Doing your homework on the estate agents!
Buying or selling a property can be a fairly lengthy process. From the minute you make the decision to move, to the moment you hand over the keys to your old place and pick up the keys to your new abode can be months of hard work, soul searching, form filling, legal advice and research. However, often most of the hard work is done before you even walk in through the door of the solicitor to start the legal side of the actual purchase. You may have spent hours looking at areas and properties before you’ve made the important decision and made an offer.
Estate agents can be your best friend in terms of helping you find what you are looking for, but as they only get paid when the sale goes through, some of them are not above stooping to unscrupulous tactics. So it’s a good idea to make sure that you do your own homework, not just on the property, but also on your appointed estate agent as it might save you time and money in the long run. Here are some tips on how to pick a good agent.
What should you watch out for when picking estate agents?
Where are they?
There are a large number of estate agents around, and there’s been an increase on how many of them are on line. There have been mixed reviews about these estate agents as they lack physical branches however which might put you off, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know their stuff. Whether they are on line or have their own premises, find out how much they know about the local area, how long they’ve been established, how big their staff are and who you would actually be dealing with.
One of the things to look out for when checking out the estate agents is how long any of their staff have been with them, particularly any staff that you will be dealing with. If they have a high turnover of staff that’s never a good sign. When you speak to the agent you are dealing with, ask them how long they’ve been there. If they say anything less than a year, ask them where they came from. It might give you some clues as to how long they’ve been in the property industry and so, how good they are at their job and how reliable any advice and information they give you might be. Other good questions to ask are how many properties they’ve sold over the last 12 months and what their views are of the market generally.
Once you’ve found a property you are interested in, but before you go and see it, there are things you should ask the agent about it. A good starting point is how long the property has been on the market, and whether there have been any sudden price changes. The longer the property has been around, the more likely it is that either it’s overpriced and/or that there are defects you should be aware of before you waste any time or money on it. Reduction in prices can also be an indication of problems you should know about.
How reliable is their information?
Read through the property details carefully and then compare it to what you actually know about the property, what you see or know about the area. No one is perfect, and small errors are inevitable, but if there are significant errors in what you’ve been told about the property, this should be a warning sign about the reliability and honesty of the estate agents. Don’t be afraid to point this out to them and see what they have to say. If you see the same defective details still online, even after you’ve pointed it out, then that should be a warning sign that it wasn’t an innocent mistake, and the agent doesn’t care if the details they put out are honest or not.
A picture is worth 1,000 words
But only if the picture is true. In these days of digital information, it’s very easy to make up or edit photographs to make them look more appealing. A bit of tarting up is ok, especially if it’s just to show you how the property could look, and they tell you that they are enhanced. On the other hand, completely manufacturing images such as hiding obstructions in the garden like telegraph poles or covering up damage to the property that might put you off without telling you, is not a good sign. You may take the view that you can inspect the property yourself, but if you don’t have much time, and there are many properties to view, do you want to be viewing ones that you would never have considered if you’d had accurate pictures from the outset? What’s more, what is your view of an estate agent that is happy to do things like this, just to get you in through the door.
What are they charging you?
If you are selling, one of the first questions you should ask your estate agent is what they are going to charge you. Don’t be afraid to shop around to see who can offer you the best deal. Don’t forget, the cheapest isn’t necessarily the best, as you get what you pay for. Agents often want to tie you in to a specific length of time, but if they are doing a bad job you may want to be able to terminate more quickly than that, so ask for a termination provision. Also don’t be afraid to negotiate on price.
How hard is their sale?
If you are being pushed hard on a property, there may be a reason for it. After all, if it’s a good property at a good price, it should sell itself easily and they shouldn’t have to resort to underhand methods. A typical tactic used by estate agents is to tell you that someone else is interested in the property, or even that they’ve actually made an offer to make it sound more desirable and to pressure you in to making an offer or increasing the offer you’ve already made. Sometimes it may be true that someone else is after the property, but often it’s not. There are various consumer rights protecting you as a customer, should it transpire you as a client, has been deliberately mislaid.
Listen to what others have to say
If you are trying to decide what estate agents to trust, then finding out about other people’s experiences might help. You might ask family or friends in the area who they used or what they’ve heard from others. You could also look on line at reviews, although do take them with a pinch of salt as people aren’t always honest.
Disclaimer – our articles are designed to give you guidance and information. There is no substitute for proper direct advice, particularly as everyone’s circumstances are different. If anything in this article may affect you, please contact us for advice that is specific to your circumstances.