by: Dawn Williams
Ask Real Estate
While I possess over 20 years of experience in the property industry in the UK and Spain, I still found the idiosyncrasies of life as a real estate agent in Bahrain quite unlike anything I had encountered before. So, here are a few suggestions that I would pass on from my experiences during my eight years here to someone who is just starting out in the industry in Bahrain today.
What goes around comes around is an old saying but it’s certainly one that rings true in the real estate business – so be nice and try not to burn bridges! We’re in the service business, so we have to be decent even when a client cancels your appointment because they have to get their dog groomed instead! I’ve had so many clients come back to me, sometimes years later saying ‘we loved how you treated us, and we’d like you to help us again’. And this happened in spite of me changing firms, because you have your own ‘brand’ whatever firm you work for, and many clients remember good service. Being decent stretches to professional matters, so always be ready to compromise.
You might find the expression ‘1, 2, 3 smile’ here in Bahrain, rather than ‘say cheese’, but regardless, a decent camera is really important. Most agents use their phones these days given the built-in cameras are now of sufficient quality and downloading images has become even simpler this way. And given this is one of your most expensive ‘tools of the trade’, make sure you know your settings and can master some basic lighting skills at least if the weather is not in your favour that day or there is insufficient lighting in the building at the time. In terms of the photography itself, you don’t need to be the next David Bailey, but you do need to consider a few basic tips such as put the toilet seat down (yes guys that means you too), and hide the waste bins before you take the pictures. A picture can be worth a thousand words, so make each one count and consider your angles too. Also ensure you have a good protective phone case given you are sometimes walking over partially constructed sites, as the cracked screens of many of my peers would tell you if only they could talk.
Personal safety is quite simply that, personal. You have to make judgements sometimes on what feels right and what doesn’t, and while Bahrain is safer than most places on the planet, keep your agency informed of where you’re going and when and always be professionally dressed to give the right impression and to be culturally respectful. In terms of personal protective equipment, ensure you wear it on sites if you are dealing in partially built properties, and wear sensible footwear whenever possible. One broken arm and a fracture in the other are my own proof of the need for being aware that sometimes properties aren’t always as finished as they should be. My own fall caused a health and safety aspect to be improved as a result but also meant me hiring a driver for a few weeks.
Bahrain is small, 55km by 18km roughly, but if you try and cover all of it, you will become a busy fool and you will frequently look ill-informed in front of your clients. Concentrate on one area or no more than three and you will become a master of those areas. Sometimes living in one of those areas also helps because you can give your clients great insights into the specifics of the area itself and can make them immediately feel at home. This way you can master villas and apartments and potentially sales and rentals, whatever you feel comfortable working on, but you can focus and with focus comes learning and expertise. Moreover, you can build relationships with the developers and even the unsung heroes of the business, the watchmen and the security guys who can be surprisingly helpful when you are good to them, as my own tyre changing experience attests to.
Walk the extra mile with the client, it may seem painful sometimes, especially when it’s 47 degrees in the shade, but many clients appreciate good service and they have friends, who in turn have friends. Learn as much about your areas as you can and be ready for the frequently asked questions that clients might need answers to. After all, sometimes you will be a client’s first point of contact when they arrive in a new country. You might explain about the best schools around, and I have even taken them to a school uniform shop before to help guide them still further. Where you draw the line of that extra mile is up to you and it may depend on your schedule that day, but many of my former clients I now call my friends and that is the benchmark of a job well done in my book.
I hope the above helps you in your book too…