You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive. How much more money is your house worth? Time spend researching estate agents may save you many frustrating weeks being listed with the wrong company.
Be a customer – so you know how well customers are treated
The best way to find out how well an agent might represent your home, is to see how they go about representing other people’s homes. So try them for size!
If you are considering using an agent, call into their office. Is it well laid out? Are the staff well dressed, friendly and courteous? Does it impress you as a professional operation? You should start off as a house-hunter… if you are moving locally you will be… and see how well the agent treats you as a customer.
There is nothing like visiting the agent’s office – unannounced, before they know you have a house to sell – to see how that agent treats its average walk-in customer. Call if you can’t visit… but given how important it is to get it right, make or take the time to go in person if at all possible.
Is the agent ‘on the ball’?
Getting a good feeling about the office is a start – but it’s only a start. Most important… is the agent doing a good job for their sellers?
At very least, the agent should take your name, phone number, postal address and email address. Email is particularly important. New properties can be sent to interested buyers by email on the very day that they are taken on the market. Printing and posting details takes much longer, while calling prospective buyers might not be possible immediately because of the amount of time it takes – beside which, most buyers want to see details before they agree to view, so sometimes calling can be even slower!
Imagine two identical homes, taken on the market on the same day. One agent emails clients immediately, and in response arranges a viewing with the perfect buyer for the next evening. The second agent prints the details and sends them in the post. The same perfect buyer receives them in the post the morning after they have viewed the first house, made an offer, and had it accepted. Even if you don’t yet use email much yourself, very many house-hunters do, so you should be concerned if the agent doesn’t ask for your email address.
The agent should ask, and make notes, about the sort of property you are looking for… how many bedrooms, which areas you are looking at, how much you can afford, and any other important factors you may have.
If the agent goes through all these things, you can be confident that they won’t miss potential buyers when you ask them to sell your home. However, if you walk in and out of an agency without being asked for these details, then rule them out straight away. The perfect buyer for your home might have been in the office that very day… but the agent won’t know who they are, and won’t be able to tell them about your home.
Does the agent know their stuff… or admit it when they don’t..!
A good way of road-testing an agent is to ask them about something you already know. Ask about an area you’re familiar with, or what houses have sold in your road recently, or what’s currently on the market near where you live. A decent agent might not know these things off by heart, but should be able to find out very quickly… and an honest agent who doesn’t know will tell you as much, and might suggest you talk with a colleague, or promise to find out for you. But you’ll know if an agent is bluffing!
Test the agent you’re using!!!
If your home is already on the market, but you’re not sure that the agent is doing a good job, you can road-test your own agent easily enough. Get a friend to call in, and to tell the agent that they are searching for a property just like yours… for example, if you are selling a three bed terrace in St Leonards at £200,000, your friend should claim to be after a three bed older style home near to the city for around £200,000. Either the agent will tell them about your home… or else the agent just isn’t doing a good job for you.
Before you consider asking an agent for a valuation, or at least before that valuation has taken place, you should find out how well they treat customers, and how well they know their area. Going into an agent’s office, before they know you are a seller and start trying to impress you, will give you the best idea of whether that agent will do a good job for you. Asking agents questions about things you already know will test their knowledge and honesty. Finally, if your home is already on the market, don’t be scared of testing out your agent by using friends to make enquiries to the agent.