I have recently sold my property and bought a new house in a nearby village and, despite dealing with house sales all day, every day, I found the experience a real eye opener. The main thing that struck me was the importance of a using a good estate agent. Here’s my story, I hope that you find it of interest and that it encourages you to pick your estate agent wisely!
Starting our search for a new home:
My husband and I started looking for a property on Rightmove. Did you know that in 2013 us Brits are more than twice as likely to start our property search online than to visit an estate agency office? How times are changing…! In fact one third of people under the age of 40 will ONLY search for a property online and will never visit the agency until they come to collect their keys on moving in day*
Enquiring via the internet:
So, as most of our searches were going to be conducted in the evening, we sent e-mail enquiries to the estate agencies who were advertising the properties we liked and I was gobsmacked at how few agents responded to these internet leads, at all. In our offices at Sewell & Gardner we make sure that every internet lead is dealt with on the same day it is received, or, if received after office hours, it will be responded to first thing next morning. My recent experience has taught me that this is not common practise amongst most estate agents and as such there were many houses we wanted to see that we eventually lost heart for after several failed attempts to reach the estate agent.
After finally managing to get round to see some houses, our next surprise was how many viewings are unaccompanied by the agents. Compared to our Sewell & Gardner philosophy, which is to accompany every viewing as standard because, in our experience, viewers feel more comfortable with the agent so they can properly explore and freely voice their feelings. Having re-lived the property searching experience myself I can vouch for this more than ever. We were shown the property we bought by the owner, and as lovely as the lady was, we were unable to really delve into the nitty-gritty and ask the awkward questions we wanted to, for fear of maybe offending the owner unwittingly. This resulted in us needing to arrange further appointments in order to truly inspect the property and answer all of the questions in our heads.
Our of office hours:
As my husband and I work long hours we requested viewings either during the evening or on a Sunday. So many estate agents would not accommodate these times and those that did book us in, rarely accompanied us to the property. Whilst I appreciate that staff want to have the weekend off, this is a sales job after-all, so some flexibility should be forthcoming. I have never turned down an evening or weekend viewing if I felt that it would be beneficial to the customer and the business, it is amazing how so few of the agencies I dealt with felt the same commitment.
I think that one of the biggest complaints about estate agents is the lack of contact throughout the sales process. In fact, from the recent Home Moving Trends Survey, carried out by The Property Academy, from almost 5000 responses, it was found that 31% of buyers or vendors expect to hear from their estate agent more than once a week, so I have a funny feeling that a lot of expectations are not being met. At Sewell & Gardner regular contact is one of our biggest priorities: We make sure our clients are always informed of progress, from marketing to viewing feedback, offers to exchange and completion and a week will not go by when our clients do not hear from us. Sadly the only contact we had from the estate agent we bought through was when we phoned them, and more often than not we had to chase several times before we eventually heard back.
However despite all of the above, the most important thing I have noticed is how crucial it is that the estate agent is in regular contact with the solicitors. At Sewell & Gardner our staff are NAEA qualified and have a good understanding of the conveyancing and lending process. In addition we have a sales progressor, Lauren De Vere, who was previously a licensed conveyancer, and she is an absolute star for getting a deal though quickly because she knows most of the local solicitors and, of course, she knows the system inside out! Our team liaise with the solicitors, lenders, surveyors and clients every step of the way to make sure that the deal progresses efficiently and that everyone is in the loop. Sometimes you cannot influence the sales chain (the linked deals below and/or above your own transaction) and the sellers choice of solicitor or conveyancer, so it is hugely beneficial to work with a team who know the process and can immediately spot when there is a weak link in the chain and deal with it before a huge delay occurs.
Our own sale:
Luckily, due to it’s location in Chorleywood, we were able to sell our old apartment via Sewell & Gardner, and the process was a delight, but the problems up the chain dampened the experience for us. The estate agent didn’t liaise with the solicitors which led to avoidable delays being overlooked and inaccurate information being passed on. Obviously, with my knowledge I was able to take the bull by the horns and liaise direct with the other parties, but this is not an opportunity most buyers would get. This has really highlighted to me how critical it is that you instruct an estate agent who has great legal contacts and who can recommend you a solicitor or conveyance to use for your sale or purchase. Do you know that in the recent Home Moving Trends Survey* it was discovered that 68% of buyers or sellers want to use a solicitor recommended to them by their estate agent. Another point to remember is that you almost always get what you pay for so being fooled by a cheap conveyancing deal can lead to so much more expense later if your sale or purchase is delayed, or worse, if it falls through!
Read the small print:
Only yesterday I read an Agency Agreement (the document which forms the contract between the seller and the agent), which came from another estate agent in my location, stating that they take no responsibility for the sale once an offer has been accepted and that their client is to take full responsibility for progressing the sale through to exchange of contracts and keeping them informed of everything going on! Believe me, an estate agent with this attitude is not an estate agent you should want to work with.
If you are looking to sell make sure you choose your estate agent carefully, it will make all the difference! If you have any enquiries or would like to discuss selling your home just give my team a call on 01923 776400. I shall be going on maternity leave shortly, so I shall be leaving my fellow managers in charge of the sales office until I return.
All the best,
* Rightmove research Dec 2013
*Property Academy Home Moving Trend Survey 2013
If you would like further information from the above surveys please do not hesitate to ask!