The Inside Edge
Finding the right estate agent can be a daunting task. After all you’re entrusting them with the sale of your largest assest and the difference between a good one and a bad one could be weeks of stress and thousands of pounds.
If you’ve recently bought a house then you’ll have an insight into how the local agents treated you as a potential buyer and what they did that you liked and what you didn’t.
It’s a bit like recruitment in many ways – you know they roughly fit the bill, you interview them and some you will instantly like or dislike and you will have some in the middle that are hard to differentiate – after all they all give roughly the same patter and attempt to tell you what they think you want to hear.
So how do you assess them?
Start by getting clear on your needs and the qualities that you want in the person/ company that you want to work with. What are your aims? A fast sale, the highest price, a personal service, low fees, a local agent, a person you trust? If you can order this list in priority descent then you have a system by which to rate your potential agents.
Six areas we feel are important are listed below:
You will get a range of valuations from different agents and the most important thing for me is that a valuation is realistic and demonstrable. There’s no point an agent feeding your dreams of a huge profit if the price is unrealistic and will not sell. Likewise a low price will likely achieve a quicker sale but if one of your aims is to make a capital gain then this does not serve your purpose. Most agents will bring comparable properties that are either on the market now (so you know what the competition is) and what has been recently sold, by them and by other agents in the area.
Estate Agents’ Fees
These days the typical fee is around 2% and have been known to go as low as 1% and up to 3%. Some agents work on a set fee, which you could argue removes the incentive for them to achieve the best price, or you could argue that it stops them favouring one property over another. I’m a firm believer that you get what you pay for – but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the most expensive is the best – you have to assess value.
Broadly speaking estate agents all do similar things to market properties, but the details matter. Look at some agents’ brochures and there will be only one photo, look at others and there will be myriad, all taken with care and attention to detail to show off the features of your house. A badly taken picture can make the largest, sunniest room look dingy and pokey. The reverse is also true.
Consider where you’ve been looking for properties – does your prospective agent advertise there? The local paper, Rightmove (of course!), Primelocation, what does their own website look like? Is it easy to find (search for ‘properties for sale in …” or ‘estate agents in…..’ on google – are they on the top half of the first page? If not, who is?
Big Office vs Small Office
A small agency may offer a more personal service – a single point of contact and the knowledge that your property is not likely to get lost under a heap of instructions. However, a larger agency will have more resources under its belt, for making calls to prospective buyers, sending out mailing lists and advertising in the local papers. A big office will more likely attract more buyers in to register – but then the overhead cost of that office has to come from somewhere – your fees! Weigh up what is more improtant to you.
For me the most important aspect. Do you like the agent as a person, do you trust them and believe they can sell your house, and are they the sort of person you want to deal with? If you like them then its likely others will as well, and as the old adge goes: ‘people buy people not products’.
After all this consideration you can get an idea for what it might be like to work with the estate agents you’ve been considering – but you can get an even clearer picture of what this is like by speaking to people who have had the experience. A personal recommendation goes a long way and likewise a negative recommendation can save a lot of pain. Ask friends and family in the area what there experience has been of local estate agents – or even knock on a door displaying a sign, why not!
In the end you have to make a decision based on the sum of these factors and your ‘gut feeling’. Keeping a checklist of things you want in an agent and a list of services that are important to you should make this process much easier – also keep notes on each agant so afterwards you can sit down with a cup of tea and review what they said, how much they valued the house at and any other pertinent advice or information they offered.
Whoever you choose, giving clear instructions and explaining your aims from the start will help the relationship from start to finish.