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how to pick the right estate agent

Published: 04/09/2021

Our guide to picking the right agent will take you through the process step by step.

Word of mouth:  Worth its weight in gold! If you know someone who has recently moved, ask them about the experience they had with their agents.

Do some research: Go online and visit Google Reviews, for example, where you'll get an unbiased opinion but be sure to click through and read the reviews, rather than just looking at the numbers to ensure they're coming from legitimate clients and not some bot trying to bolster an agent's image. Don't be put off by the occasional poor review as this legitimises the rest.

Even if you’re not a fan of Facebook, Linkedin or Instagram, many potential buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants are. The best agents are professional, dynamic and personable, which should come across loud and clear on their social media channels.  Check how active they are, do they post consistently or just every now and again?  How many followers do they have?  

Look to see how they market their properties compared to other agents. See if they use high-quality images and video footage and if they write engaging and informative property descriptions. Steer well away from agents who use grainy pictures of darkened rooms as in this image-focused culture, substandard pictures are a huge turn-off to potential clients.  

Check accreditation: Check the agent's website to see if you can find evidence of their association with industry leaders and governing bodies like ARLA.

Check the agent's window: Are there window stickers registering their membership with Propertymark and the Property Ombudsmen, for example. If not, why not?

Make a shortlist: This should contain at least three agents. It will give you a clearer idea of how they compare when you move onto the next stage.

Call them up: Ask them for a valuation to see how responsive they are. You'll learn a lot about how they operate from this initial call.  You'll get a feel for how open, friendly, and professional they are. Assess how keen they are, by how quickly they appear at your front door for a valuation.

Get them round: The valuation is possibly the first time you'll meet the agent face-to-face. It's the perfect opportunity to do a little bit of digging. Be armed with a few pertinent questions so that you can make a judgment on the agent. Keep to the same script for all so that you can compare like for like.

Questions to ask:

  • What's the average length of time a property is on their books?
  • What is the strategy for properties that aren't selling?
  • How regularly do they achieve the asking price?
  • What is the basis for their valuations?
  • What is their weekend availability?
  • How often do they update?
  • How do they view the current market?
  • Do they live themselves locally? 
  • What is their background in the area?
Assess the valuations: It's essential to be mindful that some agents will inflate the price they quote to win the instruction. Although this is underhand, it is sadly common practice. Don't let them pull the wool over your eyes, as realistic valuations will work out better in the end. Check how realistic their valuations are by researching the property portals for similar properties in the area.

Narrow the field: Shorten your list to the two you know you can work with and trust.

Visit their office: With just a couple of estate agents in the running, you should now visit them to see first-hand how they operate in their environment. Look out for tidiness, organisation, how many staff there are, are they friendly and eager to help, are they twiddling their thumbs, or have their heads down?

Find out who'll be handling the sale once you've had an offer accepted. They will arguably be the most crucial staff members from your perspective.

Ask the right questions: Now that you have a shortlist, you must dig a bit deeper as there's plenty more to discover.

Things to ask include:

  • What fees do they charge?
  • What is the difference in fees for sole or multiple agencies?
  • What is the tie-in period?
  • Are there any additional costs?
  • Who will be overseeing the property's sale?
  • Will multiple members of staff be appropriately briefed?
  • How long have they operated in your postcode?
  • Ask to see examples of their marketing
  • What marketing channels do they use? (Online, email marketing, social media, etc.)
  • Who conducts the viewings?
  • Will there be a designated sales negotiator?
  • Which complaints scheme are they a member?

Decision time

  • Who do you think is the most trustworthy? 
  • Can I work with this company?

Sometimes these two questions are an essential part of the whole process, so don't hurry your decision. Once you've made up your mind, commit to it, and instruct your agent.

For more advice about selling your property, please don't hesitate to pick up the phone. Nothing gives us greater pleasure than helping people to move home.
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