Being an estate agent can be quite productive and profitable, provided you know the business inside out. And not only the business but the market or markets in which you are going to be active. Being an agent in Gibraltar is fairly simple from a bureaucracy point of view. Doing it in Spain just across the border is a horse of an entirely different colour. Still a horse. But other regulations apply and the bureaucracy is quite different.

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First and foremost, you should know your market well. If you want to be productive and successful you must know every corner of your area or jurisdiction where you intend to operate. In property selling, the person behind is still of paramount importance. Technology has, like in many other businesses, replaced human resources, but an estate agent needs state-of-the-art sales people. Whether you operate solo (which is perfectly possible) or you work along with a team is ultimately a matter of choice and depends on how big you want your agency to become. Normally a minimum of two people is required. A good option would be one who can produce the properties to sell via direct contact with developers or owners and the other person can concentrate in selling the stock which enters the agency’s books. There are some very handy software programs that make life a lot easier when your run an estate agency. Make sure you invest wisely and get the best money can buy.

An estate agent needs state-of-the-art sales people.

Once you decide to start your own agency you should find adequate premises, or alternatively work online from home. This is not an easy decision to make as business does come up via both channels. If you look at the top estate agents in London, for example, you will see that names like Savills or Knight Frank still operate in the traditional way having  shops and offices in the best addresses of London or any city worldwide. Both these companies were established in the late 1880s, so their track record goes back for a long time having done business in three different centuries. They are both remarkable and highly successful.

Ideally you should get a shop on a good street and display your properties in your windows. In addition, a first-class website is essential so that you may obtain clients from different sources. The shop does not necessarily have to be huge. You may start off with a large reception room where one or two staff can run the sales and a separate office besides for you. If the business flourishes you can always find a larger shop or even buy a shop which suits your needs.

Once your shop is leased you should decorate it and make sure it looks neat and modern. Customers do not like to see old offices with untidy furniture. Quite the opposite; you should try to impress people the minute they walk in. The first impression is what really counts and it definitely plays a major role when concluding deals.

Once your estate agency is up and running, make sure you get as many good properties as you possibly can into your books. The more stock you have on offer the larger your chances of selling properties. Just as with any retail business – you must keep stocks updated. Make sure you delete sold properties from your books and your website as there is nothing more frustrating than a customer getting keen on a particular deal and having to inform him that the property is gone. This happens fairly often but it should be avoided.

Getting the sole marketing rights to sell property which is priced at the right level is blissful but not easy to obtain. This is particularly difficult in the early stages unless you are the partner, franchisee or representative of a well-known London estate agent. You obviously gain in that respect, but at a certain cost since a part of your commission goes to the franchisor.

In the Costa del Sol agents are seeking more and more to obtain exclusive marketing rights and once the agent secures this kind of contract, he normally takes a lot more interest placing it in professional agent’s websites like Resales Online or Infocasa. These are highly sophisticated sales tools and the properties reach millions of possible customers worldwide. If the property being sold is a good one and it is priced at the right level it sells much quicker than you may think.

Then we have the difficult issue of the commission fee. In Gibraltar fees are low: 1% or 2%. More than 3% is not usual. This is a lot lower than in any mediterranean jurisdiction where 5% or 6% is the norm. I have never quite understood why the rates are so low in Gibraltar. Maybe it is following the London pattern with regards to commission levels. This is normal to a certain degree but one must admit that property in London rotates at a completely different speed and prices are much higher than in Gibraltar. All this said, those rates seem to be the norm.

Personally, If I were to start my agency in Gibraltar I would try and work differently. If on the other hand you decide by any chance to base along the coast then the commission fees are a lot larger. Double of what you get in Gibraltar but maybe the rotation is a little slower. It is a very broad subject since there are different factors to be considered and each area is different even if the type of business is similar.

Customers do not like old offices with untidy furniture.

Would a partnership or franchise work well in Gibraltar? It could certainly do but do not think for a second that this would run on its own. It does not. The amount of work implied is exactly the same as if it were your own estate agency created solely by yourself. The only huge difference is that a good London name does attract a certain clientele. You know that if you travel to St Tropez in the Côte d’Azur or Marbella or Gibraltar that London Estate agent which bears the same name is solid and will surely work well to find your clients what they want. Not always the case with the rest. But obviously there is an important element of cost involved and each time a sale goes through they get a share of your fee.

An excellent way to start and to learn all the secrets is to work for a top estate agent for at least 1 to 2 years, and then if you feel this is your game you can start your own venture. This happens in any other business and it is a good way to learn. Beware of these new companies that will virtually charge you to work for them as part of your instruction period. I find this hilarious to say the least. Stick to the traditional names. The ones that have a proven track record and that have been around for a long time. Even if you work solely on commission which is usual along the coast, you will learn a great deal and probably do well simultaneously. The options are diverse and you should keep an open mind.