Those of you who know me and regularly engage with me on Twitter, will know this is my first ever blog. I’ve been meaning to start for months, ever since Sam Ashdown (@thehometruths) first tried to encourage me but I’ve been stalling, waiting for the right time, fearful of public reaction! What if people laugh at it? What if it’s a flop? What if I just don’t ‘get’ blogging?
Well, now is the right time, it’s 2.40am and estate agency insomnia has set in! Jovita is fast asleep beside me, Sophia’s in her cot with the autumn sniffles gargling away in dreamland and I’ve just let Akira out to do her business, whilst I had a crafty late night/early morning cigarette. I’m now laying in bed still trawling through work’s emails, budget forecasts for next year and, of course, Twitter…where I have just stumbled upon this [thank you Mark Freeman of Jupix](@JupixSalesNorth), something that one of his Agents is actively using with his clients:
So, what better way than to wade straight into my blogging journey with an article about estate agency, service and fees? Hey, those of you that really know me, know that I can be controversial at times, so why not dive straight in!
We all know that the public perception of estate agents is that we sit around drinking coffee all day matching people to property and charge extortionate fees for the privilege, right?
Wrong! So what is the right balance of fees charged versus service received and result achieved…and more importantly how do you go about choosing the Agent that’s best?
For most estate agents currently fresh instructions or ‘stock’ is limited which is, sadly, bringing out the worst in some agents again. I work in a small town in rural Norfolk and I will share with you an experience I had just last month whilst valuing a property in the town.
I met executors of a will, who had sadly lost their relative and had spent the best part of two months cleaning and clearing the property because their elderly relative had lived there (defiantly they tell me) for over 40 years, refusing any family assistance, home help or a cleaner!
I was the third valuation and my services were required because they had received such disparity in valuations from two ‘national agents’. The property was an ex local authority three bedroom mid terraced house in a sought after town centre location, but it needed entirely modernising.
Agent One had been the week previously, was polite and charming and valued the property at £80,000 to £85,000. He assured the clients he had specific viewers for the property (and at that price, I’m sure he did!). To reflect the demand he was experiencing for homes like this, he offered the clients [I quote his words] “an exceptionally low fee” of just 1% plus VAT. He only wanted a 4 week Sole Agency contract, the clients were amazed by his confidence. He didn’t measure up, he was so confident that he had a buyer, he didn’t need to! In fact, he called them every day following the valuation. He was ‘keen’!
Agent Two followed just 40 minutes later, the clients felt they had already made up their minds though. It would be difficult for this agent to convince them otherwise. Or so they thought. This agent did measure the house, pulled out lots of pie charts, statistics, a presenter folder and a corporate brochure and spent 20 minutes trying to convince the clients that he was the ‘number one’ agent in the town. He valued the house at £135,000. They were amazed. £50,000 to £55,000 higher than the first agent. He then asked them whether they had spoken to any other agents and rapidly downscaled the valuation to £125,000 – “because that’s Stamp Duty level and will encourage far more buyers”, he claimed! He went on to explain that he couldn’t possibly offer them a 1% fee but his would be a fixed fee of £2,750 plus VAT and a 20 week Sole Agency contract. The clients queried the much higher fee and were told that the fee should be inconsequential in their minds as he would be achieving them £35,000 to £40,000 more than Agent One and just a few thousand of that would be his for doing just that. They should be grateful!
The agent then left and the executors enjoyed a coffee together, they were totally perplexed.
As they were leaving the property a former neighbour of the deceased offered her condolences and they got chatting. The neighbour said, “you should call Chilterns. You must remember Bert [name changed] who died last year? Chilterns sold that, they also sold number X and X earlier this year”.
Having pondered for a further week, the executors came into my office unannounced. It was a cold and blustery autumn day, so I had my secretary make them a cuppa. I knew the property, I had seen them clearing it out. They talked for almost an hour about their dear old relative, his days in the Royal Air Force, his meeting with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, his divorce, his remarriage, his stubborn ways and his segregation from the family. I listened, listened and listened some more. Only joining in where appropriate. After about 50 minutes they asked if I would like to value the property. Of course, I was only too pleased to. I had nothing in my diary so we drove straight there. I measured, they talked and I listened some more.
Having sold three properties in the same street over the previous year or so, I knew it would achieve between £100,000 and £110,000, we agreed that a 12 week contract should be realistic and that a fee of £1900 plus VAT was reasonable. We then went back to the office, I showed them examples of the properties that I had sold, used Jupix (our software) to show them exactly how many buyers I had currently looking for similar and put the kettle on again. We then signed the contract to allow me to act as their agents. Our 8 page brochure with floor plan was produced the same day, it was uploaded to all property and social media platforms instantly and we had viewings booked within hours.
There were eight viewings in total within 10 days of marketing and we went to “Best Offers” and achieved £103,750. The property is due to exchange within a fortnight. The whole process wrapped up in less than two months.
I wasn’t the cheapest or the most expensive. I didn’t undervalue it to sell it quickly, neither did I overvalue it to ‘buy’ the instruction. I simply offered best advice, tailored to my clients needs, as is estate agency best practise. They have subsequently recommended me to a friend in the town and there the story evolves and continues.
These clients stumbled upon me by chance, a fluke recommendation at an opportune time. I’m sure they are glad they did. They are a realistic £20,000 better off!
So, you’re thinking of selling. What should you do?
- Research recent sold property prices on rightmove, zoopla or net house prices. You won’t know the exact condition of the homes or whether they were extended or a forced sale but it will give you an idea.
- Drive around the area, who has the most SOLD boards, FOR SALE boards mean nothing!
- Ask friends, relatives, neighbours if they have had any experience of local agents, positive or negative.
- Go into the estate agents offices (the manager or valuer is generally an experienced member of staff but is there sufficient experience in the office too).
- Ask the agent for evidence of clients currently searching in your area.
- Ask the agent for evidence they have recently sold similar homes.
- Talk to the agent about their online and offline marketing strategies, whether they use Social Media and to what extent.
- Look at the agents website.
Most of all spend time with your agent. A good agent will afford you as much time as you need to make an educated and balanced decision as to whether you want to engage their services.
We are, after all, a professional industry.