In Defence of Estate Agents

It seems as though everywhere I turn at the moment (TV, newspapers, blogs) there are people moaning about estate agents. I don’t know about elsewhere in the world, but here in the UK we seem to love to hate estate agents.

As you probably already know, my husband is an estate agent of 25+ years’ experience, and knowing as I do how much hard work he puts into getting the best results for his clients, frequently going above and beyond the call of duty, I thought I’d put some thoughts across from the other side.

First of all, if we have a bad experience with one solicitor, or one florist, or one coffee shop, do we then say ‘oh, all solicitors are crap / all florists are rubbish / all coffee shops are overpriced con merchants’?

So why malign a whole profession after one bad experience with an estate agent? I’ve seen it time and again.

Just as in every walk of life, there are good, bad and indifferent.

Don’t like Tesco? Shop at Sainsburys.

Don’t like one estate agent? Use a different one. Or, as is increasingly an option these days, use an online one at a fraction of the cost.

One of the problems seems to be that people always think they know better than estate agents. Even my mother-in-law, whose house is currently on the market with her son, popped into my husband’s office last week to give him some advice on what he should be doing to increase the interest in her property!!!! (This from a woman who hasn’t held down a job since the early 1960s – as a hairdresser). Ashley did invite her to put her house on the market with another agent instead, but pointed out that they probably wouldn’t sell it for free, like he is (naturally) doing ….

So this ‘I know better than the agent’ mentality is ingrained in us all, it seems.

* * *

I told Ashley I was writing this piece, and asked him if there was anything he wanted to say, and he gave me the following:

BUYERS

If you cannot find the property which meets your expectations and within your budget, within a reasonable amount of time, you need to readjust either your expectations or your budget.

SELLERS

If your house is taking a long time to sell, there are normally only three possible reasons for this (though they can overlap – like a Venn diagram):

  1. Marketing – when you interview potential agents to sell your home, if they don’t volunteer information about how they will market it (which any decent agent should), ask them.
  2. Price – nobody wants to be told their house is not worth as much as they’d like it to be worth, but, if you want to sell it, you need to price it realistically. If it’s overpriced, you won’t get people through the door.  Again, a decent agent should not overvalue a house just to get the business, and should give you an honest valuation, backed up by hard facts.
  3. Vendor motivation – just as there will always be people who go and view houses for sale almost as a hobby, with no intention of moving (yes, I’m looking at my mother-in-law again), there are also people who will put their house on the market with very little intention of actually moving. If a vendor is unmotivated, they will not take on board the advice of their agent regarding marketing or price, and will therefore likely remain on the market unsold. My friend B’s property has been on the market for almost two years. She’s not bothered whether she moves or not (house has to be seen to be on the market due to divorce), she won’t have a for sale board outside the property and her house is overpriced.

* * *

I think it’s also important to remember that the estate agent works for the vendor, not the purchaser, because it’s the vendor who pays him (only if the house is sold, mind you).

Contrary to popular belief, agents do not want to force you to go and view properties that are totally unsuitable for you. Why would they do so? It’s a waste of their time. They will, on the other hand, give you an overview of the properties they have for sale, possibly even recommend viewing particular ones (they are, after all, salespeople), but ultimately the person who chooses whether or not to view a property is the potential purchaser.

I was in Ashley’s office last week and there was a man being very shirty and unpleasant with one of the girls because she couldn’t arrange a viewing for him on a property for a particular day because the vendor had requested no viewings on that day. He was banging on about how that was his only day off, he couldn’t see it any other time, they obviously didn’t want his money blah blah blah. (Laughably, as the member of staff subsequently told me, he wasn’t even in a position to buy as he needed to sell his current house, which wasn’t even yet on the market!) No doubt he was another one who went off ranting to his mates down the pub about how all estate agents are lying bastards.

So, yeah, I’m a bit sick of all the hate. My husband and all his staff work six long days every week, bend over backwards to accommodate both vendors and potential purchasers, take numerous phone calls out of hours (clients on the phone while we’re eating Sunday breakfast, while we’re away on holiday (oh yes), while we’re out with friends on a Saturday night), and they don’t get paid unless they sell the property (at a price agreed upon by the vendor).

So next time anybody wants to paint an entire profession as useless, robbing scoundrels, just maybe consider first that it’s not always fair to tar everybody with the same brush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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14 thoughts on “In Defence of Estate Agents

  1. I did wonder whether to comment on this particular blog as along with many other people I have had good and bad experiences. However, i wilI put up with any flack that comes my way.

