Mys­tery shop the of­fice be­fore in­struct­ing your es­tate agent

Ask the agent

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY NEWS -

Alex Gold­stein, prop­erty con­sul­tant, www.alex­gold­stein. co.uk

WHEN IT comes to in­struct­ing an es­tate agent, I reg­u­larly have con­ver­sa­tions with home­own­ers who have got them­selves in a spin about who to choose. “Is it any won­der?” they say.

From their per­spec­tive, es­tate agents all look the same, say the same and claim they can do the same for their beloved home. To add an ex­tra layer of con­fu­sion, there is now a vast ar­ray of agents out there, in­clud­ing those based on the high street, those on­line and oth­ers who are a hy­brid of the two. Plus, they are, on the most part, ex­cel­lent sales­peo­ple, all vy­ing for the home­owner’s at­ten­tion and in­struc­tion.

Most home­own­ers will not have placed their home on the mar­ket for three years or more and feel com­pletely out of touch with how rapidly the mar­ket has changed.

From my deal­ings with home­own­ers over the last 15 years, many be­lieve that there are three main cri­te­ria to look for when seek­ing to in­struct an es­tate agent. How­ever, all of these have ma­jor flaws. Let me ex­plain.

Firstly, guide price. Rightly or wrongly, this sub­ject alone seems to con­sis­tently come at the top of every­one’s list. Ven­dors un­der­stand­ably feel flat­tered when an es­tate agent ex­udes con­fi­dence in sell­ing their home and es­pe­cially when a guide price is quoted to­wards the up­per end of the range. Agents know this and many quote en­thu­si­as­tic fig­ures just to ob­tain the in­struc­tion. This in­vari­ably leads to a price re­duc­tion af­ter sev­eral weeks and re­flects poorly on the sale. Let’s face it, any­one can quote a high guide price so we need to look be­yond this to se­cure the right agent.

Se­condly, fees. We must re­mem­ber that es­tate agents are sales­peo­ple. If you agree on a com­mis­sion struc­ture that is sen­si­ble for both sides, then an agent will re­main proac­tive and mo­ti­vated right up to the crit­i­cal point of ex­change. How­ever, many ven­dors feel that if they nail an agent right down on com­mis­sion, then they have made a sav­ing. In ac­tual fact, they have in­stantly dis­in­cen­tivised the agent and it’s un­likely they will push for a top sale fig­ure. So fees should also be put to one side when choos­ing an agent.

The third bench­mark lies in how pro­fes­sion­ally the agent presents their pitch. They are on the most part, well-dressed, have bound­less en­thu­si­asm and demon­strate the ut­most con­fi­dence in sell­ing your house. Yes, of course they love your prop­erty. What sales­per­son sat in your home would tell you oth­er­wise? Again, this point needs to be treated with cau­tion.

So, at the end of the day, if it is not about high guide prices, low fees and a pro­fes­sional pitch, what do you re­ally need to ex­am­ine if you are to pick the right agent?

The an­swer lies with the front of house team. These are the peo­ple sat in the es­tate agency of­fice, the ones who meet and greet po­ten­tial buy­ers walk­ing into the branch. They deal with phone en­quiries and web­site re­quests, know the prop­er­ties, can sell them ef­fec­tively and have in­trin­sic knowl­edge of the buyer data­base. The valuer sat in your liv­ing room will han­dle some of this but it is their team back at the of­fice who will usu­ally en­gage with buy­ers and sell­ers.

Most im­por­tantly, where the front of house team come in to their own is with sale pro­gres­sion. Get­ting a prop­erty un­der of­fer is the easy part. Proac­tively han­dling a sale from this point to ex­change is much more dif­fi­cult, re­quir­ing su­perb peo­ple skills. My ad­vice is to mys­tery shop es­tate agen­cies as a prospec­tive pur­chaser. See how en­gag­ing, knowl­edge­able and proac­tive the front of house team is. Find one that is ex­cep­tional and you will find that the es­tate agent’s guide price, fees and pre­sen­ta­tion take on a whole new mean­ing.

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