In Europe estate agents generally work for the landlord/seller. Agents that work for the buyer exist but are rare, and they generally work in the upscale part of the market for wealthy buyers (not prospective tenants) that have more money than time. It makes sense that it is the owner that use the services of an estate agent as selling is a business activity that brings in money whereas buying is not.
In the age of the internet when a property owner can both find potential buyers, and get a reasonable overview of market prices online, I’d say the value of the services provided by estate agents has been reduced significantly and possibly become nonexistent in many cases. Services provided by chartered surveyors and notaries on the other hand, should not have been affected in the same way.
In Abidjan, interestingly, from what I have seen, estate agents are paid for by the buyer, but seem to be working for themselves more than for the buyer or the seller. When I rented a (surprisingly nice) short term accomodation in Zone 4 for 30,000 CFA per day last year, the only really useful thing the agent did was to drive me to the place in question. The agent said that the price was 40,000 and that the absolutely lowest possible price was 35,000. When I arrived, I negotiated with the owner directly and got a better price. After that I held the opinion that it would make sense to pay the agent the equivalent of a taxi ride, but to avoid too much trouble I think at the end I paid the agent 10,000.
When I let the Cocody house I bypassed the agents completely and even put in “no middleman” as a selling point in the ad. It worked perfectly fine, and I don’t quite understand why not more people bypass the agents. Well, on a second thought, from a sellers perspective it does make more sense to bypass the agents in Europe than in Abidjan as it is the buyers that pay for it.
As a prospective tenant, if you do not know your way around Abidjan, paying for an agent could maybe make sense, but then you want them to really work for you. Currently their incentives are just close the deal regardless of the price, and hence they won’t negotiate as hard with the owner as the prospective tenant would. Also, the default price charged by agents seem to be one month’s rent which is really high, and for shorter lets the price is unclear which the agents take advantage of by not mentioning it until the deal has been done. Maybe, as a prospective tenant, one should tell them upfront that they will be paid more the better deal they manage to find in specific terms, possibly as a function of lowest price for a set quality level.
One downside with bypassing the agents as a seller could be that it angers them – in hindsight putting “no middleman” in the ad was maybe a bit too provocative.