Estate agents are human beings. It’s true. They hurt, they have feelings…

15 Nov 2013

And the overwhelming majority are as hardworking, honest and committed as you and I. But a search using Google might have you believe otherwise. However, if you are to avoid being too quick to fall into the cliché view of them as drivers of flash sports cars, having over-gelled hair, brick mobile phones and shiny suits, do remember the following:

  • Most house sellers and buyers think that once an offer is made and accepted, the house is sold. How wrong. Even conveyancers know that that is not true. There are no exact statistics, but some estate agents would suggest that 30/40 per cent of agreed deals fall through. And remember, estate agents charge on a no sale no fee basis. That is a lot of work they do, for no fee.
  • Estate agents manage your security. DIY sale attempts can put your security at risk. Can you trust who visits your property? Have you checked their identity? Estate agents can protect you from immediate threat.
  • Never select an estate agent on lowest price. Put price in the mix, but always appreciate that motivation is not heightened by low reward, neither is enthusiasm to secure you the best price.
  • Estate agents are there to help you sell your property. They do not replace you. They can work alongside you, leaving you free to attempt to sell it yourself. But consider carefully therefore the wisdom of a ‘sole selling rights’ estate agency contract. One where you pay them commission whoever sells your property (even if you sell it yourself while they are instructed!?). Or too long an agreement tying you in to using them (and watch for their notice period which can be longer than the agreement itself). In fact, perhaps consider a multiple agency agreement. A slightly higher commission but it plays off the two estate agents to help you secure a sale and at best price? Or is your goal just to pay a low commission, perhaps securing a lazy estate agent? True, anyone can sell a property. Stick up a for sale sign, advertise in the paper, and hope for ‘best price’. Certainly never to be recommended if you want to avoid a loss of thousands, but you can still give it a go, if money is no concern. Sure have a go, but always alongside an estate agent instruction too. Agents are expert in their area- selling houses. We are not. They have sold houses, many more times than you or I.
  • Just visit an estate agents office and you will see for yourself how active they are. Constantly on the phone chasing lawyers, negotiating/squeezing a better price from the buyers who try it on by offering too low a price.
  • Indeed, do not think only Rightmove have the properties for sale. Even before properties are listed on Rightmove, masses of property deals are struck. Register with the local estate agents; strike a personal relationship with them, on good terms, providing them with as many ways to contact you as possible and being clear on the property you are after. Obviously do not nag them or monopolise their time, but ensure they think of you first when they become aware of possible new properties for sale, and you are given the early warning of a potential Rightmove listing. You then become the early bird.
  • Estate agents offer both sellers AND buyers all sorts of useful information. True, their client is the seller, but listen to their advice, and add it to the mix. Leases with short durations, or flats with high service charges; both can be a real bargain, not something to run from. What does the estate agent have to say?
  • They have a job to do. Few of us would want them to be sweet as pie when selling our houses. More like a winner. Tough, yet fair, dedicated, not a ‘yes man’. An expert negotiator.
  • Of course, common sense is needed when choosing an estate agent. Who is fooled by glitzy offices, virtual tours, and flashy brochures. They might lure your sale instruction, but their local connections (I stress local), phone handling skills and ‘who they know contacts’ sell houses.
  • They – or at least the dynamic ones – are regularly in touch with all parties in the conveyancing process after offers are accepted and the legal process starts up – that includes liaising with surveyors, fellow estate agents, conveyancing solicitors, mortgage advisers even builders. And ‘in touch’ means more than breaking the concentration of the conveyancer with the pointless phone call asking ‘can I please have an update’ / ‘I have a tick box form in front of me to go through the motions with’, but rather ‘this is the information I have discovered to help you / what can I do to help you chase the chain of other lawyers…’ Dynamic estate agents can actually help the process with how they conduct themselves, by being a facilitator of information to the lawyers and answering buyers enquiries/concerns later in the transaction. Dynamic estate agents know that the longer the deal is in hand, the greater the chances that it falls apart.
  • Don’t forget, you are not an estate agents’ only client. If you were, how good would they actually be as an estate agent. So manage your own expectations early on.
  • Still not totally convinced? Then ‘mystery shop’ them. See how they treat you when interested in a property, and compare how they would treat those interested in your house.
  • Remember, if you are not happy with your estate agent, ask your conveyancer to recommend another, as they work with them all and know the good ones in the area.