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The Secret to Instructing a Great Estate Agent (as featured in The Yorkshire Post)

January 2017

When it comes to instructing an estate agent for our most important asset – our home, I regularly have conversations with homeowners who are getting themselves in a spin. “Is it any wonder?” they all say.

From their perspective, estate agents all look the same, say the same and claim to do the same for their beloved home. To add an extra layer of confusion, there is also now a vast array of agents out there whether high street based, online or hybrid. Plus, they are on the most part excellent salespeople, all vying for the homeowner’s attention and eventual instruction. Most homeowners have also not placed their home on the market for three years or more and feel completely out of touch with how rapidly the market has changed.

From my dealings with homeowners over the last 15 years, many believe that there are three main criteria to choose from when looking to instruct an estate agent. However, all of these measures have major flaws when it comes to this point – let me explain.

Firstly, guide price. Rightly or wrongly, this subject alone seems to consistently come at the top of everyone’s list. Vendors understandably feel flattered when an estate agent exudes confidence in selling their home and especially when a guide price is quoted towards the upper end of the range. Agents know this and many quote enthusiastic figures just to obtain the instruction. This invariably leads to a price reduction after several weeks and reflects poorly on the sale. Let’s face it – anyone can quote a high guide price, so we need to look beyond this to secure the right agent.

Secondly, fees. We must remember that estate agents are salespeople. If you agree on a commission structure that is sensible for both sides, then an agent will remain proactive and motivated right up to the critical point of exchange. However, many vendors feel that if they nail an agent right down on commission, then they have made a saving. In actual fact, they have instantly disincentivised the agent and it’s unlikely they will push for a top sale figure now. So fees should also be put to one side when choosing an agent.

The third benchmark lies in how professionally the agent presented their pitch. They are on the most part well dressed, have boundless enthusiasm and demonstrate the utmost confidence in selling your house. Yes of course they love your property – which salesperson sat in your home would tell you otherwise? Again, this point needs to be treated with caution.

So at the end of the day, if it is not about high guide prices, low fees and a professional pitch, what do you really need to examine if you are to pick the right agent?

The answer lies with the front of house team.

These are the people sat in the estate agency office who meet and greet potential buyers walking into the branch. They deal with phone enquiries and website requests, know the properties, can sell them effectively and have intrinsic knowledge of the buyer database. The valuer sat in your living room will handle an element of these, but it is their team back at the office who will engage with all buyers and sellers whilst they are out.

Most importantly, where the front of house team come in to their own is with sale progression. Getting a property ‘under offer’ is the easy part. Proactively handling a sale from this point to ‘exchange’ is much more difficult, requiring superb people skills and the ability to be personally on hand if issues arise.

My advice is before you instruct an agent, go and mystery shop them as a prospective purchaser. See how engaging, knowledgeable and proactive the front of house team are. Find a team that is exceptional and suddenly you will find that the estate agent’s guide price, fees and presentation take on a whole new meaning.

How do you read through all the “estate agent speak” and what do you really need to look for when instructing an agent?