hi… i would like to have several agents to email my boss for any good prospects of shop lots/condo or other property with good prospect rental and develop and also the initial price for that prospects… she also have other property to be sell/rent at cyberjaya. Therefore, whois interest kindly email me to know the details..

  • niz

    Reply Reply August 25, 2009

    I just had a bad experience with a property agent…
    where do I check the property company that this agent is belongs to?

    as I was asking for more info about the property basic info, instead of giving me all the details at once I have to reply several emails to ask and some of the question were ignore.
    I was expecting info like, tenure, maintenance fee, location, even apartment name! all these weren’t answered. instead below is what the response when i question about this professionalism.
    i did given all d details. you shld point your self before telling others ok. for enquiry u shld call first and ask. whatever u ask i did reply then wat else. next time no money dont talk or mail…. wasting pple time. how dare ask me no qualified.. idiot… bloody moron…

    i think m wasting my time with you. should call me for more details then kept mailing. think u dont have enuf top ur for ur prepaid.
    Date: Tue, 25 Aug 2009 00:28:53 -0700
    Subject: RE: Reply: Apartment in Tampoi

    are you a qualified agent? cos if you’re then you would have given me all the detail at once rather than having to have asked and not answered.
    you should know wat’re the basic info to be given.

  • Pak Property

    Reply Reply October 16, 2009

    Although acquiring real estate agent has more benefit rather being single one , the most significance of keeping him with you is that he serves more effectively to get a contract agreement more easily than when a buyer and seller meet face to face as mentioned in the post, cuz there are many hide and seeks buyers or sellers may not know but these can cause problems afterwards.

  • muhammad sarwar chohan advocate

    Reply Reply October 17, 2009

    Glad to see your website,which is real informative

  • niz

    Reply Reply March 29, 2010

    hi Ong,

    Do you have lawyer firm to recommend to deal with auction property? I need this urgently. Would you give me suggestion please?

  • Ben

    Reply Reply February 22, 2011

    Hello OngKL,

    I am a 52yr old man and I want to invest in properties. Do you think this is a good idea since my chance of securing a loan will be vey low or the amount of loan may be very limiting.

    Thank you…

  • Ben

    Reply Reply February 22, 2011

    Hello OngKL,

    I am a 52yr old man and I want to invest in properties. Do you think this is a good idea since my chance of securing a loan will be vey low or the amount of loan may be very limiting.

    Thank you…

  • Zila

    Reply Reply February 15, 2012

    I’m abt to pay the deposits n advance rental this weekend. The thing i nd to know is if the standard Practice here is for tenant to pay the agency fee of half mth’s rental..i did not engage the agent to help me search for a house. I’ve got the agent’s no thru the internet which the agent advertised for the house. Pls reply me asap. Thks

  • Soo Chen Hui

    Reply Reply December 2, 2014


    I would like to know some info about commission on rental.
    I stay before at Penang and Johor. But Both location have different rental commission rate from agent. Penang is charging 2 weeks per annual rent while Johor is charging 1 month commission rate per annual. Which is true??

    Seems like Johor agent not honest.

    • ongkl

      Reply Reply December 18, 2014

      Hi Chen Hui,

      Yes, most agents in Johor are charging 1 month commission for a year lease. But there are some willing to charge for half a month if you are able to maintain a long term relationship with them.

  • Sara

    Reply Reply January 27, 2015

    Hi Sir, If you want to meet with good real estate agent then you must visit international real estate blogs, and I’m sure you will find your desired real estate agent.

  • Rayan Ali

    Reply Reply July 26, 2017

    Great Article and it’s helpful for everyone. Thanks for sharing this good information..

  • Vneetha

    Reply Reply January 14, 2018

    Mr Ong i need ur help to find a condo for rent in johor n how to get back my deposit frm my real estate agency n thy agents… Thank u

  • Chng Suat Neo

    Reply Reply May 5, 2018

    Hi KL

    I am keen to sell my 2-room unit in Marina Encorp with a parcel area of 1029 sq feet.

    We are Singaporeans.

    My contact no is 65-98630440.

  • CY

    Reply Reply February 19, 2019

    Hi Mr Ong,
    we are looking for an opportunity to sell our 3 storey shop unit in Bukit Indah,JB.
    Hope to hear from you.
    Thank you


    Reply Reply May 16, 2019

    Hi I would like to sell my condo at gelang patah Johor, who I may contact?

  • Blue World City

    Reply Reply February 7, 2020

    Very Informative article, a lot of people become the victim of real estate agents and did not know the basics of dealing with them, such as property basic and research, etc

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