In our experience, Sellers are often not well informed about the contents of the mandate they have signed or plan to sign with an estate agent. We frequently receive queries about this, especially where a mandate has been signed for a very long period.


Let us start with the definition of a mandate. A mandate, whether sole, joint or open, means that the Seller gives the estate agent authorisation to market the Seller’s property to find a suitable buyer. 


These agreements are legally binding, and in South Africa, Sole Mandate agreements must be in writing.


There are mainly three options available to Sellers, namely

ü  a Sole Mandate where ONE estate agent is given the right to market the owner’s property;

ü  a Joint Mandate where two or more agencies are given the right to sell the property; and lastly

ü  an Open Mandate where many agencies are given this right.


We will not go into the different options in great detail here. We will suffice to say that Sole and Joint Mandates provide for greater accountability on the side of the estate agent. In contrast, Open Mandates could result in over-exposure of the property. We most often recommend granting a Sole or Joint mandate depending on the situation.


Remember that you, the Seller, ALWAYS remain in control of the process when selling your property and that giving a mandate IS YOUR CHOICE! Do not let anyone convince you otherwise.


When YOU, the Seller, agree to allow an agent to market and sell your property, you should clarify beforehand what you are signing. Ask at least the following three questions:


How long does the mandate agreement last?


Regarding the length of a mandate agreement, every real estate agent will have a different preferred length.  One thing to keep in mind, though, when asking about the length of the contract is the current average days on the market of similar properties. Currently, the overall average in South Africa is 75 days. Therefore, granting a 90-day agreement is advisable. 


What is your professional fee / commission fee percentage that you charge?


Commission often becomes a thorny issue, mainly if the property is sold for less than the asking price or if the property is sold very quickly. Regardless of the circumstances, the time to query the commission percentage charged, is before the mandate is signed.


How do you plan to market my house?


Agents should provide and stick to a clear, solid marketing plan. Issues such as how often the property will go on show and when and where the property will be advertised are essential. A Seller has every right to withdraw a mandate if the agent concerned is not keeping his / her side of the bargain.


Sellers need to understand precisely what they are signing, and if they are unsure, they should ask the agent for clarification. As always, choose your agent carefully, and make sure that they are not only up to the task of selling your home, but are suitably qualified and have a valid Fidelity Fund Certificate that allows them to legally sell property in this country.