When we are selling, for most of us, the primary consideration is to find an estate agent who will get the best price for your property, as quickly as possible. As buyers, we are looking to find our ideal next home, so we want an agent who will show us properties which meet our criteria. |
Over the last twenty or so years, the way we look for new properties has changed. Property sales can be viewed as a form of retailing and the growth in online retail regularly hits the headlines. More and more of us are buying online and buying property is no exception. Having said this, very few people buy a property purely from an online description, without viewing it first [though, amazingly, it does happen occasionally!]. However, the online search and view is the starting point for virtually all property purchases. Virtually all property searches are conducted online. Gone are the days of pouring through the property descriptions in the local papers or trailing round the estate agent's shops, looking for the ideal property. Nowadays, if it isn't advertised online, then it will not be seen by the vast majority of people looking for property. Even the larger estate agents, with their own web sites, listing hundreds or even thousands of homes, use web portals in addition to their own web sites, to maximise exposure to the market. These web portals are where the majority of buyers look for properties.
Whilst the widespread use of web portals for marketing property for sale makes life easy for buyers, it can make it more difficult to differentiate between agents. This is especially important if you are looking for the best agency to sell your property. Virtually all estate agents will advertise on one or more of the major portals, including Rightmove, Zoopla and S1 Homes. If an estate agent does not use one or more of these portals, they will be missing out a significant segment of the market.
Assuming that you want to choose an estate agent who advertises on one or more of the major portals, what else should you be looking for? Or indeed, do you need an estate agent at all? After all, many people choose to sell their own cars, rather than trade in, in an attempt to save money on the dealer's margins. Why not do the same with your home?
The majority of estate agents will tell you that this route is fraught with danger. Of course, why would they tell you otherwise? And, it certainly isn't easy, but it can be done and, if successful, can save thousands in fees. The principle difficulties are complying with the legal requirements and risks of property description and advertising and marketing the property widely. As discussed, the vast majority of property searches are conducted through the major property portals. These portals operate on a subscription basis, rather than a transaction basis. So it is not generally possible to list an individual property directly and pay for that single property. However, there are agencies who will, for a fixed fee, allow you to list your property details with them and they will, in turn, enable those details to be listed on a web portal. However, these don't generally include the market leading portals and so market penetration can be limited. There is also another minor issue, related to image and association. There are buyers out there, including buy to let investors. They trawl through the properties for sale by owners and look to make below market offers, as cash buyers. Just as, for example, we would expect to pay less for a second hand car bought from a private seller, advertising in Autotrader, than from a dealer, buyers often have similar views about property for sale. If it is advertised by the owner, then they generally expect to pay less.
However, there is a bit of potential good news for those who want to enter the DIY property selling market! This applies to all properties, whether sold through an estate agent or otherwise. And that is when there is competition for the property. Properly priced and marketed, multiple interested parties can push up the price in a bidding process. So, if you have a show house standard property in a highly desirable area, then even as a DIY agent, it is possible to instigate some competition for the property, through astute local marketing. So if this is your position, why not have a go? If your property doesn't stand out from the crowd though, you may get more from selling through an agent, even allowing for fees.
Assuming, at this stage, you have decided not to go down the DIY route and have now identified a short list of estate agents who advertise in the major property portals, as well as their own web site or in addition to a local portal such as a solicitor's property centre, you can be confident that a good and inviting property description will reach the full market. Each agent on the short list would be able to attract potential buyers who will get in touch to view the property.
At this stage, we move from the marketing phase to the sales phase. How will your chosen agent convert these interested prospects into competing bidders for your property? Sales professionals will recognise how vital the way viewers are handled is, to the success of the venture. Sadly, all too often, the hard work that has been put into a high quality property description and marketing on the major internet portals, is not followed through with good sales support. Often, with many estate agent's packages, the home owner is left to show viewers around the property and develop a rapport and try and sell the virtues and features of the property to the viewers. All in a days work if you are a sales professional, but a bit more of a challenge if you aren't. let's be clear about the abilities of a good sales professional. Sadly, if a viewer doesn't like your property, they will not buy it! Even from the best sales people. Tales of super salesmen who can sell snow to Eskimos, are just tall tales. The art of a good sale is to entice the viewer who is choosing between similar properties, to choose yours. The sales process can influence decisions and sway opinion, but will never force someone to buy something they don't want.
From the estate agent's perspective, showing people around your property is often more time consuming than preparing a schedule and marketing on the internet. So why not cut the expense and get the home owner to put in the time? This approach may mean that there may not be so many offers on the property and it may take longer to sell. But, from the agent's perspective, it can be a numbers game. If an agent focuses attention on listing new properties rather than selling those already listed, then, even though they take longer to sell, there is no additional cost to holding stock, so they make more money for less effort. This is a good approach for the agent, but not necessarily so good for you, the seller.
If you are happy to conduct viewings on your own home, this can be another opportunity to save money. But be careful, check that the agent is actually charging you less for the lower level of service. On the other hand, if you want to be the first amongst equals and sell your property ahead of others in the street, then it can be worth listing with an agent who will conduct the viewings and maximise the probability of a sale, from each viewing. This is likely to cost more, in terms of the agent's commission. Alternatively, the agent may charge per viewing. However, an agent who undertakes viewings as part of the inclusive package may prove better value, as they are more heavily incentivised to sell faster.
Finally, do you choose an estate agency with salaried employees, or sales people who work on a commission basis? Salaried agents have actually been heard to say that the competition 'work off commission, so they are just desperate to sell your property!' And this is a bad thing??? Not so. If you can find an agent who employs sales people on commission, then RESULT! You share a common goal... The sale of your property, as quickly as possible and for as much as possible. These are the people who will provide advice and coaching on how to dress your property to impress, what gives best kerb appeal and who will show your property at times to suit the viewer. All with the aim of getting that sale. Those who can't succeed, don't stay in business!
So, armed with these thoughts, get a few quotes from estate agents. You now know the questions to ask. One final note of caution. Just like buying double glazing, the agent who comes to value your home may pressure you to sign up there and then. And, just like with double glazing, there is no offer that is only available at that point in time, which will not be repeated the next day, or the next week, if you call back to take up their offer. So, weigh up the alternatives, look at what other properties each agent has for sale, how well presented are they? How easy to find in the search engines? How well do you get along with the agent?
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