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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. How was your first conversation with the agent?

Your initial contact with an estate agent is so important, when you make that initial enquiry, think about the experience you are going through, how did they make you feel? 

Did they make you feel like a number one client or just another statistic? This is important for two reasons:

  1. This is how you are going to feel over the next few months dealing with this agent.
  2. This is how they are going to treat your prospective buyers. Would you be happy viewing, negotiating, and buying through this agent?

Did they have:

  • A good telephone manner?
  • Were they helpful?
  • Did they ask the right questions to understand exactly what you were looking for and what you were trying to achieve?
  • Could I work closely with this company?

You should judge an Estate Agency by the person who answers the phone. It’s like the front of a house in a restaurant. If the glasses and cutlery are dirty then what does the kitchen look like? People usually choose an agency based on the person who initially comes to see them. But this isn’t giving you the whole picture; for example, if the administrator doesn’t run the Estate Agency practice efficiently then the whole process won’t work.

2. How do you find out how good an estate agent is quick? 

This is a great one… what are the best facts and statistics that will tell you quickly how good an estate agent is? does a great job of summarising this for your address specifically so check it out and put your address in and see what comes up.

The main statistics you need to know are; 

What is their average sale time

This is a really important one because you don’t want an agent who is selling properties within two days (because that means they are rushing and not necessarily getting the best buyer or the best price) and you also don’t want to have your property sitting on the market for more than 8 weeks, ideally.

If you can find an agent that is somewhere in the middle at 2-4 weeks then that is a respectable measure.

How many properties have they sold in your area in the last 6 months?

This does not include properties sold subject to contract. How many properties have they sold that have actually completed (i.e. the seller has moved)? However, the number of properties sold isn’t always the best reflection on an agent as an ‘underdog’ could have more passion,you could argue, but it still paints a picture for you.

What is their average percentage of marketing price achieved?

It’s all well and good having an agent around who is marketing properties in your area at £20,000 higher than everyone else but is that actually the price they are achieving? The average price achieved in the UK is around 96% so double-check that when an Estate Agent ‘values’ your property at £400,000 – make sure that is what they actually mean. Ask them what their average price achieved is and compare that to the marketing price they have told you.

It also helps to know that they are part of either the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) also known as PropertyMark or the Property Ombudsman or the RICS. You have to maintain a level of standards and quality to have this title. If the agent is not part of any of these accredited schemes then you need to find out why.

3. What commission do they charge?

Low commissions are not a good sign. Agents like this have to take on a high volume of houses to reach a certain level of profitability and you can expect little if any, service as a result.

What seems at the outset to be a bargain may ultimately cost you much more than you planned to spend in money, time, and stress. 

If you are paying a higher commission, such as 2%, you have the right to complain about poor service from your agent. If you have a discounted rate, it is much harder to complain. 

What does a low fee say about the agent’s confidence and negotiating skills? Wouldn’t you rather pay just that little bit more for an agent that was going to perform, stick up for you and negotiate a higher sale price?

This directly corresponds with the statistics mentioned above, you will find there is a direct correlation between the highest fees and the best performing estate agents. You will find that the cheaper, budget agents will have poor results, bad reviews online but you will more than likely find that they will have the most listings too for sale (but that doesn’t reflect on how good they are – if anything the more properties for sale means they have too much stock that they can’t sell).

4. How does their strategy differ from anyone else?

Is the agent sitting in front of you going to offer you a bespoke, personal service when selling your house? Despite the common myth and general opinion – estate agents are not the same. You have the budget agent who just wants to take on as many properties as possible and then you have the quality agents who want to provide the service and get the best results.

For example, we insist on a fixed period of time of marketing before we do any viewings, this is to prevent an early sale and make sure we have found the very best buyer and got the very best price. 

We need a certain amount of time to get as many people through your front door as possible. 

Put simply… Multiple viewings = Multiple Offers = The Best Price.

You can’t achieve that kind of result with the same method on every house.

Every property is different.

What are they doing different from everyone else and what is that going to do for you?

5. Watch the ‘valuation’ that estate agents tell you and always get three agents out

Your advice meeting with your prospective estate agents (known generally as a valuation) is NOT all about the valuation so you need to be careful here.

What is interesting about estate agents is that we don’t (or shouldn’t) technically ‘value’ your property – we are providing a marketing price to give you a rough idea of what we think we will achieve. 

So you will find you may get different suggestions for the marketing price – this does not mean the agent is saying your house is worth any more or any less, what is important is to take the marketing price they are suggesting and check it against their average percentage of marketing price achieved.

For example, if one agent says £350,000 but their average percentage of the price achieved is 92.8% then what they are actually telling you is £325,000. Whereas if an agent is telling you £325,000 and their average price achieved is 101% of the market price then what they are telling you is £328,000 – so things aren’t always as they seem.

Time and time again, we see people go with the cheapest agent and the highest marketing price when in actual fact if you do these simple calculations you can soon work out which agent is actually best for you.

Having three agents out allows you to make this comparison of course.

6. How enthusiastic is the agent? Did you get on with them?

Don’t forget, you are entering into a relationship that could last for several months. We know that Estate Agents aren’t the most loved profession in the world but please don’t settle for bad service, we promise you, the good, quality estate agent will want to be your friend throughout this next process. 

You need to be confident that person has got your corner covered. So if you don’t get on at your initial advice meeting then ask yourself, can you work with this person for several months.

Are you getting the right vibe? Does this person have your best interests at heart? Are they being honest?

Do not settle for someone because they have promised you the earth but are delivering a terrible service.

7.  Sole Agency vs Multi-Agency

The problem with multi-agency is that you are not particularly inspiring your estate agents to do a good job. The objective of the agent with a multi-agency contract is different from a sole agency contract. 

With a sole agency contract, our job as an agent is to get you the best buyer and for the best price. In a multi-agency contract, our job is to sell your property as quickly as possible. Selling your property quickly and getting the right price do not go hand in hand, you usually have to have one or the other. 

During a multi-agency, you will likely pay a higher fee too.

Pick one estate agent and build a relationship with them – in our experience, nothing good comes from a multi-agency contract.

8. Traps to look out for in estate agents contracts

Ordinarily, if you sign a sole agency contract you’re obliged to stay with that agency for between 8 and 12 weeks, no matter how poorly they perform.

Go for a multi-agency contract and you’ll be hit by a bigger fee and the distinct impression that the agencies can’t really be bothered to compete with each other to sell your property.

Personally, we take a more flexible approach to contracts. Firstly, we discuss our terms of business with clients in detail to ensure they understand exactly what they mean, then we put everything we’ve discussed down on paper in clear, jargon-free English so clients know what to expect and there are no unpleasant surprises.

Secondly, we don’t tie clients down to a minimum length of time. They are free to leave at any time if we don’t meet their expectations. And, of course, we will only go ahead and market a client’s property once they have signed on the dotted line giving us permission to do so. 

So, in summary, things to remember…

  1. How was your first conversation with the agent?
  2. How do you find out how good an estate agent is quickly?
  3. What commission do they charge?
  4. How does their strategy differ from anyone else?
  5. Watch the ‘valuation’ that estate agents tell you and always get three agents out
  6. How enthusiastic is the agent? Did you get on with them?
  7. Sole Agency vs Multi-Agency
  8. Traps to look out for in estate agents contracts