Real estate agents are the heart and spine of one of the most lucrative global industries. All over the world, real estate agents facilitate sales, leases and rentals. In Ghana, agents are the link between landlords and prospects. With a housing deficit of over two million households, the role of agents in serving clients in a market where supply is critically low is becoming increasingly useful.
A career as a real estate agent can be spectacularly rewarding. But before you consider it, there are definitely a few things you need to know about being a real estate agent in Ghana.
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For starters, real estate agents in Ghana are not licensed. While agencies and brokerages require a license to operate, agents are not regulated in any way. One would therefore realise that the market is saturated with many agents from various backgrounds who find real estate agencies as a side hustle. The few who focus on the job as a full-time engagement are usually attached to agencies and firms which offer a base monthly salary and commission-based add-ons.
In terms of certification, no institution provides a specialised programme for real estate agents. The basic skills of communication and sales which are absolutely great for success as a real estate agent are usually acquired on the street. With no academic qualification and licensure, what primarily sets apart agents is the quality, reach and direction of their network. A good agent manages to maintain a pipeline of selling landlords on one hand and qualified prospects on the other. He then connects them to achieve a sale, lease or rental when their demands are aligned.
There are serious considerations you need to make before signing on as a real estate agent in Ghana. The foremost worry for every prospective agent should be Ghana’s abysmal land tenure system. With a failed land title/deeds system, many lands are under legal dispute or have been sold to multiple prospects. According to the President of the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA), Mr Patrick Ebo Bonful, two out of every three developers in Ghana are in court over one form of land dispute or another.
With a serious issue of documentation of ownership, it is a huge risk on the part of the agent to facilitate. While many agents have proven street methods of confirming ownership by surveying the opinions of neighbours of a property, it is not a certain means of confirming ownership. Many agents do not understand the processes in the land tenure system and hence fail to do the appropriate checks at the Lands Commission. As a party to a fraudulent transaction, an agent inadvertently exposes him/herself to being a part of any ensuing criminal process. This is the most dangerous risk associated with being a real estate agent in Ghana.
Being an average real estate agent is not particularly a flattering job in Ghana. Unlike counterparts in the West, many real estate agents in Ghana do not cut the figure of sharp looking, sweet-talking “salesmen”. They are rather usually casual looking, typically money-grabbing streetwise fellows. One must therefore critically think of how to package oneself in order to exude trust and appeal to more elitist prospects.
Beyond the stereotype, the sheer number of persons identifying as agents – from carpenters to undergrad students and all in between – has left very little room for new entrants to make meaningful progress. A new entrant should therefore prepare for the long game and focus on building a solid network of fellow agents before expecting any meaningful income.
Finally, an agent must develop a policy for commissions and the so-called “moving fee.” Agents demand fees from prospects for just leading them to a property before charging 10% commission when an agreement is facilitated. Prospects find moving fees pesky and exploitative. For agents, moving fee provides daily bread while they work on brokering a major deal for commission. A new entrant would therefore have to think carefully about how to demand these two fees in order to appear more attractive to prospects.
The good news is simple – people need agents to lead them to houses. With a staggering housing deficit, the demand for accommodation of all sorts in Ghana rises each year. The value of agents therefore rises proportionally to the demand for accommodation. This means, more prospects, more viewings, more moving fees and hopefully a few big scores each year.
Another major silver lining is the dollarization of the real estate industry. With big deals brokered in dollars, an agent’s commission is also calculated in dollars. It can be very good money from seemingly little work.
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Being a real estate agent in Ghana with all the uncertainty in the market can be risky. However, the returns can be very rewarding if one manages to navigate the risks and challenges carefully.