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How To Choose An Estate Agent

May 2020

Knowing the inside track on the property market and how to differentiate between estate agents will be critical to selling your home in a post-Covid market. Listen to my live talk on how to choose an estate agent now!


How to Choose an Estate Agent

Full transcript below:

So thank you for joining me and this is very much a talk on how to choose an estate agent in what is a tougher market, potentially what will be a different market and very much in conjunction with agents here to help. So really appreciate their support as always. So as everyone knows yeah sure we’re in uncharted times but there are a lot of reasons I have to say to still stay positive. It was predicted in the property industry that we would see a surge in market activity following the general election and the Brexit result and sure enough, in February, this was just prior to lockdown, the UK had the highest number of mortgage approvals since January 2014. It was shy of about 74, 000, so a proven surge then and i predicted, along with a lot of other commentators that the same was going to happen again in a post-Covid market and when it was slightly more behind us. Now this was proven on Wednesday when the property sector was more released and the right move reported, again, these figures are incredible right? We’ve reported a 45% increase in website activity. 70% increase in inquiries and over 2 000 properties were newly launched within five hours of trading. So that is quite some staggering figures and some real positive news out there. But look, don’t get me wrong, the market is of course going to be different. It’s likely to be tougher and there’s going to be a bit of turbulence along the way, however, as I sit here, there are some key areas that you’ve got to get right. If your sale is going to go with a bang. We’ve had a tougher market now for a while it’s likely to continue and this afternoon in a pretty short, sharp and to the point discussion I just wanted to outline what I feel are the key criteria to look at when deciding to choose an agent to sell your home. How to differentiate between them what the vendor needs to know and how to ensure that you’ve got the best team around you. So prior to this and even more so now, many of the frontline values and estate agency practices were under a huge amount of pressure to perform and I used to be that side of the fence and it means sometimes that you’re incentivized to list a property rather than to necessarily sell it. The agents are motivated rightly or wrongly by targets, KPIs and spreadsheets and this can sometimes cause a conflict between giving what is the right advice and getting the instruction, and it’s a very, very fine line. And I’m not saying for a moment that this is a bad thing I’m merely saying that it’s something to be mindful of. So, look, who am I? Very briefly. A why do I feel that I can make these points?

So, as I’ve alluded to, I am a former estate agent myself, but I used to be with some of the biggest names in the country and other consultancy practices for about 18 years. I’ve now got my own business and I give them the inside track on the estate agency and property sector when it comes to buying and selling their homes. Bit more unusual, I’ve actually got a footing in London and the London home county markets and the current consensus I feel is that the vast majority of buyers and indeed sellers just want to get on with it. Lives have been put on hold and yeah sure the market is a bit mixed. We’ve seen a huge surge at the moment but there are some key agency cornerstones that you need to master to ensure that your sale is going to go with a bang and then make sure you’re ready for these, so as I see it, the key points. The first one and the moment is experience because as with any business sector out there, yeah of course there are always the rogues out there but you need to ensure that your agent has earned their time working at the agency, coalface if you will, for a good number of years selling property. It’s bizarre speaking with the clients first thing this morning it’s just not the same as insurance and it’s one if not the only emotional purchase we ever make. And rarely is it with more money or more associated emotion. So, look if you haven’t been there before as an agent, you’re never going to be able to gauge a situation and more importantly, actually nip situations in the bud before they actually occur. The best thing is to check out your agent on LinkedIn to get a true feel for their experience. If they’ve hopped across numerous sectors, over the week, over the years. They’re just not going to have the battle-hardened skills to deal with a given situation nor get the best figure from a would-be purchaser. And I do mean battle hardened. We’ve been through a lot in property in recent times, recession, Brexit and all of that you need to have been there and done it and got the t-shirt in order to give the best possible advice and get the very best out of any given situation. So that’s the first point.

Second point, again a lot of people overlook this and I’m at a loss as to why but, the front of house team. So, these are the key individuals back in the estate agency office and they should be your primary focus when choosing your agent not the valuer who’s pitching for your business, sat in your sitting room. Those are the salespeople but equally so is the front of house team because they are the first individuals to speak with interested parties, deal with walk-in inquiries, telephone inquiries. They need to be able to talk fluently enthusiastically and knowledgeably about your home. It’s be more likely therefore that you’re going to secure viewings and it gives viewers confidence in the agent as well so that they in turn can get the best out of them. Make sure that you ask those on the front end, the front of house team, to see your home themselves. Even if it’s virtually, of course at the moment, before it goes onto the market because if they’ve seen it, as with everything in sales, if you’ve seen it you can talk about it more confidently and from a position of strength.

Next point on the front of house team is just to also ask how is your sale going to be handled once you go under offer. And to be clear, selling a property is actually the easy bit. You’ve got to keep that window from going under offer to exchange as tight as you possibly can. You need a designated sales progressor as they’re called and again one who’s got the experience. I like to think of these people like little Yorkshire terriers because they go after all the parties, they push them very hard to get the deals over the line and they never give up. They constantly nip away, and they really are amazing people, but they are worth their weight in gold. And again, make sure you’ve got a good one on your side.

