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Finding the best estate agent who will get the top price for your property and will offer you the greatest service can be a difficult task when there are so many to choose from. 

Of course, there are some basic factors, like making sure that you find an expert who is local, knows the area well and how active they actually are in that particular area, but the final question should be: How well do you get on with them?

However, there is a lot more to it. Now, there are many things to process here but we will summarise the points at the end if that helps. 

1. Establish how long the agent has been in the business. 

This gives a basic indication of their experience and ability to survive the ups and downs in the marketplace. However, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that they’re an active seller. They may have been in the business for ten years but they may have sat back on their established name whereas another agent who’s been in the industry for two years might be really motivated and eager to please and achieve – after all, they have a lot more to gain. 

The agency may be long established but how long have the staff been working there? Do they have experience at anything other than a seller’s market or are they just order takers? Do they think outside the box or keep the generic corporate structure that isn’t necessarily bespoke to you?

2. Look at the professional organisations they belong to and their qualifications.

Estate agency is an unregulated industry and open to abuse. Anyone can become an estate agent. They don’t need any qualifications and there are no mandatory regulations that estate agents must abide by in contrast to financial advisers regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). Any estate agent you choose should, as a minimum, be a member of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA), which requires the members to work within their codes of practice. 

Keep a look out for the agents that have the qualifications too. There are many diplomas and degrees out there that agents work hard for and ultimately, they might help them provide the best service.

Don’t get me wrong, someone with 10+ years experience and no qualifications is just as effective but the qualifications certainly provide the individual with a lot of knowledge – especially about property and valuing.

What I am trying to say is, make sure you haven’t just got anybody turning up on your door step… you will soon know if you have an experienced agent in front of you.

But remember…. passion is just as valuable as knowledge. If you don’t have an agent with passion… all of these organisations and qualifications mean nothing.

3. Ask them what their statistics are.

Many agencies rely on large numbers of ‘Sold’ boards to demonstrate their capabilities, but these are no indication of whether the sale of a property has actually reached completion, just that it is going though the sales process. 

A good agent will know the figures and have no hesitation in telling you. A poor agent will either not know, will not want you to know or will simply make it up! Ask them for comparables – ask them for a proof if you feel they are not telling the truth. 

Other good statistics may include;

  • Average time to find a buyer. These are statics that any agent can get hold of so there is no reason why they shouldn’t know or be able to find out.
  • The average percentage of asking price achieved. The difference between a budget agent and a quality one can be quite scary. Imagine if the quality agent achieved on average 1.5% more than the other agent but their fee is only 0.5% more? This does happen a lot. There are comparison sites out there that will help you with this. That’s thousands you could miss out on – but that is for another day (and another blog). 

4. How does the agent find prospective buyers? 

In today’s marketplace, there are only so many buyers out there who are ready and able to purchase a property. 

When you enter the market to sell, you enter one of the most competitive businesses in the existence. 

In a good market, competition is fierce, ethics can be a rare commodity and, if you’re not ready, your property just sits on the market. 

The agent you eventually choose has to identify potential buyers quickly, before other agents get to them and persuade them to buy a different property. 

So, how does an agent identify these ‘hot’ prospects before the competition? How are they going to make the phone ring and achieve lots of viewings for your property? This is what separates the weak agent from the shrewd. 

Your agent must have a powerful marketing strategy. Make sure you do your homework. Try to find similar properties to yours on the internet and consider which agency shone above the rest in terms of marketing. 

The best agencies use every available marketing tool, technology, approach, contact or potential avenue to generate prospective buyers for your property. They understand the value of effective advertising and how to create ads that generate a response. They can’t just fling their name out, sit back and expect people to call. Let’s face it. All the ads that are not thought of properly look virtually the same anyway. 

So what is unique about your agent that’s going to grab prospects and get them to pick up the phone and call? 

5. Will you have a personal contact and will you be able to get hold of them?

Have you got their direct number and email address? A generic companywide email address – such as mail@joebloggs-estate isn’t acceptable. You should be able to email and talk directly to the agent who is selling your property whenever you want to (within reason of course!).

At the very least, you should be able to talk to someone who knows who you are and about the property you’re selling. There is nothing worse than ringing an agent’s office and no one knows who you are. Establish from the start how you would like your agent to communicate with you. Would you like a weekly/monthly update or would you rather they only talk to you when something is happening? It’s down to you to establish the ground rules and a good agent will contact you in the way that suits you best. 

