Have online estate agencies, the fees up front coloured Lego types really taken the lions share of the market? Are they the way to go? Have they wiped the smiles off traditional Estate Agents faces and changed the face of Estate Agency forever?
To me the issue is the chasm between what is marketing a property and the actual selling of it. Particularly in a market where, to put it mildly, it’s tough.
I am by no means in the thrall of Estate Agents nor a Luddite disliking of change and when I talk of High Street or traditional Estate Agents, I of course mean good ones, which is a whole different blog. The fact is that buying and selling in the UK (excluding Scotland) is a flaming nightmare.
Truth is, that when I buy and when I sell I want to use a good traditional, knows their stuff Estate Agent. I and every buyer I have worked with does not want to be escorted around a home by the Vendor extolling the virtues of his hot tub. As a seller I don’t want to see people traipsing through my house inspecting my cupboards.
I don’t want to have to negotiate with the Vendor on his main asset, it gets emotional. And as a Vendor I know it’s a darn sight easier for the Estate Agent to say ‘I have loads of interest’ and get the best price, than me trying it on with a sheepish expression.
But that’s the easy bit.
The tricky stuff comes after an offer has been agreed, when the mortgage companies, surveyors and solicitors get involved. These days their role can most often be described as ‘problem finders’. Someone in this sticky mix has to be the ‘problem solver’ and that is the Estate Agent (and the buyers representatives when used).
What happens when the mortgage company insists on a piece of paper from 1977 which doesn’t exist and they won’t accept an indemnity policy?
When the survey says there is a 20k damp problem and buyer and seller refuse to budge.
When the chain starts to break at the bottom, who is trying to put it back together?
Vendors threatening to pull out if we don’t exchange tomorrow and mortgage funds aren’t ready.
Just some real examples of deals of mine in the past 12 months where without the Estate Agent sweating bricks and managing the issues delicately, the deal would have died.
Before everyone starts throwing their toys out of the pram, I know there are exceptions and I know a bad Estate Agent is worse than dry rot. I also don’t think they have to be on the High Street, there are some excellent ones based in local trading estates. But the key is that they need to be on the ground, know the property business and manage the sale like a hawk. They need to be on top of all parts of the chain, the mortgage offers and the legals. When they do, the process of buying and selling generally works.
It costs money to manage a 3 months sales progression professionally. I don’t see how a fixed £1000 or £2000 fee can cover a business to do this properly. But of course, if you have been paid up front, you really don’t have to.
Until we have a conveyancing process whereby all issues have been ironed out before the offer and it really is a simple transaction, it is a people and relationship driven process. And when you have people you also have the words emotional, irrational, selfish, greedy and many others. These things have to be managed by people who know what they’re doing and quite simply, you get what you pay for.
Weirdly, traditional Estate Agents are really bad at selling the importance of sales progression, the key part where the safe pairs of hands make the difference between selling smoothly or a decade on Prozac. They bandy about their online presence and which portals they are on but they rarely allude to the part after the offer comes in. The part where it can and often does go horribly wrong.
Traditional ‘charge a reasonable fee’ Estate Agents need to get cleverer at broadcasting this USP. Because in this tough market, a good, ‘proper’ Estate Agent has more value than ever.