The next point is viewings. So of course, we’re in uncharted times. It’s still a moveable face on how best to conduct these and currently agents um they’re not necessarily allowed to accompany unless there’s very strict guidelines in place and the doors need to be all opened up and social distancing in place so again it’s not what it was. However, prior to lockdown and we will eventually come back to this. Is that I’d always say be wary of agents who can ask you to conduct the vast majority of the viewings because as I see it it’s slightly a lazy estate agency and it’s not necessarily again in your best interest as vendor. Showing potential buyers around a property is an art and the most experienced agents know exactly what the viewers are looking for and how to get the best out of them. So one of the little tricks I used to do is that you’re showing someone a property and they make an enthused comment about, I don’t know the breakfast kitchen so what do you do you finish the viewing in the breakfast kitchen. So, the last thing they actually remember is the breakfast kitchen. It’s little things like that you don’t want. Just a simple door opener so it’s a key but important point you as the vendor. Again, it’s different at the moment sure but make sure you’re not in the background. You can’t be in ear shot because you want the genuine feedback and that is so valuable um and important. And yep I agree virtual viewings are in place and I am going to come back to these in a moment. As I mentioned at the start, I’ve had a very good question in advance about this and the virtual viewings. Again, we just need to talk through.

The next point is marketing so look before you choose an agent mystery. Shop them. Always, always investigate their marketing collateral. How well are you treated as a buyer? For example, do the front of house team know their stuff do they ask you the right questions? Because an instant fail for me is when you call them up and the agent says I’ll just get the brochure and check. You’ve already got the brochure so what’s the point. Look through the brochure examples. Check they’re all well designed presented and outstanding photography and I do mean outstanding. Brief descriptions, floor plans and site plans as well where relevant. Game check for typos. Are all the descriptions amazingly similar because if it’s a copy and paste job, you may just want to part ways with them. Take of course a look at their web portal presence, right move and on the market social media activity, videos editorial and PR coverage. It all counts, and it really is not just about online presence. Check and ask your agent how many proceedable cash buyers could they instantly pick up the phone to. It’s a good sort of test as to how straight talking your agent is because as I said, if they say any more than about a dozen. Um yeah, they may be uh wishful thinking.

Perhaps the next point, again guide price. Common tactic as I think we’re all aware, but you don’t necessarily appreciate it when the agent is around your home is a common tactic shown by, I have to say the less scrupulous agents to secure your business is to suggest a guide price where it’s got you planning your next holiday in the Bahamas. Go with your gut feel. If it sounds too good to be true what do you know, it usually is. Buyers are very well researched nowadays, and your guide price needs to be realistic and, on the fence, because if it is, you’re going to get the interest. If you don’t and you over pitch it, you’re going to be one of those properties that languishes in the market too long and you’re going to have to regularly reduce your price and it just sends the whole wrong message to the market and the whole thing becomes stagnant. I think a lot of people don’t fully appreciate this creates a far greater problem because it unnecessarily adds to your digital footprint. Your online history, all these websites record your market activity and you can never delete it and it’s something just to be aware of. You need to critically trust the agent who gives you a realistic guide price but please never ever instruct an agent who just quotes the highest price. It’s much more than that.

The next point on how to choose an estate agent, the last point actually will be slightly taboo, it’s commission. It’s fees. It’s a bit of a false economy to strong-arm the agent into a low fee or just to go with a cheap agent because you might congratulate and high-five yourself for securing a better fee than anyone else but here’s the important thing, ask yourself if the agent is on a low fee, how incentivised are they going to be to put in the effort to sell your home? Not a lot because the small percentage that you might pay in addition for a better agent is a small drop in the ocean compared to the extra thousands. They’re motivated now to secure you at the negotiation stage. You need to remember estate agents are often rewarded by their commission. That is their reward and if you take that and you whip the carpet from under their feet. They’re instantly disincentivized and they’d much rather look after another property that they’re going to get rewarded for it. Makes sense? I’m not saying go drastically overpay for your agent but again it comes to the guide price element. On the fence you know what the standard market rate is that’s what you should be aiming to pay um as well.

So, look, overall, from this talk how to choose an estate agent it’s experience, it’s the front of house team, it’s viewings, marketing guide price and fees but they’ve all got their respective roles to play. It’s how they all merge together with the appointed agent that is critical. In today’s very rapidly changing market and look personally for me my highlights are it’s got to be attention to detail. And experience that’s that word has just cropped up in so many of the points that i’ve gone through. Experience and again the front of house team. Those are the things that are actually going to pay dividends.

So I hope that’s been of use and that’s my take on estate agents. I mentioned at the beginning a very good question about the whole virtual viewing arrangements at the moment. And my take on it um as I see it, and this is new territory. I think for everyone it’s a great tool don’t get me wrong. But I don’t see it as an advantage to have them freely available by putting them on Rightmove and everywhere else because as I see it, have you thought about the security risk they pose? You’ve got potential high value items and you’ve got a very clear guide around your home. So, what I’m saying is by all means, advertise the fact that you’ve got one and it’s available, but it needs to be, as quite a few of the good agents are doing, accompanied online by the agent, i.e. the agent has the video tour on their screen sharing with the interested party who’s been pre-qualified and vetted but it’s the agent that retains that file. The agent holds that video and that way the agent can go and chase up potential interest and again get the best out of them. If you have one of these videos or indeed, your property online, who are these people looking at your video? Who are these people looking at right move? Yes, an agent may say we’ve had 200 hits this week but at the end of the day right move doesn’t know that information. You cannot as an agent go and follow them up and that’s why I always say less is more. Put less information online, have potentially interested parties engage with the agent to say you didn’t tell about x can you tell me more about why? They’ve then rung and engage with the agent. The agent gets all their details. Give them the answer and more importantly go and follow them up. So, as I said, virtual viewings certainly have their place. It’s early days but again to have it freely available on all these websites. I’m not sure that’s necessarily the way forward at the moment because you need to tightly control who’s viewing it and go after them as well.

And look if there’s any other questions, feel free to get hold of me or indeed have a word, the website is and really hope that’s been of use to everyone. No doubt see you soon. Thanks again.

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