    I did have a particular issue with one estate agent who was a family “friend” and was well known in Torbay. He came to see our house and just started to pull it to pieces. Nevertheless I did not give hm the property to sell. On a side note I also can remember him as being the only person I have ever hit when he made disparaging remarks about my father who I was burying the next day. Anyway I digress, I have found that the major chains of agents were pretty rubbish not bothering to send anyone with clients to view and on every occasion I actually sold the house myself to their clients. The best estate agent we ever had
    were two older experienced guys who set up a new practice in Babbacombe and sold the same house as above the day after taking it on board.

    I think the main issue with estate agents is the rip off charges by the letting agencies within those estate agents. Not all but many.

    I have nothing against estate agents, traffic wardens or in fact anyone don’t a job just certain individuals giving bad service. Try living in Span where customer service is non existent.

  2. I watched a recent estate agents program on BBC and whilst it was fascinating I thought it was a bloody awful job dealing with the public and their set ideas etc. Would hate to do it.
    Here it is very different. You have to have a ‘real estate license’ to be an estate agent – almost anyone can pass. A lot of middle aged women (comme moi) do it an work around the kids. There are few estate agent store front here where you look at houses in the windows. Most is done on line with #MLS listing. A lot of estate agents only have their home office and all meetings with buyers/sellers are done in their houses/coffee shops etc. Say you are selling your house here for $100 000 (which would not get you more than a shed here) – the SELLER will give the estate agents $6000. Half to the estate agent of the seller, half to the estate agent of the buyer. So all brochures/time for open houses (where you put a big sign out and people come and nosey for a half day) is part of your time/effort for you 3/6K. You sign a contract with your estate agent that they will represent you for (usually) 90 days. So you have to be sure they will market adequately for 90 days. Oh also there is often a colour flyer available on the for sale sign – so people driving by will grab one….if interested call for a viewing…. Also ‘bridging loans’ are more normal here so there is no chain….
    I am still laughing at your MIL with better ideas on how to market her house.
    My friend’s UK MIL has been on the market for 9 mths with one viewing. But the estate agents are the best high end ones and represent a lot of footballers don’t you know.
    (longest comment ever prize should be sent to……….)

    • As you say, the system is totally different in the USA. In most places, actually, I think. Chains are a nightmare – thankfully we’ve never been in one (the stress’d probably kill me!), but I know how much time and energy Ashley and his staff spend on trying to keep chains together when one person drops out in the middle – awful. Suspect your friend’s MIL’s agent is perhaps marketing towards a different client base than her house is suitable for, hence the lack of viewings (unless she lives in a footballer style mcmansion, of course!)

  3. We have only used an estate agent once as we have lived in our house for nearly 29 years and we had no problems at all we paid a fair price for the work he did, he was doing his job. You can’t please all of the people all of the time,never will,and I agree Caroline one bad apple shouldnt spoil the whole bunch. Some people can’t see further than the end of their nose and to them I would say up yours ! Seeing numerous property shows I can say that a lot of peole expect too much bang for their buck for want of a better expression, rolling up with enough money for a 2 bed semi and expecting to get a 4 bed detached in the nicest part of the town. There is good and bad in everyone and in all walks of life.

    • You’re quite right about ‘bang for their buck’ – managing people’s expectations as to how far their money will stretch is always a tricky one!

  4. We have sold 4 houses with the same estate agent (one man), he worked for another company before, we found him by wandering all the streets (looking in all the estate agents), and he has just helped with the selling our rental house last month. So 5 houses all in all in the last 4 years for us. I liked him and chose him as he arrange for 3 or 4 viewings on houses we wanted to look at. Do as you would be done by…and we thought if he is this good with us he will be with our buyers. We are very lucky but also very realistic of what we can get for our houses and they have all been under offer/sold with in 2 weeks of being marketed.

    Our last house viewing was a disaster. I repeatedly asked for further pictures, even asked what the house was made of, the lad hadn’t even heard of reconstituted stone and the pictures were so obscure, coupled with the google map with the house that had been built in the garden wasn’t even there. Driving an hour there I was really miffed off. I have no idea why he urged us to see it. He didn’t even know if the house had an Agricultural Tie. There were not really any details in the brochure or the rightmove page. just a floor plan, no mention of a shared drive or the new house built there. it was a real wash out.

    Maybe your Ashley can help them make a leaflet or book of guidelines of what should be included on an advert. If it had just said shared drive, I wouldn’t have gone as it is a huge horsey area we are looking in and horse boxes on most peoples drives, (there were 2 at this house). This would help enormously. Or like the lady said above that people in other countries have to have a licence or qualifications. I have no problem with Estate Agents, they sell my house, they get money I get money, every body is happy. What I didn’t like was wasting my time and his, we couldn’t have done a drive by as the house would have been under offer the same day we saw it come on to rightmove so we both took the day off of work as they go so fast here.

