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So, lets assume you really don’t want to get involved in selling your own property. You decide you need to bite the bullet and employ an Estate Agent to do it for you. What’s the best way to go about this?

Do your research

I was helping a friend a few years ago to sell a property in Newcastle. I began my research by looking on the internet to see which agencies appeared in that area of town so they would have the best local knowledge. I rang five of them to see how they behaved over the phone. Did they have:

  • A good telephone Manner? 
  • Were they helpful?
  • Did they ask the right questions to understand exactly what I was looking for and what I was 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 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 efficiency then the whole process won’t work.

1. Establish How Long The Agent Has Been In Business.

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

The agency may be long established but how long have the staff even working there? Do they have experience of anything other than a seller’s market or are they just order-takers?

2.  Look At The Professional Organisations They Belong To 

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 members to work within their code of practice, like a doctor taking his Hippocratic oath.

3. Ask Them How Many Homes They’ve Sold To Completion In The Past Six Months

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 actually reached completion, just that it is going through the sales process. A good agent will know the figures and have no hesitation in telling you. A poor agent will either not know, not want you to know or will just make it up! Ask them for compatibles.

4. What Commission Do They Charge.

Low commissions are not a good sign. They 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. In this case, what seemed 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? I would rather pay just that little bit more for an agent that was going to perform, stick up for me and negotiate a higher sale price. 

5. How Does The Agent Find Prospective Buyers? 

In todays 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 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.

Your agent must have a powerful marketing strategy! Make sure you do your homework. Try finding 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.

6. Can You Get Hold Of Your Agent When You Need To?

Have you got their direct number and email address? A generic companywide email address such as, isn’t acceptable, you should be able to email and talk directly to your agent who is selling your property whenever you want to. 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 agents office and no one knows who you are.

In a sense, you should become like a member of the family during the process. I have one client who still comes in every week just to say Hello. We enjoy seeing her in the office – she is a very inspirational personal person and someone we all respect. How nice it would be to have your very own estate agent who you could genuinely recommend, in much the same way that we recommend dentists, solicitors and others.

7. How Good Are The Agent’s Negotiation 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. Unfortunately a poor negotiator could lose you a sale let
alone thousands of pounds.
I am obsoletely passionate about agents work for the seller to get the last penny. I used to joke about this. Use me to tell your property but have your wits about you if you want to buy one from me. After all, who pays the fees?

Most people think that selling a property is like being a tour guide. Show the prospect around, ask they like it and phone the seller to report back. Well, if that’s all there was to it, anyone could sell a property. The agent you choose must have strong negotiation skills. Without them, you can never get hope to get the highest possible price for what is normally your biggest asset. 

8. Look Closely At What They Value Your House At And Make Sure You Ask At Least Three Estate Agents In To Value Your Property.

The last thing you want is to be taken in by an agent 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 valued your house at. Make them demonstrate their skills and work for your business. You don’t have to be rude – just ask. 

9. Are They Enthusiastic?

Never take on an agent who appears bored or in a hurry or gives the impression that yours 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).

10. Is That Agent Available At Evenings And Weekends?

Most buyers are working during the day and prefer to view houses in the evenings and weekends. If your agent goes home at 6pm or only opens till midday on Saturdays, how are potential buyers going to see your property? For me, being available for my clients is absolutely essential and I can read emails on my mobile phone so they can always contact me. It’s sad, I know, but I am passionate about my clients and I promise to be there when they need me most.