Choosing the right estate agent
Choosing the right estate agent is crucially important in reducing the stress of selling to the absolute minimum, and ensuring that your sale progresses smoothly through to a successful conclusion. Ideally, you need a strong recommendation from someone you trust – a friend or relation, for instance – who has recently had direct personal experience of dealing with an agent. Failing that, you can do your own research, checking out the various agents in your local area and the services they offer.
So, what should you look for? Basically, you need to be confident that an agent will give you the very best advice on pricing and presenting your home for sale; you need to be sure they will market your home effectively to the widest possible group of potential buyers; and you need the peace of mind of knowing that your best interests will be protected.
With all that in mind, we believe your best bet is a well-established local independent agent: one where the owner’s livelihood depends on the quality of service on offer; one with a strong online presence, a prominent High Street location, and a good track record in selling properties similar to your own. In other words – one exactly like Williams & Donovan!
Online vs Traditional
Of course, with the advent of so-called hybrid and online-only estate agents, some people – not least the national press - seem to think that the days of the traditional high street agent are numbered.
But they couldn’t be more wrong! Here at Williams & Donovan, we’re confident that the future for good traditional High Street estate agents is as rosy as ever – particularly at those times when market conditions are a little more challenging. The main reason why some people are turning to online agents to try and sell their homes is because their fees are lower. But remember - unlike traditional agents like us, who charge on a no sale, no fee basis, online firms generally charge their fees upfront - irrespective of whether they sell your home or not.
And don’t forget that around a third of all property sales fall through in any case. So, while an upfront fee measured in hundreds of pounds might seem like a bargain, there’s basically a one in three chance that it’ll be hundreds of pounds straight down the drain!
And while traditional agents like Williams & Donovan – who only get paid when a property actually changes hands – will be right back on the case if a sale falls through, the online agent has already had his upfront fee, thank you very much! The irony of all this is that the internet has revolutionised the entire property market. We are all “online agents” now – except that some of us also have a nice convenient high street office staffed with real people, who you can actually talk to face to face!
And that’s the real key - because there is a whole lot more to successfully selling your home than simply sticking it on the internet and waiting for the offers to roll in. You need someone who is going to:
- separate the serious prospective buyers from the timewasters;
- arrange and conduct viewings;
- negotiate the best possible price;
- suggest changes to the marketing strategy if the first flurry of interest doesn’t produce a buyer;
- chase the chains;
- provide expert advice and support every step of the way, etc etc…
The list of things good traditional agents like Williams & Donovan routinely do for their clients just goes on and on – and all for nothing more than the fee originally agreed!
Granted, some online agents may do more than others, and some high street agents are far from perfect. Still, always remember: like everything else in life, in estate agency you get what you pay for – and at the end of the day, the low fee business model only works if you do the bare minimum. In other words, “Pile them high and sell them cheap...” Is that really how you want your most prized asset to be sold?
No, we didn’t think so!
Having made a shortlist of, say, three agents, ask them each to do a market appraisal of your home, and ask them to provide evidence to back up their valuations. You can also use their visits to glean more information about their knowledge of the local market, their advertising and marketing strategies, and their fee structure.
When you make your final choice of agent, don’t automatically go for the one who values your home the highest. He may simply be trying to buy your instruction, with every intention of beating you down to a more realistic level once it’s in the bag. Many agents even run internal training courses on “Getting Price Reductions” – although, interestingly, that’s not one of the things they will boast about while they’re trying to win your instruction!
Likewise, don’t just opt for the one charging the lowest few. Cut-price agents – even those with a conventional High Street office - generally give a cut-price service. Instead, weigh up the quality of service on offer, and the marketing power at the agent’s disposal. Remember too that estate agency is a people business – trust and confidence are important – so you need to have a good rapport with the agent you choose.
To find out how Williams & Donovan approach valuations, click HERE.
Once you have chosen your preferred agent, you need to sign an agency agreement or contract with them.
There are two main types of agreement:
- Sole Agency The most common type, in which you instruct a single agent to sell your home. Sole agency agreements are generally for a set period, such as 12 weeks. If during that contractual period you instruct another agent, you risk being liable to pay two sets of agency fees.
