How to choose your Estate Agent

It’s with a heavy heart that most people ask me this question. An air of foreboding tinged with the fear of what they are letting themselves in for. And rightly so. Pick the ‘wrong’ Estate Agent and you could be entering into a life of  Prozac popping. So how do you go about picking your ‘Rupert’ or ‘Darren”?

Lets start with the mysterious world of what an Estate Agent does all day – or what they should be doing.

To analyse properly let’s us take a look at Rupert the perfect Estate Agent. Rupert does everything right.

When Rupert takes on your property he will have done his homework. He will base the asking price on recent comparable sold properties perhaps with a little extra on top.In other words a sensible price. He will have advised you on what if anything needed doing to the property. He will have listened carefully to all your knowledge of your home and he will have picked up a set of keys – as no self-respecting Rupert will expect you to show buyers around.

When it’s ready for marketing, (piccies, HIP’s, board and all that), Rupert will brief everyone in the office on your home and probably give them a guided tour so everyone is up to speed and bought into your home. They will then all rush back to their phones and call out to the database of brilliant buyers- known in the trade as ‘the hotbox’. As this is happening, beautiful photographs of your home will be wending their way through the ether onto every major property portal. And off to the local paper too. If your house is posh or pretty, a bit of Country Life goes down a treat too.

He or the team accompany all viewers around your home, treating them respectfully and getting honest feedback, which is imminently relayed to you. In an equally frank way.The team will all keep calling out to their database, engaging buyers and matching your home to them.  They will weed out the no-hopers. When an offer comes in, Rupert as your main contact will handle the negotiations pushing the buyer to their best price. Rupert will then liaise with all parties throughout the sales process, including your lawyer and the buyers lawyer- ensuring that all bumps are smoothed and information and communication flows freely up and down the chain.

Thats how it should work. But how do you find your perfect Rupert?

  • PICK THREE ESTATE AGENTS TO GIVE YOU A MARKET APPRAISAL.

Ask friends and neighbours for their input.

Look at the boards around your immediate area.

Go onto property portals and see who has most locally to you and in your price parameter.

Which Agents sell houses ‘like yours’. No point selling a one bed flat through a country house type Agent.

  • THE MARKET APPRAISAL- what to look out for.

Do you like and trust them? You are entrusting your biggest asset to this person, if you don’t like them, don’t instruct them. If you don’t like your Rupert, chances are the buyers won’t either.

Have they brought comparable properties with them. Houses they have sold and similar properties?

Are they giving you a price on the spot? If they have to go away and think about it they may be inexperienced, unless yours is a very unusual property.

If your house is special in some way is he going to look at producing some creative brochures or special advertising.

Will the person you are meeting be your main contact or will you have to talk to every Tom, Dick or Henrietta in the office?

  • THE MARKET APPRAISAL- the questions to ask

How many properties similar to mine have you sold in the last six months? There is no set figure but the answer should give you confidence.

How have you come to that price valuation? Has he got examples to back it up? Things that have actually sold.Is he convincing?

Who will be negotiating the sale and managing the sales process? it is much better if it is just one person.

How are you going to market my property? Get specifics on the portals and print mediums.

Do I need to do anything to my home to make it easier to sell and maximise the price? Tell them they are allowed to be honest.

Will you be accompanying all viewings? They really must, it’s their opportunity to relate and help sell to the buyer. (Odd occasions are OK)

Do you do evening and weekend viewings? Not an essential, but you don’t want to spend every saturday showing people around.

How long am I tied into you? If they turn out to be useless after 6 weeks – how quickly can you change Agent without penalty? Check the small print.

  • THE ASKING PRICE

This is a recommendation. listen to the reasoning carefully.

Does it make sense? Where and what is his recommendation based on?

Is the price skewed towards what you want and him getting your business rather than reality?

Remember, this is your decision.

  • FEES

You can usually negotiate the fee somewhat , but not always. After all, you are paying them for their negotiating skills. But give it a good go!

  • SOLE AGENCY, JOINT AGENCY OR MULTI AGENCY?

In most cases sole agency is best.The fees will be lower and the whole team will be more motivated to sell you house and get a full fee.

In some cases joint agency can be valuable. If two agents have a differing marketing reach e.g. for equestrian properties, you could use a specialist company and a mainstream country house agent. However – you will pay a higher fee as both Agents will usually split the fee.

I don’t like multi-agency at all. High fees and you just look desperate to the buying public who will spot you everywhere.Also, the Estate Agents tend to be de-motivated.

So, there you have it. Follow the guidelines and follow your gut instincts. Pick the right Rupert and he will help minimise the stress of moving and squeeze every last penny out of your biggest asset. Pick the wrong one and you’ll be spending a lot of time in that repeat prescription queue.

Written for and appeared at http://www.buyassociation.co.uk Feb.2010.  Not for re-publication.

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4 thoughts on “How to choose your Estate Agent

  1. This is really good advice and also a good reminder for agents out there wondering what they should really be doing and why the telephone is not ringing (because the recommendations have dried up!). You must have a camera or something in my office to give such an accurate description of my daily working life 🙂 John Murray – exclusiveresidential.co.uk and almas-estates.com

  2. Oh is that what I am supposed to be doing ! Dohh
    Great description of what we agents are trying to achieve and I agree with 95% of the blog.
    Only in the current market any one agent needs to juggle a lot of vendors to make a living and with sales so slow in small towns it is often difficult to get recent comparables because there aren’t any. Also vendors asking friends for advice can be dangerous, vendor often gets over inflated ideas of property values. But it’s a shame vendors don’t follow this kind of advice more often, many vendors choose agents for the wrong reasons, like I bought it through them or they were the first company to value etc etc.
    Another great Blog, thanks

  3. Spot on!
    Agree with paulrolfeestates that it’s hard to find comparables and, although there seem to be fewer sales in this current market (although, in Liverpool, we’re having a record couple of months), we’re having to deal with a greater number of properties, fewer “ready-to-go” buyers, and smaller commissions as all of us agents are under-cutting each other to stay in business.
    Still, as with all things, the truth will out and only those who are good will survive under in this market and hopefully set a good foundation for when the banks finally loosen their strangehold on the buyers!
    Great blog as ever, thanks!

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