How To Choose An Estate Agent

When we buy a new car, holiday or sofa we’re usually looking for a balance of quality and price. The same applies to estate agents. In a sea of choices, how do you choose the right one for you?

Estate agents sometimes have a poor reputation, which doesn’t surprise me. I myself have had some shocking experiences including viewings that left out critical information, to negotiating the price on the sale of my home because the agent was more focused on agreeing a quick sale than achieving the best price. I felt they were acting more for the buyer than me! Sound familiar?

Your home is a significant asset, so finding the right agent to represent you and your home is crucial.

Estate agent options these days are broadly split into:

  • Online
  • High street
  • Bespoke

Online agents typically work on a flat fee basis in which case the agent will be incentivised to find a buyer quickly (to get the fee), but not to achieve the best price, as the amount paid will not impact them. If you’ve paid their fee upfront, they have no incentive to sell the house at all!

High street agents are often still viewed as the safe bet, however, they do sometimes struggle to keep up with innovations in marketing and younger staff may still be learning how to negotiate and mediate during the sales process. They work on a numbers game – list enough properties and some will inevitably sell.

Boutique agencies have been growing in numbers and popularity in the last few years and often specialise in specific price and geographical markets. They’re also able to quickly respond to market changes and innovations. They’re worth checking out to see how they match your home.

What’s really important is to find an agent who understands you and your home, can identify the right target markets, reach them and manage enquiries quickly and effectively, right from the first enquiry through negotiation to exchange of contracts.  Word to the wise, you won’t find quality marketing and service or achieve best price by using a cheap agent – you get what you pay for!

Before inviting agents to your home, call them pretending to be a buyer and evaluate your experience. I’ve mystery shopped quite a few agents and it’s most revealing!

  1. How quickly do they respond? Buyers now almost exclusively shop online and they may send out 20 enquiries in 1 evening for houses of interest. If they don’t hear back from one of the agents, will they call again?
  2. Can they answer your questions? If not, how long does it take them to reply with the answer? If they are slow or don’t respond at all, buyers may choose another property instead.
  3. Do they check if you are ready to buy, with a budget suitable for your property, or just browsing? Sellers spend time preparing their house for a viewing, you want to know they are ready, willing and able to buy. Weeding out day-trippers and lottery-winner wannabes saves time and disappointment.
  4. How quickly can they offer you a viewing that fits your diary requirements? Some buyers require viewings outside of office hours or Saturday mornings, can the agent accommodate this?

The British Property Awards are based solely on professional judges’ mystery shopping experiences. Kai Carter Estates has been awarded for 2 years in a row. Apparently, some of the other agents in the running didn’t even respond to enquiries. Imagine if someone was enquiring about your home and the agent didn’t even reply!

A common trick is for an agent to overvalue a home in order to win the listing. The agent will then spend the next few months disappointing you before asking for a drop in price. Meanwhile, you’ve lost the impact of the initial launch and your home becomes stale, which in turn reduces the perceived value.

A valuation should be backed up with statistics and market knowledge. It’s worth asking the agent how close (on average) the final sales price is to the initial list price, they should have this statistic to hand. It’s also worth asking what percentage of the properties they list go through to completion.

This is absolutely critical. How your home is presented makes all the difference to levels of interest and perceived value. Creating exceptional marketing will achieve the best possible price. Look at examples of how properties are marketed on the property portals and note what stands out to you.

Each viewing should be tailored to the buyer’s specific needs, with detailed knowledge of the property. If the agent doesn’t know the answer to a question, they should find out, quickly. Can they offer this level of service? Or do they have to wait until someone in the office is back from the weekend/a week’s holiday to find out? In the meantime, the buyer may have offered on another property.

Feedback is critical to understanding if there are particular issues buyers are unhappy with, so they can be addressed if possible. Will the agent follow up quickly with you to secure honest feedback?

If your house is priced correctly your agent should defend that price during negotiations. Price negotiation must be carefully managed taking into account viewer feedback, buying position and levels of interest.

A significant number of sales don’t make it to completion for various reasons. The biggest being it simply takes too long. The perception is that a sale will take 3 to 6 months to go through which needn’t be the case at all! 1 to 3 months is the optimum time frame. This keeps everyone focused on their new home instead of sitting around for months becoming stressed and frustrated with the process, sometimes to the point of pulling out.

Be sure your sales progression agent is knowledgeable and can work proactively with solicitors, buyers and sellers to make this happen, with holiday cover so there’s no interruption in progress.

Taking into account all of the above, which agent do you trust? Moving is one of life’s most stressful events, choose an agent who will smooth the process for you, keep you informed and support you every step of the way.

For a no obligation chat about marketing and selling your home, please do call us, we’re always happy to help!

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