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10 Question’s To Ask An Estate Agent.

 
So, you are reading this guide. Then I can only assume you’re wanting to make sure you pick the best estate agent to help sell your property for the best possible price.
I’ve put this guide together based on a decade of experience, which over 50% of that time I’ve been running my own company.
So, what makes me so ‘qualified’ to create such a guide?… well, simply put, I’m a multi award-winning estate agent, being the only agent to simultaneously win ‘Best Estate Agent in Rayleigh’ and ‘Best Letting Agent in Rayleigh’. That’s along with coming 2nd place for the entire South East region, competing against literally 1,000s of agents.

Oh, and I won more awards in the same period, including national awards for Best Estate Agent.
Also, I’m ‘the only’ certified advanced negotiator in this part of Essex, which is testament to how seriously I take my role.
When creating this guide, I made sure I was fair and unbiased with the questions I put in the guide. To achieve this, I used 12 months of feedback from clients (and non-clients) along with speaking/following some big names in the industry and even taking guidance from some of the feedback complaints seen in reviews of various companies; This, added with a pinch of experience to compile what I feel is the 10 most important questions you can ask an estate agent to ensure you pick the right one for you.

Rightmove claimed 52% of properties listed with them (1st listing) will change to a second agent before they sell. Meaning that only 48% of people make the right decision first which is a shocking statistic

Before I go into the questions and why they’re important, here’s some helpful information to help you get the most out of your valuations.

The first step is to get a valuation, although you probably have a rough idea of what your home is worth. The real question here is how many agents you want to value your home. I always advise getting two or three because you can average out the prices and hear a variety of opinions.

Never have just one valuation!

• At minimum, choose one high street and one hybrid agent.
Definition – ‘High Street’ is any agent with an office located in the High Street or around the town centre. ‘Hybrid’ is an agent with an office locally, maybe in the town (normally found either working from home or the outskirts of town, sometimes in the neighbouring town).

• Always check reviews on third party websites like Facebook or Google.

• Don’t invite round anyone with less than 20 reviews.

• Leave 2 hours between each appointment to avoid awkwardness or interruptions.

• Have children looked after for the day so your attention is undivided.

• If you have animals, check that your agent is okay with them before they come round. Ideally have someone take care of them or be able to shut them off in another room in order to not distract you (or the agent).

• Tend to DIY projects and outdoor maintenance before valuation. (simply things like fixing that shelf, or jet washing the drive).

  • Ask for telephone numbers of previous clients to verify the service levels. (you don’t need to use them, but its vital to ask).

Making Your House Shine.

Unfinished projects and a messy garden are likely to lower the value of your property in the eyes of an estate agent. You want to treat these visits like a showing to potential buyer! Finish any painting and add those final touches – like fixing that door you’ve been meaning to. Renew potted plants, jet wash the drive, and cut the grass so the outside of your house looks as good as the inside.

Showing Off Your Property.

Greet each agent and give them a tour of your home. Show them around the entire property BUT don’t give anything away – don’t tell them any information unless they request it; Things like how old the boiler is, when the bathroom was renewed, when the kitchen was installed, when the extension was done – the agent should pick up on these aspects and ask. ‘if’ they don’t ask, then it shows they aren’t thorough and therefore aren’t paying as much attention to your home as they should be.

After The Tour
You want someone attentive who follows that up with insightful questions. After seeing the whole property, have a chat with the agent to get their feedback. But don’t just take their word for it – ask for statistics and examples to justify their valuation. Choosing an agent is a big decision, so be sure to ask these 10 crucial questions and sleep on your decision first!

IF WE’RE BEING HONEST, ESTATE AGENTS IN GENERAL DON’T HAVE THE GREATEST REPUTATION FOR BEING STRAIGHTFORWARD WITH THEIR CLIENTS. I’M HERE TO HELP YOU FIND THOSE EXCEPTIONS!

Choosing the best estate agent to work with is an important decision that should be carefully considered, but property owners rarely take the time necessary to find an ideal match.

Does this sound familiar? After a quick Google search, you call someone nearby and set up a meeting. That estate agent spends a few hours in your home, giving the same speech they use on everyone. If you manage to get a word in, you’re probably not asking the right questions.

