Mystery shop the office before instructing your estate agent
Ask the agent
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.