Estate agent reputation is the stuff of folklore, rightly or wrongly, that reputation can make choosing an estate agent an anxious decision. Unless you’ve had a good old-fashioned, word-of-mouth recommendation for which estate agent to put your house on the market with, entrusting an estate agent with the sale of your biggest asset, can be a fraught process.
How to navigate the pitfalls and ensure you get the best service? We asked a trusted and experienced estate agent in Bristol for some sound advice; what to look for in an agent, what questions should you be asking, and how to spot bad advice.
Laurence Irvine of Urban Lighthouse is an independent estate agent with over 20 years experience selling property in Bristol.
“OVERPROMISING IS THE CLICHED ESTATE AGENT’S BIGGEST SIN, IF SOMETHING SEEMS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT MORE THAN LIKELY IS.”
Your interests at heart
Laurence believes the key to getting the best service lies in finding an agent who can give good quality advice with a lot of knowledge and experience. They should have “a desire to be in partnership with the seller right through to exchange of contracts, and be a sounding board in what can be quite a rollercoaster ride,” he says
However, without having built up trust it can be difficult to filter out empty promises, Laurence explains “Overpromising is the cliched estate agent’s biggest sin, I think you have to be a bit wary of extravagant promises from an agent from day one. If something seems too good to be true, it more than likely is.” He goes on to tell us that, “every agent that walks through your door will be desperate to sell your house and some agents, generally the weaker agents, will be inclined to hype up what they’re going to do and promise more to make you sign up with them.”
That’s where gut feeling is important, Laurence recommends trusting your gut when it comes to valuations, “in my experience most people’s gut feelings are actually pretty good, often better than the agents. Have a gut feeling, before you have any valuations, of what you think it’s worth” he says.
Local knowledge and experience
Choosing an estate agent who knows the area and what the market is doing is valuable. “Look for a demonstration that an agent has got a track record and history of selling your kind of property and an understanding of the area” says Laurence. Experience isn’t just important at the valuation stage either, Laurence goes on to say, “an experienced person who’s doing the viewings, knowing who that person is, and that person knowing the house is important too, because you might get a valuation from one person and then some random Saturday person who’s never seen the house, or knows nothing about the house, might end up doing all your viewings, and that for me is not good.”
Must-ask questions when choosing an estate agent
Having been in the business for over 20 years, Laurence knows what makes a good agent and what to look for in a bad one, we asked him what the most important questions to ask are before you sign up:
- Who will be doing my viewings?
- Who will be overseeing my sale?
- What will you charge me if you don’t get what you say you’re going to get me?
- Do you have recommended solicitors, mortgage brokers, surveyors and how much do they pay you for those referrals?
The point of referral fees is something that Laurence feels strongly about, he doesn’t receive any remuneration in exchange for recommendations but a lot of agents do. Always be aware that it’s illegal for agents to insist you use their recommendations, so you should never feel pressured into making decisions about solicitors or mortgage brokers. Read our guide to the costs involved in choosing your own mortgage broker and solicitor.
Spotting the best agents
The best agents will always have your best interests at heart so getting a sense from agents you speak to that they’re listening to your needs is key, Laurence explains, “I think a good agent will ask what is important to you to start with, they’ll ideally give you options as there’s no one route to selling a house.” Of course, it’s not always easy to spot genuine interest but once again, Laurence thinks it comes down to human instinct, “I don’t know whether I can give any advice on how to tell the difference between sales speak and somebody speaking honestly but I suspect a lot of people have that instinct.”
Invite Agents is a brand new platform created to help homeowners find and compare trusted estate agents in their local area. Using our unique platform, you can request bespoke fee proposals from various agents and compare them using a range of tools/metrics, all from the comfort of your sofa. Sign up to be first to hear about our launch and get more tips, advice and local property news.
Laurence’s agency Urban Lighthouse is based in Southville, Bristol.