- Multiple Agency Some people prefer to instruct several agents at the same time, in the belief that this will increase their exposure to the marketplace. The agent who sells the property takes the whole fee. However, because of the risks inherent in this winner-takes- all scenario, most agents charge a substantially higher fee for multiple agency. They are also less likely to really pull out all the stops to sell your home, since there is every chance that they will be pipped at the post - and end up with nothing to show for their efforts.
Unless there are exceptional circumstances, Williams & Donovan would always recommend choosing a Sole Agency agreement. We believe it’s much better to have one, highly motivated agent on your case than half a dozen who are just going through the motions. And it’s cheaper too!
Whichever agent, and whatever type of contract you choose, bear in mind that there is no such thing as a standard agency contract, and terms and conditions will vary. So, make sure you ask the agent to clearly explain the key terms of the agreement.
For the same reason, you may want a little more time to read the agreement at your leisure, or to get a second opinion – and you are perfectly within your rights to ask for it to be left with you, to return later. However, if you do decide to sign the agreement there and then, it’s best to do so in your own home, rather than in the agent’s office. That’s because, in the (hopefully) unlikely event that you change your mind, you are legally entitled to a 14-day cooling off period, during which you can cancel the agreement without any penalty – but only if you don’t sign it in the agent’s office!
Price is the single most important factor in determining whether or not you achieve a successful sale. Obviously, you want to get the best possible price for what is probably your most valuable asset. But ask too much, and you will scare away potential buyers. It’s surprising how many people still believe that property advertisements – whether online or in estate agents’ windows – provide some sort of guide to value. They don’t. Remember, these are only asking prices, not actual selling prices. By the same token, websites such as www.myhouseprice.com and www.ourproperty.co.uk, which do list selling prices, create the illusion that valuing property is child’s play. It isn’t, not least because these sites get their data from HM Land Registry, so it’s basically 3 months out of date. And in a changing market, that can make quite a difference.
In the end, your home is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it – and the best person to make that judgement is still a reputable local estate agent, one with extensive local market knowledge, like Williams & Donovan. In arriving at an asking price, he or she will consider a whole range of factors, such as recent sales of comparable properties, the location and condition of your home, the current demand and supply situation in your area, and projected market trends.
Assuming your agent is able to back up his valuation with solid evidence, you should be prepared to accept it. Don’t be tempted to start out at a higher price, just in case there’s someone out there with more money than sense! By doing so except in the craziest of bull markets - you could actually be spoiling your best chance of getting a sale. Properties generally attract the most buyer interest during their first few weeks on the market. After that, interest declines dramatically. That’s why it is so important to get the price right, right from the start!
At Williams & Donovan, we have around 20 years’ experience of successfully selling properties in Hockley and Benfleet and surrounding areas. When it comes to pricing, no- one knows more than us!
Preparing your home for sale
First impressions count. Potential buyers will form an opinion about your home in seconds. If it looks uncared for, they may be put off altogether –so, it’s worth taking a little trouble to present your home in the best possible light.
Of course, there’s no substitute for regular maintenance. Trying to make up for years of neglect can be very expensive! By the same token, avoid anything too big and costly – otherwise you will almost certainly lose money. If your home needs a whole new roof, for example, then your best bet is to adjust the asking price accordingly.
Conversely, little things mean a lot. So - a neat garden, fresh paintwork inside and out, clean and reasonably tidy rooms, sparkling windows and pleasant smells can all work wonders.
Williams & Donovan take buyers in and out of houses every day – so we know what appeals to them, and what doesn’t. We will be happy to recommend where you might make simple, cost-effective improvements that will enhance the saleability of your home.
If you are showing a prospective buyer around your home, remember these four golden rules:
- Avoid having too many people present. Although friends and neighbours may be well meaning, less is definitely more!
- If you have a dog, ask someone to take it for a walk. Better still, if you have teenage children, get them to take the dog out. That way, you get rid of two potential embarrassments at one go!
- Never apologise for the appearance of your property – and don’t stress too much about the odd bit of family clutter. After all, it’s your home, not a show-house.
- Finally, if you are asked questions about the neighbours, or the general area, or why you are leaving, always tell the truth. These days, consumer protection legislation takes a dim view of any deliberate attempt to hide information which might materially affect a buyer’s decision.