This explains why 52% of owners switch their estate agent before the property is sold. Most of the time, it’s the fact that they realise the agent cannot deliver on what was originally promised, and you as the homeowner suffer for that mismatch. Worse still is when an owner is advised to reduce their original selling price by as much as 10% to finally sell the property. This presents the property in an unfavourable light, so no one will even bother to look at it unless the price is pushed even lower. As a result, the public assumes that the seller is either desperate to sell or there is something wrong with the property.

I don’t want to see you fall victim to this common scenario. By choosing the right estate agent from the get go, you can avoid the hassle of switching later or feeling pressured into asking less for your property. That equates to a loss of thousands of pounds and months of your precious time. Putting a little bit of extra time into meticulously researching potential estate agents will delay your initial marketing by a week or two, but it will help avoid future delays and/or mistakes. Pay particular attention to client reviews. On Facebook, click the profile of the review to ensure it wasn’t written by a staff member.

Once you have decided which agents you’ll have round, its vital to ask all of these questions, as this will show the ‘average’ to the ‘above average’ agent, separate the good from the bad and help guide you to the best agent for you.
While fee is an important factor, it’s not the ‘most’ important factor. Agents are usually cheap for a reason, the same as expensive ones are expensive for a reason. The fee should be the last, least important factor when making this decision.

A key thing to remember, is a lot of agents will give you a price on what they feel your home is worth, but that doesn’t mean they’ll only market your home at the price they state. If you feel the best agent has come in at the lowest price, discuss it with them. See if they are happy to try higher first. The important factor is not to pick an agent because they said your home was worth more.

One of the smartest things I’ve seen is a homeowner calling a ‘short list’ of agents back for a second meeting. This will not only find out the process of booking another meeting, but it’ll show how serious they are when they come round – plus it gives you time to think and meet them for a second time. The ‘sales pitch’ of a valuation is usually well-rehearsed, so the second meeting will catch them off guard – there is rarely an agent prepared for that second meeting!

Should you have questions or would like any property or estate agency advise at no obligation at all, feel free to contact me on 07964343342.


Q1 – On average, what percentage of the asking price does your agent achieve?

Many estate agents will knowingly over-value a property just to win over the client. I’ve seen it a lot in recent times where an agent will do this with the aim of reducing later, its called ‘instruction for reduction’.

Who doesn’t want to hear that their home is worth a lot more than they anticipated?

The estate agent will be able to share statistics – the final sale price compared to the original asking price – if the value is indeed realistic. But if there’s no proof that they can deliver on a high price promise, be wary. To temper your expectations, bear in mind that the ‘average’ UK property sells for 5% less than the asking price. An exception agent sells for around 1-2% less.

So let’s do the math on this one.

Let’s say we have two agents; we’ll call them Agent 1 and Agent 2.

Agent 1 has an amazing pitch, well-rehearsed and claims to be the biggest in town, but is getting 96.4% of the original asking price.
Agent 2, wasn’t so polished, wasn’t in a three-piece suit, didn’t have shiny shoes, didn’t have one of the cliché pocket hankies we normally only see at weddings, wasn’t the biggest in town and was getting 98% of the asking price.

It’s only a 1.6% difference, so that makes sense for you to go for the biggest in town, right? wrong.

Let’s look at the numbers, 1.6% isn’t much at all. In fact, it’s a tiny percentage. However, with the average price currently being around £400,000. 1.6% of £400,000 equates to £6,400.

So, Agent 2 can get you £6,400 more on average.

I can hear you already! – “but agent 2 was charging 1.1% and agent 1 was only 0.75%” … so what? That’s a 0.35% difference. (or a £1,400 difference).

So even AFTER the fee, you’re still £5,000 better off in the end… can you now see my point? The percentage of the asking price is the MOST important question of the whole questionnaire.

if the agent doesn’t know, and cannot prove it there and then, show them the door now and don’t waste any more of your time. As an agency owner the performance of my team is the most crucial factor. So not knowing this number and being able to prove it simply isn’t acceptable.

