Sunday, 30 June 2013

How to choose an Estate Agent and my Alexis Carrington moment!

This weekend has been full of highs and lows.

Having agreed a sale on our house, we found a house in our preferred location a few weeks back. Not the style of house I would have chosen, but the near perfect location more than made up for the lack of character in the house. In the spirit of compromise we thought we had found 'the one'.

Our first offer was possibly a little cheeky but we had done our homework, spoken to a number of people living in the town and come to the conclusion that the asking price was optimistic to say the least.

Moving on three weeks and an offer was made by another interested party at near to the asking price. The vendors were considering it and we only found out by accident even though the estate agent had assured us that they would let us know if there was any real interest in the property to give us the opportunity to respond. They didn't!

To cut to the chase, we went back to the table and offered the full asking price having taken the decision to look at it as a long term move and therefore worth it. A good, solid family home for the next 10 to 15 years or so. We submitted the offer and explained our position. The vendor accepted our offer and we were told "all systems go". Celebration that night!

Our celebrations were short lived. The following morning we took our children the 45 minute journey to show them our potential new house from the outside and then popped in to the agents to introduce ourselves. As we entered the shop and said who we were I was rather taken aback by the agent's lack of enthusiasm. She then told us basically we'd been gazumped!

Now, gazumping is perfectly legal but I personally find it morally questionable. I don't hold the agent responsible for lacking morals (on this particular part of process at least!) but I do think vendors who try to engage bidding wars as of dubious morality or just plain greedy as my husband would put it.

The agent had, frankly, been useless thus far. They had not contacted us at any point to let us know that there was another interested party even though they had assured us that they would. To rub salt in to the wound, it was midday when we went in and by amazing coincidence (?!) the agent was "just about to call us to break the bad news"! Yes. I bet she was. Well. She could now do it in person! I expect she was pleased about that! HA!


She did appear genuinely sorry but then again, how else could she react with us there sat in front of her. She tried desperately to shift the blame on to her colleague, who was conveniently on her day off! As I say, I do not hold the agent solely responsible for the situation but what followed brought out the inner Alexis in me. She brought up Rightmove (we know every property on there off by heart!) and even tried to punt properties on with  rival agents! (I can't believe this is a favoured tactic advocated by the boss of the agency!)

The straw that broke the camel's back came when she produced details of the 'perfect' property for us at nearly 100k over our already stretched budget!! At that point I'm afraid to say I lost my cool, listed their incompetencies, took a puff on my cheroot (I didn't....but I'm sure Alexis would have done so!), stood up and stormed out!

I felt so much better! I was not rude or aggressive, just to the point and constructive in my criticism (some may say 'pulling to pieces') of their approach. I loved storming out though. I wish I'd been wearing a mink (faux of course) and smoking that cheroot!

Now not all Estate Agents deserve the universal bad press that the profession commonly attracts. Believe it or not, there are good agents out there but how do you find them?

Well, here are a few useful pointers on how to choose an agent, by an agent.

1. Look in your area at board presence and see who has got the most sold signs. 'For Sale' signs aren't a good indicator since they could mean that the agent likes to overprice to gain instructions, an old ploy that actually works well, but says a lot about their integrity.

2. Check out their website. If it's well designed and intuitive then it reflects well on the ethos of the agent. Good photography and property descriptions are extremely important. Artistic licence and a bit of flowery vernacular is actually quite good as long as its not over the top.

3. Look at property portals such as Rightmove and see if the agent has plenty of premium listings and other special features. These show that the agent takes marketing seriously and is trying to differentiate from its competitors.

4. Phone your chosen agent and see how they handle general enquiries. Are they friendly, helpful and well informed ? Did they email or post details immediately....If they didn't , then beware !

5. What's their office premises like ? Are they welcoming and attractively presented. Location is not so important these days, due to the advent of the Internet, but a central location with good footfall is obviously an advantage.

6. Is it an owner run business or a corporate. In my view an owner run agency provides a better service and is more pro-active. Corporates tend to have high staff turnover and inexperienced staff. However they any have the advantage of multi office coverage.

7. Book your valuation. A good agent will ask questions about the property and may want to know your own buying situation. This means that the valuer will be well informed when they arrive and will have an insight into your move.

8. At the valuation. The agent should be able to support their valuation with evidence rather than just pick a figure out of the air. If the valuation seems high then it probably is. Honesty is very important and could save you a lot of hassle and wasted time later on. The valuer should spend about 30-40 minutes with you and clearly explain their marketing and contract.

9. Fees. Never choose an agent because they are the cheapest. Similarly the most expensive may not be the best either. Fees should be fair and reasonable, so 1.00 -1.50 % is fine.

10. Contract. The selling contract should be no longer than 12 weeks with a two week termination period. Check for hidden charges and fee liabilities in the event of termination.

The above was supplied courtesy of Jonathan Fox Estate Agents. www.jfea.co.uk . I would point out that this post is not sponsored by any company or individual.

Should any one have any questions or queries regarding either buying or selling their property then I would be happy to 'ask the expert' and see if we can help out in any way.

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