Whilst most Estate Agents exist in order to deliver a high level of service to their clients when buying or selling their home, there are some things which set exceptional agents apart from the run of the mill and they are things worth knowing and considering before you decide who to list your home with.
1) The agent with the most "For Sale" boards in the area is the best agent.
Think about it... The agent with the most "For Sale" boards is the agent with the most UNSOLD properties. When a property is listed the "For Sale" board goes up and when it sells the "For Sale" board changes to "Sale Agreed" or "Sold" and then it disappears. With a typical sale taking around 3 months, from agreement to moving in, Estate Agents boards should not be hanging around under normal circumstances. A slow market or an off season will certainly have a bearing on the time that a board might be up but if you see a lot of one agents boards then you need to ask some more searching questions.
2) The agent with the most property listings on Propertynews and Propertypal is the best agent.
Similar to the first point, you may not be asking the right questions. If an agent has 100 properties on the websites and only 10 are "Sale Agreed" then 90% of their stock is unsold! You can include "Sale Agreed" properties when you search by clicking "Advanced search" so you can easily get a total number of properties (including sales agreed), a total number of "For Sale" (available) properties and work out how many "Sale agreed" properties any particular agent has. The results can be shocking. For example one agent at the minute has roughly 140 properties on the property websites and roughly 70 of these are agreed for sale. 50% sucess rate. Another agent has roughly 100 properties listed but over 70 agreed for sale. Over 70% sucess rate. So arguably a smaller agent but with a higher success rate of sales. That's the agent you want.
Of course this is where some unscrupulous agents get creative. The Property Ombudsman requires that properties are not marketed in a way which is "Misleading". This includes not continuing to list properties as "Sale Agreed" after they are "Sold". Some agents with an exceptionally high number of "Sale Agreed" properties may well be trying to manipulate the websites to their own advantage and mislead you at the same time so check carefully. We have seen properties still listed as "Sale Agreed" up to a year after the sale was completed.
3) Bigger is better.
Well it depends.... A smaller agent may be better placed to give you personal attention. Some of the new "Online agents" are one man bands who only have a few properties on their books and charge very low fees but, if they only have a handful of clients, they may be able to give you more personal attention. A very large agent may be impersonal but, if they have enough staff and the right staff, you may still get a better service. A good agent will be big enough to get you the maximum interest whilst still providing a personal service. Listing with a larger agent may benefit you with increased market exposure of your property, the ability to migrate viewers from an unsuitable property to your property or a more experienced or professional service.
4) Everything is online now so the agent doesn't matter.
Have you seen the standard of some of the property listings online?
- Dark photographs.
- Messy rooms or uninviting photographs (toilet seats up is a personal annoyance).
- Photos that don't "explain" the property adequately.
- No floor plans to help explain the layout.
- No video tours to give you an honest impression of the property before arranging a personal viewing.
- Maps that don't show the property in the correct location.
It's a wonder some of the properties sell at all. As Bananarama sang in the 80's, "It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it, and that's what gets results". Anyone can take a photograph on their mobile phone nowadays but is that going to show your property at its best? Is it going to make people want to come and see it in person? Is it going to justify the asking price - or the agents fee. Good enough is not good enough when it comes to maximising the sale price of your home. Your agent should give you advice on how to present your home for photographs and viewings in order to get the best results. They should also ensure that they promote your home to the very best of their ability in order to grab peoples interest and help you stand out from the crowd.
5) The Agent with the longest opening hours is the best.
This is linked to point 4. We're told that we're a 24/7 society with a 365 days a year attitude so therefore you should list with one of the big online agents who have call centres open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
Not so. A call handler in a remote call centre doesn't know anything about your home other than what a potential buyer can see online. They can't sell the benefits of the area because they've probably never been there and when they call a viewer for feedback after a viewing they can't suggest alternative properties because they don't know the area.
I can also tell you that we respond to emails and social media messages during waking hours and they share a number of things in common.
- The later the hour, the lower the quality of the lead. Once it's past "wine o'clock" it can get very silly, very quickly.
- A message saying "can I view this property" does nothing to establish the circumstances of the buyer and whether you would even want them to visit your home.
- If we receive a viewing request or even an offer at 4 in the morning we won't be ringing anyone at that time so nothing is gained that couldn't be communicated by email, voicemail, messenger or a call back during normal hours.
Quite simply, serious buyers know how the system works and, if they're genuine, they will call or make contact when the office is open, within reason.
6) We're all on social media now.
That may be true of the vast majority of agents but, again, how is it being used? We know a lot of agents who have less than 1,000 followers and their posts are hardly being seen at all. So, yes, they can honestly say that they put their properties on social media, but is anyone seeing them.
Social media is a powerful selling tool and, used correctly - high quality images, short, snappy text & links to the main property listings - it can make a huge difference to your sale. Miss these key points and it's like putting a property ad in the local paper - no-one sees it.
7) The Extra Mile
Talk is cheap and there is an underlying distrust of what Estate Agents say so how do you know what or who to believe?
Well, do your homework - Check the things mentioned above:
- Check the number of agreed properties against total listings.
- Check the quality of photographs.
- Check for floor plans.
- Check the social media activity.
- Check for video tours.
- Interview the agents - When you get your 2 or 3 agents out check what they say. Does it tally with your own research? Challenge the claims that don't add up. Challenge the high valuations. Too high and it could completely spoil your efforts to sell - a property can become "yesterday's news" very quickly so a pro-active approach to marketing is essential. Low fees are attractive too. Yes, they may be £200 less than the competition but will your house still be on the market in 6 months?
8) The NEVER DO's
- Never choose an agent based on the highest valuation.
- Never choose an agent based on the lowest fee.
- Never choose an agent because you've "viewed a house with them that you like".
- Never choose an agent who isn't active and succesful in the area.
- Never choose an agent because "he's your mate and you feel obligated".
- Never choose an agent because "he sounded very confident" - Fact check everything an agent says. Talk is cheap - reality counts.
Follow our advice and avoid the many pitfalls of the property market.