Q2 – On average, how long does it take ‘YOU’ to sell a property?

Firstly, notice I say you rather than your office, the reason for this is you are dealing with the valuer or the owner. They should know the statistics and ultimately, if you choose this agent, you’re putting the person you’re speaking to in charge of making sure it sells, aren’t you? (we will cover more of this later).

You should anticipate a vague answer to this question, something along the lines of “quite quickly.” If you do, press for a figure in days or weeks.

On average, a property in the UK will remain on the market for 66 days. If the estate agent responds with a figure combined with a period longer than 66 days, I recommend finding another one. You do not want your property going stale on the market!

Also, be sure to compare the answer to the length of their contract. If that estate agent “typically sells in 4-6 weeks” but their contract is much longer, then you’re probably being lied to.

A good sign is if the estate agent claims to sell in less then 4 weeks, and their contract is no longer than this. A bad sign is if the agent tells you they can sell it in 2, when their contract is 8.

Q3 – Will you commit to a zero-week, zero-notice contract?

This question will tell you a lot about the ethics of that particular estate agent. Many estate agents will require you to sign a contract lasting anywhere from 6 to 21 weeks. With so many weeks under contract, what is the rush to sell your property?

You are guaranteeing continued employment without demanding any standards of service, and this will create laziness and dishonesty. I heard someone recently describe these long contracts as a ‘licence to be lazy’ and it could not be more true.

Can you imagine, if you said to your employer, would you guarantee me my wages for the next 12 weeks, regardless of my performances, regardless if I turn up (or not), regardless if I lose you business or not, regardless if I cost you money? It just simply wouldn’t happen! Your boss wouldn’t find that acceptable, so why should you?

This ties into the previous question that revealed how many estate agents purposely over-value a property to win over the client. After luring you in with an inflated value, that contract is the cage keeping you trapped! You will end up reducing your price and paying that estate agent for the privilege of deceiving you.

An estate agent that does not require long contracts is a lot more likely to provide good customer service and the end result you desire. Always remember, a contract is for the agent’s benefit, not yours. You are under contract and if the agent is demanding a long term one, just say to them: “if you want my business, it has to be 2 weeks, or I’ll go with someone else”. You’ll find them agree to it pretty quickly.

Also, don’t get caught out with the notice periods. When it comes to the end of the contract or leaving, most agents will ask for a further 14-21 days’ notice before marketing with another agent. Insist on having this term removed so that if you leave, you leave instantly. And not have to put up with them sending every Tom, Dick and Harry round for another 2 weeks in a desperate bid to ‘force’ a deal together, which will likely collapse later.

Q4 – What marketing materials will you be using?


Now marketing materials are things like Pictures, a Floorplan, Description, Videos, EPCs – everything that could be used in regards to marketing your home.

For this question, you’ll need to do some research yourself. Rightmove recommends that every listing has over 5 pictures and a floorplan, along with a detailed description. So, head over to the agent’s listings (you will find these on Rightmove, Onthemarket, Zoopla or Homesearch), where you will discover the standard of their listing.

Are their photos good? Or the floorplans clear (no branding/logos)? Video? A good description? And how do they get to this point?

Often asking an agent “how quickly can it be on Rightmove?” is a good trick question. Someone who says ‘same day’ or ‘within 24 hours’ generally isn’t spending any time editing, cropping, or adjusting any pictures to be certain they’re the best they can possibly be, they also won’t be putting enough time into the floorplan or description either.

If the agent doesn’t have ALL of the material, or it’s poor quality, then it’s a sign of what’s to come. An estate agency has become more about ‘marketing’ and less about ‘sales’ … especially since the big C word put us all in that national lockdown!

Videos are huge at the moment, especially since Covid-19. So, making sure every property has a marketing video is vital, and amazing for social media. (no I’m not talking a cheesy slideshow of pictures), I’m talking a full, edited video advert of the property, which can be used for online viewings, property listings and paid social media adverts. Missing a video off your advert is as bad nowadays as having zero pictures.

Q5 – What is your response time to enquiries?

This is vital, as every hour that passes from the enquiry landing in that office, to when they’re called reduces the risk of that enquiry being converted into a viewing.

