The thousand and one miseries of real estate agents
In a context marked by an ever-growing demography and a lack of quality infrastructure likely to meet demand, a corporation emerges that a few years ago was still unknown to most Cameroonians: real estate agents. These are the people who act as intermediaries between landlords and potential tenants. However, as the activity evolves in the informal sector, these actors, who struggle to have stable incomes, are accused by some of their clients of fraud. However, if it were taken seriously by the state, this sector would be buoyant and would enhance the Cameroonian economy.
File produced by Raphaël MFORLEM
REAL ESTATE AGENTS
The reign of anarchy
Located between the EMIA pharmacy and the CHU, the fence of the Yaoundé Polytechnic University Institute serves as a billboard. You can find messages such as: furnished apartments for rent, house with 3 bedrooms, 2 showers, a living room, 1 kitchen with balcony for rent, to take just these examples. Messages that inform about the availability of housing in this corner of the capital. Not far from there, the same observation is observed on the fence of the University of Yaoundé 1 Ngoa Ekélé, between the locality of the castle and the Cradat crossroads. In the Mfandena district, it is the homes near the pharmacy section of the stadium / mosque of Ngousso that are displayed.
The garbage bins of the political capital are not spared. Arranged in the four corners of the city of Yaoundé, these bins are essential for real estate agents. Given their mobility, it is possible that an actor in this field based in the Ngousso district could offer his services to a user in the Mendong district. A phenomenon made possible by the fact that the ferries are moved from one corner of the city to another. These messages perceived here and there are written using chalk of any color, charcoal or printed on paper. Communications which give the political capital a new decor not always brilliant, especially on the eve of CAN.
Despite the bans. Public authorities to communicate on buildings and fences of public and private buildings, some real estate agents go beyond this measure. This is the case of the stadium fence of the firefighters camp in the Mimboman district, which is suffering the horrors of this activity which is taking on worrying proportions in the city of Yaoundé. Even if some complain about the players in this sector given the carelessness, others on the other hand are delighted with the services made possible by them. People in search of accommodation who do not have time to roam the neighborhoods on foot for hours, are the main beneficiaries.
An underexploited financial resource
In the profession of real estate agent, earnings begin when the file is opened, the costs of which amount to 5,000 FCFA. Once this stage has been completed, the visit of the premises with the purchaser can then begin. When the client is satisfied with the choice of one of the houses presented to him, the second step is to pay a commission equivalent to the sum of one month’s rent of said premises to the real estate agent. This stage can be completed before or at the time of signing the lease contract with the owner. A real estate agent who in the exercise of his profession fulfills all these stages according to the regulations is able to make a monthly income of about 275,000 FCFA by housing for example 5 clients per month. Or 25,000 FCFA for the costs of opening files at the rate of 5,000 FCFA per client and 250,000 FCFA for commissions or 50,000 FCFA per client. But it can happen that an agent is confronted with a client who does not have enough resources. Therefore, a discount on commission costs ranging from 20%, 30%, 40% or even 50%, can be granted to the customer.
As a result, an agent who makes a 50% discount and who accommodates 5 clients in apartments of 50,000 FCFA per month may end up with earnings in commission fees of around 125,000 FCFA and 25,000 FCFA in fees. file opening for a total monthly income of around 150,000 FCFA. For some players in this industry, there are days that are more fruitful than others. Michel Kebong suggests that « it can happen that a real estate agent makes a profit of 405,000 FCFA in a single day, for example by accommodating a client in an apartment of 400,000 FCFA per month and benefits from the opening costs of file of 5,000 FCFA and a commission of 400,000 FCFA. By making 4 or even 5 product placements of this standard, it is quite possible that the agent will make more than one million FCFA in 30 days « . In this sector, everything depends on the type of products an agent has: high standing (furnished apartment, duplex), low-end medium (apartments, studios and modern rooms) (studios and single rooms).
But also, anything can happen like manna from heaven when you least expect it, it is suggested. In Yaoundé, the demand for housing is greater than the supply. Michel said that by taking his cell phone out of service in one day, he found about 70 missed calls. And of the 70 calls, around 50 are potential clients looking for accommodation and probably 5 serious calls. Seen from this angle, there are on average 1,500 calls per month, including 150 serious calls. Of the 150 serious calls, that is to say from clients who really want housing and who are ready to release the funds, Michel indicates that he is able to satisfy 5 to 10 clients per month. He goes on to say that Saturdays and Sundays are suitable days for receiving serious calls.
