Gladiatorial Estate Agents

December 2019

The gladiatorial arena of estate agency is where battle-hardened agents slog it out to win over clients. In today’s cut-throat market, these gladiators must research their opponent and use various tactics, so that they are fully armed to overcome any challenge thrown in their way. These include offering over-enthusiastic guide prices or drastically low fees to secure your business. These may work initially to beat the other agent, however it is you the ‘emperor’, who often loses out.

I regularly come across situations where vendors can be unwittingly manoeuvred into the amphitheatre, becoming entrenched in a battle between agents. If they’re not careful, they can become the vanquished, brought down by their own gladiatorial agents. No more is this true when you make the decision about the basis you instruct your chosen agent on. There are typically three main types – sole, joint and multiple agency.

Sole agency is where the vendor instructs one agent and gives them a clear run to sell their home. As the new kid on the block, they are full of energy and enthusiasm. A new instruction is exciting to launch and it’s great to get first dibs. However, as time elapses, one often hears of agents losing their once vibrant energy and gradually growing more lethargic. As a vendor it can be frustrating not to find the right answer in a short timeframe and this is where it can get interesting and treacherous in equal measure.

Some ‘emperors’ vent their frustrations at their sole ‘gladiator’ and are too quick to introduce new players into the amphitheatre. This can be in the form of joint or multiple agency. Joint agency is where two agents are simultaneously instructed on one property. Going multiple, is where two or more agents are on a ‘winner takes all basis’. In other words, whichever agent secures the buyer, they take the entire fee. The other agent(s) involved, receive nothing.

Joint agency can be a more subtle way of wheeling in another gladiator, with the aim of pepping things up. This is where you, as the emperor, need to be careful. The new agent should be very different to your first choice, aiming to fill in any gaps in their agency armoury. Depending on the personalities and companies involved, you can also weight the fee in favour of the winner. I have suggested to my clients anything from a straightforward 50:50 split, to a more lucrative 80:20 split. However you must remember that agents are salespeople and if you inadvertently misjudge their personalities, the current situation, or hastily remove their commission bonus, then you could find yourself thrown to the lions.

A more extreme move would be to employ multiple agents and you may be forgiven for thinking this might be the best route. After all, by having two or more agents battling it out until the last one is standing, you would think that all of the warriors would rise to the occasion. However in reality, you are diluting the efforts of your agents, as they will either feel that spending time and money on your sale for potentially no reward is too great a risk to take. Or conversely, the agents will be constantly battling with each other about who found the buyer, rather than concentrating on the sale itself. Either way, this is rarely the right path to follow and to potential buyers, can come across as desperation to sell.

The key with any successful sale is to instruct your agent on the right basis in the first place. It is also important to know how to reinvigorate your sale and re-energise your gladiatorial agents should the need arise. Yes, bringing in another combatant may be advantageous, but unless you know how to ensure they battle in your favour, you could find yourself becoming the next Julius Caesar.

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