I’ve seen it in my career plenty of times. An enquiry comes in at 8pm and gets missed until the following morning when people return to the office at 8am. You then call and ask the enquiry if they would like to book a viewing, then get a response like, ‘which one was that?’….. they simply forget, yours will not be the only property they enquired about, and instead you find yourself having to go all “salesman” to persuade them to view the property. It’s simply not the way.

All enquiries should be responded to via text, email, or WhatsApp within an hour of coming into the office. The agent SHOULD NOT have a voicemail – after all, who likes leaving a voicemail? You could be missing vital enquiries.

TEST IT YOURSELF

Find the agent you want to test on Rightmove. Email about a property using another name or ask a friend to do it for you. Make yourself as unappealing to an estate agent as possible for an unbiased response time. Ensure you do not click ‘I have a property to sell / on the market / would like a valuation’ because that suggests possible income. See how long it takes to receive a reply and how that reply is worded. If you get NO REPLY via text, call, WhatsApp or email until the next day, then they’re not the right agent and need to re-evaluate their processes. Anything longer than 3-6 hours is unacceptable because that initial enthusiasm will be gone.

The other test is to call the agent at around 6-7pm. Traditionally agents are already leaving the office at 5pm and tucking into their turkey twizzlers by 5:30pm, so normally the office is empty at 5:01pm. However, this is the best time to deal with incoming enquiries, so give the agents office a call and see if the call is answered.

Q6 – How many people do you have on your ‘books’ or ‘register’ that will buy this house?

This is my favourite question. Why? Well the answer should be zero. That’s correct, it’s a trick question.
I hear so often agents saying “I’ve got people who will buy this” and it’s simply not true. The agent has just seen the property, they are there with you. If they say they have or give a number of how many people, then I’m afraid to say you have a very high chance that they’re telling a porky pie.

It can also reveal if an estate agent is attempting to win you over with empty promises. It’s highly unlikely that your property valuer will also be responsible for managing a mailing list or online registrations. Even if that person could give a number based on those connections, it would not really be an accurate measure of potential interest in your property.

It’s almost impossible to tell if somebody will be interested in a house unless you provide the property details to them first. Instead of throwing out a number, there should be a willingness to contact registrants and have a discussion about your unique property.

So, in short, the answer shouldn’t be a figure. If the agent states a figure, then chances are that it’s not factual.

Q7 – Strategy. What is your strategy for marketing, and your strategy if the property is not sold within four weeks?

This is an amazing question and one I find I am never asked. Why is a strategy important? Well, agents are not known for having them. Often, they will stick it on Rightmove and hope for the best.

A strategy should detail what they are doing, when and why.

This could be things like the pre-launch campaign, launching the property to the market, post launch, follow ups, other forms of marketing, the review, the feedback and what they’re going to do and when.

There needs to be trigger points. Which triggers plan B, C or D?

A great agent will have a plan they can show you there and then (not just tell you, incase they’re just telling you what you want to hear). They should have a detailed plan ready, printed and be able to go through each step (and why) to show you what the plan is.

Agents plans usually involve:
Step 1) Sticking it on Rightmove
Step 2) Reducing the price if it does not sell
Step 3) keep repeating until it’s sold.

This is the WORST sort of plan. Reductions should be a ‘last case resort’. The agent needs to show and demonstrate they’ve tried EVERYTHING before reducing. Overall, you need to be convinced of the plan, and the only way to do so is the agent demonstrating the understanding and knowledge of the plan.

They also need to be arranging to come back in 4 weeks to review the progress and discuss a route forward. Remember, sticking it on Rightmove and hoping, is not a strategy.




Q8 – What are your opening hours, and do you accompany ALL viewings?

Opening hours are important, traditionally agents work 9am – 5pm. However, this is the normal ‘office hours’ where most other people are also, working.

So, it makes no sense, as this could mean that evening viewings, weekend viewings, bank holiday viewings you’ll be left to do yourself.

It makes more sense for agents to be open 5pm – 9pm instead of 9am – 5pm. Mainly because that’s when everyone else is available. So, checking the availability of your agent, and ensuring they carry out all viewings is vital.