    Does Ashley have a list he can suggest that we can ask Estate Agents when we are looking?

    • Hi Sol – doesn’t sound like you had a great experience with your viewing! I’m not sure from what you write whether or not the agent ever answered your questions or provided the extra pictures you asked for prior to your viewing. I suspect from what you say that possibly the house had only just come onto the market and the full details were not yet available on Rightmove, and maybe if it was new to market, the all the estate agency staff hadn’t yet seen the property so weren’t able to provide you with more information at that stage. One way of avoiding wasting your time would have been not to have viewed before getting the answers to your questions and the extra pictures you wanted. However, as you say, when the market is moving quickly (not something estate agents are in control of), sometimes you have to make the decision to view quickly, and without all the salient facts to hand. But to reiterate the point I made in my blog post, YOU make the decision to view, not the agent.

      Google Earth/Street View is sometimes useful for getting an idea re shared driveways etc.

      I think the other thing to bear in mind is that a house purchase is for most people the biggest purchase they’ll ever make, so one does expect to invest quite heavily timewise in finding the right place.

      Best of luck with your search.

    • Hi Sarah – yes, would be great to meet up for a coffee and catch up. We’re off on hol for a fortnight, but I’ll get in touch when we get back x

  5. The agent we are using for our house sale has been so so. The original person, one of the owners, was great, enthusiastic and attentive, took on our ideas etc but when the process was passed down the line it started to fail. Lots of mistakes on the sales details, including grammar, phone calls not returned, our negotiator has never even seen the house though we asked her to visit several times, Currently we are not sure if we have sold or not as the written offer we were sent was one we turned down, with a note from the agent that the price had been increased, in which case why send the cancelled one. We thought that in Scotland an accepted offer was binding but 3 weeks later we are still on the market. It is expensive to use an estate agent, in our case a percentage fee on selling plus about £2,000 for marketing, though here in Scotland that includes a home report. Besides the cost selling a home is quite an emotional thing and we really want to feel we are paying our agent to be on our side. Of course clients can be difficult, in our village one house has been on the market 6 years because the owners won’t drop the price or even take it off for a while, the agents must be tearing their hair out. Good post by the way, gets us all talking..

    • Hi Jenny – I followed your recent posts about putting your house on the market with interest and I have to say, although I don’t fully understand the system in Scotland, your agent doesn’t sound great. Absolutely appalling that your negotiator hasn’t seen the house. Ashley’s staff all go to see all properties are soon as they take them on as a matter of course, it’s just common sense that they need to have first hand knowledge of the houses they’re selling. Not returning phone calls is poor as well, I would not be impressed.

      Regarding the sales details, these should be sent to you for approval once they’ve been prepared, and any changes made that you request. Completely agree with your comment about grammar – sadly, it’s the way of the world these days, it seems, that office staff/secretaries do not have a grasp of correct use of English. Ashley’s staff are not great with spelling and grammar, I must say – the girls in his office often email me sets of details to proof read for them, and last week a 50 page award submission, which did not have a single page without an error. I imagine I’m known there as a bit of spelling/grammar Nazi!

  6. I’ve never had a bad experience with any real estate agents. We’ve purchased four homes over the years, and had very good agents each time. I have sold two homes over the years without an agent and have wanted to kick myself each time. First time was my family home after my mother passed away…the next-door neighbor approached me and wanted to by it, but specifically requested no realtors. Probably would have been okay if it had been a normal person, but he turned out to be an awful jackass. The second time was when we sold our last home…it was never on the market, we had an acquaintance ask us if we would be willing to sell it. Again he didn’t want to go through a realtor. Oh, the headaches! So I am of the opinion that agents earn every penny of their commissions!

  7. Having dealt with A LOT of estate agents in my time, I would agree with Glynis’s comment that the chain estate agencies in general do not offer brilliant service. However, smaller, privately-owned estate agents often do go the extra mile, plus really do know their business.

    On the whole, after many negative experiences in Essex but a brilliantly positive experience here in Bristol, I would have to say like any profession (or walk of life) there are good ‘uns and bad ‘uns. After all, my partner is a lawyer – and we all know what many people think of that profession!!

    Hope you have / are having a brilliant holiday, Caroline.

  8. Very fair comments. I have been lucky enough to have only good experiences with estate agents – purchasers, vendors and other people in chains not so much, with a horror story or two, and I feel for estate agents having to deal with some of these people. One of my friends is still friendly with her estate agent ten years after he sold her house!

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