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What to look for in an Estate Agent when selling your house

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Recently I’ve sold my house. It took about 4-5 months from putting it on the market, but it could have been a lot easier a process if we’d picked our Estate Agent based on different criteria.

If you’re selling a house, do a bit of research on your potential estate agents first to pick the one that’s going to be best for you, in terms to selling time and price.

Estate Agent Sign Michael Jones Cardiff

Why we picked our Estate Agent

We selected our Estate Agent based on:

  • Being long established
  • Knowledge of local area
  • We bought the house from him
  • He was friend’s with my housemates dad!
  • Being the cheapest

These are not the qualities you should be looking for.

What to look for when picking an estate agent

This was the first time I’d sold a house. I really didn’t think there was much difference between one estate agent and another, but I was wrong. Here’s what to look for / ask.

Boards in the area

Check out how many boards there are in the area for different agents and then check which ones are turning from ‘for sale’ to ‘sold.’ These agents with have realistic pricing and the appropriate marketing. If there are properties with more than one board outside them, something’s gone wrong with the first agent. However, some people end up with 2 estate agents because they, as the vendor, have unrealistic expectations on what their property is worth. Remember, you house is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

Internet aggregators

Check out sites such as Zoopla and RightMove and have a look at whether or not the estate appears on there. The chances are that they will, so then have a look at some of the properties they are marketing. Are they utilising functionality like featured property, featured agent, highlighting certain properties, etc. These features will cost the agent more, but if they’re willing to sell your house they’ll be will to use these when it needs a push.

Websites

Leading on from the above, check out the estate agent’s website. How searchable is it? How prominent are their contact details? Is it up to date? All these kind of things give you an indication as to how much they understand the importance of online marketing in any property search. If they aren’t making an effort here, I’d question why. Many long established agencies won’t have taken the time to educate themselves on digital marketing. They might be the oldest, but this doesn’t mean best!

Property listings - search results

Property listings – search results

Specs

Have a look at how good the agent is at writing specs. Think about what people are looking for when they are buying a property and how this information renders online. For example, on property aggregators people will see the first few lines of the spec text in search results (see left). Our agent started off the description by writing about local amenities, but the way people search for properties means they probably already know a lot about the location and are more interested in the house specifics, so all the key, fantastic features should be right at the top of the listing so they are shown in the search results.

We ended up rewriting out whole listing, because we just didn’t feel it sold our property well enough. This didn’t reduce our fees though.

You will also need to consider that it is easy for people to find the purchase price you paid for your house on Zoopla and the market is currently in a slump, so if you’re asking more money than you paid for it, your listing needs to explain what value you’ve added to justify this, such as new bathroom, kitchen, extension, etc.

Realistic Pricing

We got some massively over inflated valuations for our house. We got three opinions and took the middle one, knowing we needed a buffer to negotiate with, but also that we had to fit in a certain bracket on the search listings, i.e. £199,950 was going to fit in the <£200,000 bracket whereas £205,000 was going to push us in to the £210,000 threshold and gain less interest.

It’s wonderful to think your house is worth £20,000 more than you thought and by all means start high and lower the price later, but estate agents with wildly inflated estimations of your property value are just trying to lure you in.

Also, generally don’t go for an agent that wants to market your house with ‘offer in excess of.’ No one really offers more than that figure. All buyers expect to go lower.

 

What’s not so important…?

And then there are the things that used to be important, but aren’t so much anymore

Local knowledge

People can find out a lot about the local areas from

  • The internet
  • Driving around them

Don’t ask an estate agent for the best area to live in, because they’re only going to tell you to live in areas that they have properties for sale in.

Geographical area covered

One estate agent tried to convince his that his agency was better because it has more branches from which to market the property. Most people will pick an area and then start their search online. One branch or a hundred really doesn’t make much difference.

Remember, you’re going to be paying these people between 1-2.5% of your house value, make sure they’re going to work hard for you!

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  • Sal Thomas April 29, 2013, 12:22 pm

    Hey Jo!

    Great article! As someone who recently sold two properties, I know all about estate agents now!

    Cardiff Homes couldn’t have been more helpful, constantly revising the listing, giving stats, even sorting out boiler servicing and house clearance for us.

    Both agents in Swansea have been shocking – showing round timewasters, not telling us about viewings and the only advice they offered was to lower the price. Plus the fact we did most of the viewings! Next time I’m going to do a private sale and save myself £2k! X

    Reply
    • Jo Darby April 29, 2013, 3:05 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Sal. I thought all estate agents were the same until I tried to sell a house. I’d definitely go down the sell-it-yourself route next time round.

      We really struggled to get feedback from out Estate Agents and they’d tell us each different things.

      Congratulations on selling both your properties, by the way. x

      Reply