Why should the agent do the viewings, I hear you ask?

well, It’s their job. You would not go to a restaurant and ask the chef to give you the frying pan? Or go and see the mechanic and they hand you the spanner? So why are estate agents any different?

Make sure the agent does the viewings, therefor the agents are making sure they’re giving the best quality viewing rather than sending everyone and anyone round!

But having everyone and anyone round is good, it means it will sell quicker…. No. that’s not true. It hugely increases the chances of people not showing up, or wasting your time, could you imagine how annoyed you would be to spend all your afternoon cleaning for the viewing just not to show up? I’ve got four kids, I’d be fuming! – this is why quality, is better then quantity. By making sure the agent is there they will be sure they are not wasting their own time, resulting in less chance of anyone wasting yours.

ALSO – if your agent is doing the viewings, make sure you go out. Do not linger around in the house or hide in the garden. It’s awkward for both the agent and the viewer, the viewing needs to be as positive as possible. If you don’t feel you can trust the agent enough to do this, I’m sorry to say, you’ve picked the wrong agent. But this is a ‘must’ and non-negotiable. Pop to the shop and let the agent do their job.

Q9 – Is you fee a fixed fee, or a percentage fee?

This is important because it proves the agent’s desire to get you the very best price, and not the quickest possible price.

Why?

Well, if the agent is charging a percentage fee, the more they get you, the more they get for them as well, meaning a ‘win-win’ scenario.

Some agents have a performance fee, meaning if they achieve “ask price or over asking price” they get a bonus; this is a genius way of pressing the agent to get asking price or above.

If an agent is charging a fixed fee, it raises more questions than it gives answers. Purely because as a homeowner I’d assume you want as much money as possible for your home. So why would an agent push for more money? They get the same fee no matter what you sell at, so as long as you sell, they simply do not care what amount for.

I recently had a client who had sold 4 properties in the past 10 years. I was selling the fourth. The asking price was £375,000 and we got an offer of £375,000.

However, using my negotiation skills, I managed to ‘close’ the agreement at £385,000, securing the homeowner another £10,000. Not only is this a great example of a good negotiator BUT, it also demonstrates most agents would not do this. The owner themselves said to me, “I’m yet to meet another agent who keeps going even when I say I’m happy…”

You can guarantee an agent on a fixed fee wouldn’t have pushed for more money. They would have got the same fee no matter what the homeowners sells at.

They’re also statistically more likely to “overvalue” or “overpromise” because if you reduce your price, their fee does not reduce. Meaning it only compromises your pocket.

If the fee is a cheap fee, it just isn’t sustainable. Some of the biggest online or fixed fee agents have closed down. Why? Because cheap fees lead to cheap processes, cheap staff, cheap everything – meaning the standard drops.
They also have a habit of making up the shortfall of money using referral schemes like mortgage brokers, and solicitors, often recommending the one who pays them the most, rather than the best for everyone involved.

Want evidence of this? One of the UK’s biggest online, fixed fee agents closed down, with the CEO starting a hybrid, high fee agency. If that does not speak volumes, I don’t know what will.

Good fees, mean much better-quality staff, better quality marketing and ultimately leading to better results, which means more £ in your pocket.

Let us compare this to football, a football player worth £10,000 and a player worth £1 million, who is likely to score more goals and get a better result. Good staff are not cheap, cheap staff are not good.

Q10 – Will you be my agent from start to finish, and can I have a mobile number?

We joke that valuers are like lightening. They strike once and rarely strike again.

This is because often the valuer will just give valuations, a good sales pitch and then disappear into a cloud never to be seen again, like a dynamo trick.

The problem is, any value they give you, any promise they give you, any plan or process they have in place, they need to explain to the next person dealing with you, means zero commitment from the valuer, zero consistency and zero accountability.

Dealing with the same person from start to finish means they know all the answers from your conversation, they know your position, they’d be best suited to doing the viewings and best suited to negotiating your sale (and purchase) because they know your circumstances better.

Unfortunately, it’s not traditionally like that. With traditional agents, you can find yourself being passed from staff member to staff member in attempt to speak to the valuer themselves, which can prove impossible.