A not very selective profession
In the activity of real estate agent, we find people of various categories: men, women, young and old, and even the elderly”, testifies Michel Kebong, real estate agent met in the Ngousso district in Yaoundé who practices in this activity. since the age of 18. Even if it is represented at a small percentage in this sector of activity, the fairer sex is specialized in the creation of real estate agencies. “The women in this community are ladies who own real estate businesses. With the financial means and passionate about innovation, they become agency owners, modernize the activity and recruit staff with whom they work. But it should be noted that in Cameroon, there is a minority of real estate companies « , we learn.
In Cameroon, real estate agents work in the informal sector. Most 18 and 20 year olds find themselves in this activity by lack of stable employment. To avoid becoming highway robbers, they prefer to seize this opportunity offered by society. In addition to these young people in search of their bearings, we also find in this activity people of 30 years who have chosen as work, the service of real estate agent. But also, fifty-year-olds who have lost their jobs and who have been reconverted into real estate agents and retirees of 60 years, 70 years of physical strength who have joined the sector to round off their end of the month. In Cameroon, 80% to 90% of people who work as real estate agents are individuals, people who work on their own account.
At 20 years old today, Michel Kebong is the owner of a virtual real estate agency called « Immo pour tous »; it is virtual simply because it does not have a seat and is in no way legalized. Like Michel, most real estate agents in the city of Yaoundé are not recognized by the state and are not geographically identifiable in the field. To practice in this sector, you must have a well-supplied address book, have a telephone contact always accessible, always be available for deployment day or night when the need arises. Being in perfect physical condition is ideal, as it is an activity that requires a lot of walking. The profession of real estate agent does not have a fixed working hour; in the morning and at night, agents are ready to satisfy their customers. Given these demands of the profession, the few ladies who can be found as direct sellers are exempt from night service, similar to those of older ladies, a source said.
Between dishonesty and good faith, everything goes
The difficulties encountered by real estate agents are of various kinds. First, we can cite the withdrawal of customers. “It happens more often that I make an appointment with a client to visit an apartment, the latter withdraws along the way without letting me know. Once in the field, I find myself alone and his phone is inaccessible ”. Another concern is the donors. Some apartment owners don’t like real estate agents. « When you go to a building site as a real estate agent, you are repelled by these owners, even if you can have a problem with lessors living abroad. They appreciate the work that real estate agents do.
On the list of difficulties, we can add the complexity of the clientele. After transfer of funds and signed contracts between lessor and tenant, it often happens that the customer withdraws and demands reimbursement of the amount paid without having integrated the home. A situation which most of the time leads the landlord, client and real estate agent to the security forces. Also, real estate agents get kicked out in the field when they want to put up posters on the walls. The problem of housing demand higher than supply means that agents are doing their utmost to satisfy customers.
Real estate agents are not the only ones facing the difficulties, returning clients complain of bad faith, fraud and the lack of seriousness of some real estate agents. Stéphane Watchock returns to a scam scene orchestrated by a real estate agent of which he was the victim. “Looking for an apartment for my big brother and I, I approached a real estate agent through a contact I had noted on a poster at the Bilingual Lycée d’Essos. I opened the file by paying 5,000 FCFA as indicated in the procedure. The agent took me to visit several apartments and I liked one in the Titi-Garage district in Yaoundé and the work was being finished. At the end of the visit we agreed to talk to each other again on the phone. A few days later, I invited him to the house to finalize the integration procedure of the apartment, we had paid him a sum of 350,000 FCFA for 6 months rent at the rate of 50,000 FCFA per month. and 50,000 FCFA in commission costs. While hiking the apartment to see if the work is complete and I am doing the cleaning, I found another lady moving into the same apartment. After investigation, the real estate agent was missing and the money volatilized. »
Close to these obnoxious images of real estate agents, some testimonies state that some agents are essential for some real estate owners. On the client side, some are happy to have done good deals with real estate agents. This is the case with Vanessa Mbita who has benefited from the services of an agent whom she describes as available, reliable and excellent.