Recent changes to industry regulations have caused a shift in what makes for a good Settlement Agent. Previously the standard was to call around and try to negotiate the lowest price based on the scale of fees. However, now the scale has been removed there is no longer a standard for comparison. Now, a Settlement Agent needs to rely on having something more that will make you, the client, trust them with this monumental transaction. So what should you look for?
While it goes without saying that everyone in the industry has to be professional, some have a higher standard than others. When calling around to find out who can help you there are some things to bear in mind; are they courteous on the phone? Are they quick to answer? Did you have to leave a message? Did they get back to you quickly? These kinds of things could be an indication of the kind of service you can expect through the whole transaction.
Do a little bit of checking into the agents you are considering. Read through their websites; how long have they been working in the industry? It’s almost certain that the longer they have been working in the industry the more they will know. Ask around as well; speak to your Real Estate Agent about whom you are considering, or read some online reviews. You may get an insight that not all clients see when dealing with a Settlement Agent. Whilst some may refer you to a certain Settlement Agent, ultimately the choice is yours as to who you nominate.
Commitment to you
This is imperative. A Settlement Agent is employed by you to represent you. They should have your best interests in mind and have to give you the best advice they can under their regulations. When something falls out of their jurisdiction they must refer you to seek legal advice. But more than this, they should keep you informed every step of the way. They should not be hard to get a hold of, they should be able to get back you quickly, and you should not be left waiting. If you wait for too long, you are not their priority. While you may not be their only client, you are their client regardless, and all clients should be treated with the same attention and respect.
Finally, and most simply, if they cannot make the time to see you, call you or email you, then they do not have the time for you. This can often become a problem in offices that have too much work and cannot manage their time correctly. It is this regard that makes it important to realise that a discounted settlement fee may mean a discounted service.
So after all this, what do you think makes a ‘good’ Settlement Agent? It’s easy, one who makes you their priority. And if you have managed to nominate an Agent who doesn’t give you the service that you expected or desired, there is some good news. You can change! Under the Settlement Agents’ Code of Conduct 1982 rule 28, “a client is entitled to change his settlement agent … at any time without giving reason.”