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Estate Agents – From the Inside Out

12th November 2013 Simon Holland

For many years, I have worked inside the property industry, in various roles, ranging from a Purchase Advisor to a nationwide property buying firm in Manchester, Lettings Manager for an estate agents in Bury for 3.5 years and now as the Owner and Senior Property Consultant at Jacob’s Ladder.

I have advised numerous property investors and landlords over many years, on the skills and techniques required to be successful and make good profits on their investments. Much of this work has brought me into close contact with many estate agents, up and down the UK.

Whilst many agents do work hard for their vendors, I have seen, from the inside out, basic mistakes made and poor service provided by a few, that unfortunately leaves me with the impression that home-sellers are simply not getting value for money.

Here are several ‘real-life’ scenarios that I have personally witnessed, in the course of working as an ‘industry insider’:

1. Agency staff getting increasingly stressed out as buyers, sellers and solicitors close in on exchange & completion – I even heard a partner in one estate agency firm, who had grown fed up of a particular vendor, slam the phone down after a barrage of expletives!

2. Missed calls, late attendances for viewings and agents who have taken the wrong keys, with no alarm codes to property viewings, much of which is due to poor staffing levels and lack of training

3. Attempts to get vendors to do their own viewings, in the evenings or weekends, to save on their own workload

4. Poor quality marketing materials printed and sent out to potential buyers, because old printers were expensive to repair!

5. Mark-ups made on associated services without the knowledge of the clients i.e EPC’s, Mortgages and Conveyancing

6. Lack of effective client management systems, meaning potential buyers slip through the net due to poor administration and follow-up

7. Lack of even the basics being done properly, such as photography, floor-plans and vendors simply not receiving post valuation letters, or notification of potential sale letters

Many estate agents are registered with the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and many have sat industry exams, however many have simply ‘set up shop’ with little experience and called themselves ‘Estate Agents’. They simply act as a marketing agency and often are left without the required skills to encourage swift sales progression.

Many agents, in my opinion, lack the professional negotiation skills to get their vendors best possible price, and often use poor market intelligence and misconstrued market commentary to convince vendors to accept the first offer they receive, so they can profit from the transaction at the earliest opportunity.

What home-sellers really need is clear, sound and impartial advice when it comes to achieving a sale on their home. They need value for money, good rates and great service. If they’re employing an estate agentcy, they should get prompt, professional service, high quality photography, Virtual Tours, High Quality Floor-plans, and of course internet listings on ALL of the top property portals.

Again, many agents choose to only list on SOME of the internet portals due to high subscription payments, but they will still charge you the vendor the going rate.

My advice, should you be considering employing an estate agent is as follows:

1. Check they are members of The Property Ombudsman Scheme (TPO)

2. Ask what services they will offer you, and negotiate a fixed price

3. Ask for recommendations in writing from recent customers

4. Check their company website, see who the partners are and try and meet them to ‘get a feel for them’

5. Check their listings on the internet websites such as www.rightmove.co.uk – check for basic errors in spelling, poor imagery etc

6. Sign up for a limited period, no more than 8 weeks and insist on joint agency with A.N Other to keep them all on their feet!

7. What do their ‘for sale’ boards look like? Are they colourful, noticeable, of high quality or weather worn and forgettable?

In closing, remember, home-sellers deserve a top service, if they are to pay a top price, so shop around and separate those who ‘CAN DO’ the job, from those ‘WHO CAN’T”!