It makes sense to work very closely with the whole office to get the best result. In a way, you should become like a member of the family during the process. I have one client who still comes to see me every week to say hello. We enjoy seeing her in our office – she is a very inspirational person and someone we all respect. How nice it would be to have your very own estate agent who you could genuinely recommend, in very much the same way that we recommend dentists, solicitors and others. 

6. How good are the agent’s negotiating skills? 

This is a crucial part of the process, so you need to ask what kind of results have they produced for past clients? Check references. 

At the very least, talk to two or three of your agent’s most recent clients. See what kind of effort they are making to get the job done. Their role is to get you, the seller, as much money as possible for your property. Unfortunately, a poor negotiator will lose you a sale let alone thousands of pounds. It is important for the agent, who work for the seller, to get every last penny. After all, who pays the fees?

Most people think that selling a property is like being a tour guide. Show the prospect around, ask if they like it and phone the seller to report back. Well, if that’s all there was to it, anyone could sell your property. 

The agent you choose must have strong negotiating skills. Without them, you can never hope to get the highest possible price for what is normally your biggest asset. 

The best agents can’t wait to tell you all about the innovative methods that separate them from the agents who just poke a ‘For Sale’ sign in the ground and act as if that is enough! Give them the chance to tell you why they are different…

I know it might seem boring but you should be thinking about your property from a buyer’s perspective as well as from your own. 

7. Look closely at what they value your house at and make sure you ask at least three estate agents for a valuation of your property. 

The last thing you want is to be taken on by an agent who is promising to sell for more than your property is worth while you end up sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else sell before you. One more thing. Never tell an agent what another one valued your house at. Make them demonstrate their skills and work for your business. You shouldn’t feel the need to disclose information like that so the best thing is to let them do their job and make a conclusion based on their results.

8. Are they enthusiastic? 

Never take on an agent who appears bored or in a hurry or gives the impression that your property is just another instruction to add to the list. If they’re willing to display those characteristics to you when they should be putting their best foot forward to win your confidence, they’ll have no hesitation in putting off buyers with their shoddy attitude. They may also be the kind of agent who puts your security at risk by giving your house keys to buyers and sending them unaccompanied on viewings. (Yes, it does happen.)

This isn’t meant to scare you, however many unpleasant experiences can be avoided simply by paying attention to the agent’s initial attitude.  You shouldn’t be treated as a number, so make sure that the agent that you pick in the end is a genuinely nice human being that is prepared to make the extra step for you.

9. Is the agent available at evenings and weekends? 

Most buyers are working during the day and prefer to view houses in the evenings and at weekends. If your agent goes home at 6pm or only opens until midday on Saturdays, how are buyers going to see your property? For us, being available for our clients is absolutely essential and we can receive our work emails on our mobile phones so they can always contact us. 

It’s sad. I know. But we are passionate about our clients and we promise to be there when they need us the most.

10. Do they have testimonials and reviews?

Does the agent have proof? Are they proud to show off the feedback that clients have given them?

Most good estate agents will have them clear as day on their website or Facebook page.

Let’s be honest, you only ever write a review if you’ve had exceptional service or, the worst time of your life. Sometimes reviews can be…very dramatic, but it is still highly recommended that you check third party review sites, this can include Google, Facebook, Feefo, Trust Pilot- any site where the agent doesn’t control the reviews. 

It is important to check different sites to get an overall impression.

If previous clients have made the effort of writing a review about that agent on a third party site, it’s either for a really good reason, or a really bad one so it will definitely give you an overall idea.

So in summary:

  • Establish how long the agent has been in business. 
  • Look at the professional organisations they belong to and their qualifications.
  • Ask the agent what their statistics are.
  • Find out how the agent finds prospective buyers and how efficient their methods are. 
  • Will you have a personal contact and will you be able to get hold of them?
  • How good are the agent’s negotiating skills? 
  • Look closely at what they value your house at and make sure you ask at least three estate agents in to value your property. 
  • Make sure the agent is enthusiastic and are keen to do their very best!
  • Look closely at what they value your house at and make sure you ask at least three estate agents in to value your property. 
  • Is the agent available at evenings and weekends? 
  • Do they have testimonials and reviews?