An Industry on the Move

Oct. 3, 2017, 6:19 a.m.

Purchasing a home of one’s own is a lifelong goal of many people around the world. The trick to making this goal a reality is finding the perfect estate agent to facilitate the achievement of this milestone, which obviously begs the question of what it is exactly that makes a good real estate agent.
What are the ingredients that set property prophets apart from amateur agents? How can these qualities be emulated, and where can a buyer or vendor locate this rare breed? Some attribute agent success to traits such as articulation, industry knowledge, and the far more practical ability to merely answer their phones.

A faster, more accessible and trustworthy industry

Many others who put forward ideas in’s Fiji Real Estate Survey 2016 called for characteristics such as honesty, promptness, clear communication, healthy returns on investments, and the possession of a large inventory of appropriately-priced homes and land lots. As is often the case, those vendors who had previously had negative experiences or encounters with estate agents tended to be the most critical of the industry. While contributions and suggestions were aplenty, generally speaking, respondents desire a faster, more accessible, and more trustworthy industry. The latter request obviously points to the negative (and often undeserving) stigma of deceit and chicanery that is frequently attached to real estate agents.

On the general frontier of potential methods for improving the industry, some respondents suggested the introduction of helpful booklets to simplify purchasing property, a process that is often plagued by delays, deadlines, dead (telephone) lines and lengthy and tiresome approval timeframes from various governmental departments.
Respondents also suggested introducing training programs for real estate agents, to bring industry standards to a more professional level in terms of knowledge, home presentation and ethics, as well as increased consultation processes, enforcement of OHS-compliancy for all listed homes, standardized rental rates, more encompassing regulations, lower stamp duty taxes for foreigners, and the procurement of more skilled labourers to improve the standard of finished apartments.

Interestingly, calls were made by several survey respondents for amendments to the Land Sales Act. Some respondents think that the legislation should be made “more investor-friendly”, although this wasn’t generally prioritized as an urgent area for change in the local real estate industry.
Calls for regulatory change mostly centred around new buildings, and – as per one respondent – regulations mandating the apportionment of a percentage of overall building costs to landscaping and finishing beautification touches should be introduced. Additionally, regulations relating to landlord and tenancy agreements (a change that is already underway), reasonable and concise standardized pricing schemes (such as Household Income versus Property Value), and communication and financing through banks should also be focal points of industry reform. Suggestions also covered factors including the quality of construction materials, customer service and post-sale processes, as well as the conduct of real estate agents and fraudulent realtor activity. Responses overwhelmingly indicated a widespread desire for a decrease to housing prices, to make properties more affordable and attuned to local wages, as well as for standardized lease agreements.

Concerns about property prices were further reflected by a significant number (54 per cent) of respondents who believed that standardized real estate contracts would render the industry safer and easier to understand, as opposed to the introduction of regulated agent commissions, which the remaining 46 per cent of respondents vouched for.
Overall, survey results show a clear general consensus that strengthening industry regulations and implementing standardized pricing for properties on both sale and for rent are necessary and vital for industry improvement. More concerning is the widespread belief held by many respondents that local property prices are beyond the reach of ordinary working Fijians. Several initiatives have been incepted in recent times to remedy this by encouraging local property ownership, such as the government-funded ‘First Home Owners Scheme’ that is designed to provide grants to couples who earn below $50,000 in combined annual income.

Real estate is in itself a flourishing industry in Fiji, and one that is still finding its footing within the local scene in several regards. The creation of formal association of realtors is currently underway, in order to bring about greater representation, and several relevant pieces of legislation are presently being reviewed and revised. Additionally, strong backing for the Real Estate Agents Licensing Board is resulting in more stringent measures being taken against rogue practitioners, and a more concise schema of industry developments and regulations is gradually forming.
Most survey respondents reside in Fiji, followed by Australia, New Zealand and the United States amongst others. Considering the previous lack of market research on local real estate as an industry, this Fiji Real Estate Survey – the third consecutive one performed by – is certainly a ground-breaking means of providing effective and representative insight into concerns, preferences and necessary areas of improvement. ∎

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