What makes it worse, is the person who deals with most of the enquiries, the viewings and the negotiations of your most expensive asset is a ‘negotiator’… don’t be fooled by the title, they’re the least experienced, bottom ranked, entry level member of staff in the office. Often rarely communicating with the agent who valued the home and often negotiating prices based on extraordinarily little experience.

Don’t get me wrong, we all work from the bottom to get to where we are, but negotiation should be handled by the most experienced, not the least.

Making sure you only ever deal with the same person means consistency and accountability in everything, but, more importantly, experience. Having a mobile number means that person cannot ignore you and you do not need to leave any message, meaning you’ll always get directly to the person you need to speak to, rather than working your way around the office to hear different stories.

An agent not willing to give you a mobile number raises more concerns then it gives security.

Bonus tips

I couldn’t leave it at just 10 could I!

Here are a couple of quick tips to also understand the quality of the agent you are dealing with:

1) Market Share – if the agent talks a lot about taking “the most on the market in town” or “selling the most” it signifies they are a “quantity over quality” agent. Meaning they’re dealing with a larger number of properties at once, therefor meaning service levels will drop. Unless they have a team 2-3x bigger than everyone else in town. They simply cannot deliver an acceptable level of service, if you aren’t worried about service then there are cheaper options.

2) Certified negotiation – make sure the agent dealing with your negotiation is a certified negotiator. This means they have a certificate proving they’ve had training in negotiation – this could literally be the difference of £1000s if not £10,000s for you.

3) Onward negotiation – as with tip 2, a good negotiator could save you thousands off your purchase, so ensure you agent handles this for you. But be sure they “offer” this to you, rather then you ask. Otherwise it could be an afterthought for an agent ‘winging it’ to win your business.

4) Social media – Social media should be part of their strategy, and I’m not talking about “sticking it on their Facebook page” … I’m talking a full, extensive, social media strategy involving paid advertisement and retargeting campaigns.

5) Ask for phone numbers – these are of previous clients who talk about their experience with that agent. The agent will need the previous client’s permission first (GDPR red tape there!) but overall, making sure you speak to someone who has already paid the bill and moved on will get you an honest opinion and recommendation.  An agent not willing to provide this clearly isn’t confident on what previous clients will say, and therefore perhaps isn’t as good as they’re telling you. Ensure you have the clients full name so you can check any connection to the agent on Facebook (to check they aren’t a relative).

Choosing the right agent, the first time is so important.

I HOPE THAT THE QUESTIONS OUTLINED IN THIS BOOKLET HAVE HELPED YOU TO SELECT THE BEST ESTATE AGENT FOR YOUR NEEDS.

There are some passionate and talented agents out there, but you need to protect yourself against the opposite side of the spectrum. Putting the sale of your home into the hands of a bad agent will cause stress, cost money and waste time.

And remember, the true value of your property is determined by buyers, not by the opinion of your estate agent. An honest valuation will not sound as impressive, but it’ll be a price you can expect to get in the current market. A experienced estate agent will be able to capitalise on every selling feature that your house possesses, reminding potential buyers of them when it comes time to negotiate.

Selling price is top of mind for most homeowners, but a related concern is the amount charged in service fees. How much an estate agent charges for their expertise should not be the most important factor when selecting representation.

Choose someone you like and trust, as this person will be the most likely to help you achieve the desired result. The old adage “you get what you pay for” is also very relevant in this case, although it’s also important that the agent is fair and not greedy.

In the interest of saving money, many homeowners choose an estate agent with less skill and integrity because that person charges less. Any money you may save on fees will be lost when you are forced to lower the asking price or switch to a different agency. If you pose these 10 questions to a prospective estate agent and the answers are just what you wanted to hear, do not quibble over their pricing.

A high calibre estate agent likely charges realistically because they invest into their clients. That extra effort and money put into promotion will sell your property for more money and in less time, but like I said, it doesn’t come free. Discount agencies simply cannot afford premium services on a listing website or professional photography that makes your property shine. Potential buyers will not be seeing your property as often or be viewing it as favourably if quality is compromised.


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