How to get the best out of your estate agent

Our tips for dealing with your agent depending on the point you’ve reached in your sale.

Estate agents unfortunately have a bad reputation for over-promising and under-delivering.  

⅔ of our customers have been on the market with another agent and switch to us because they haven’t seen results after months on the market, or the service they’ve received has frustrated them more in an already frustrating process. So we’ve heard a lot about bad estate agents and have built our company to do things completely differently.

We also have some advice for sellers who are committed to staying with another agent. Read on to see our tips for dealing with your agent depending on the point you’ve reached in your sale.

Before listing your home

1. Be clear on your expectations and timelines

This is the period when you have the most influence over an estate agent’s behaviour and you shouldn’t be shy about setting out what you want. Be clear whether you’re interested in moving for a specific timeline, or if you’re happy to wait around for a buyer willing to pay a bit more.

You should ask the following questions to your agent to make sure you’re going to get the service you expect:

- Are they personally going to be managing the viewings?

- Do they proactively hunt for buyers or do they expect buyers to get in touch with them?

- Is your agent willing to help you find and negotiate on your next home?

- Do they have an in-house progression team, or are they personally used to chasing solicitors?

- On average how long does it take to get properties on their books under offer?

- What is their achieved sale price vs. initial list price?

- What is the fall through rate on their properties?

- What percentage of their customers disinstruct them?

Finally, insist on a “cool off” period in your contract. If you aren’t happy with the service, you should be able to leave within 14 days of listing.

2. Push for proof

Unfortunately, estate agents are known for exaggeration. You should feel comfortable with asking them for examples and statistics to back up their advice.

- Don’t just accept a finger-in-the-air valuation. Agents are incentivised to over-inflate the price to win your business. Insist on seeing the comparable properties they based the valuation on. It shouldn’t just be ones they’re selling currently. Look at recently sold properties and other properties on the market for guidance.

- Ask if you can get a reference call with someone who just sold in their area. If they're really that good at selling in your area, and their service is good then this shouldn't be a problem.

- What buyers? They might mention a “buyers book”. Ask how do they build this and keep it relevant.

- Test their understanding. Ask them to get you statistics on how fast homes are selling in your area. They should have it, otherwise it's all unsubstantiated opinion, and can you afford to waste 12 weeks on that?

3. Make your listing stand out

Prospective buyers live on Rightmove and Zoopla. The listing is the first (and potentially only) impression of your home, so make sure it’s a good one! Keep your agent accountable that it will sell your home in the best and most authentic light.

- Push for great photos. Check out the photos of other properties your agent has online. If they’re not good, ask for a different photographer. For your part, tidy your home before photos and try to optimise for good light. If your home is empty, ask your agent about “staging” or “dressing” your home as it really helps buyers.

- Help your agent sell your listing- Sadly, estate agents are not often great writers. They don’t spend much time thinking about making descriptions stand out without resorting to cliches. But we know that serious buyers read the descriptions and look at details. Tell your agent what you think the key features are, and send them a couple of sentences about why the area and property is so great for them to use in the listing. If you’re not happy with a listing’s description or photo, insist they’re changed.

Recently listed but no viewings

This is when you get a real sense of the market and of your agent’s competence. The first two weeks after a house goes on the market is when you should see the most activity. You should also have a 14 day window to cancel your contract with your agent if they're not performing. Here's how to maximise performance early on.

1. Keep your agent accountable with data

- Online viewings data. You should be able to get an immediate sense of whether you’re correctly priced and marketed by seeing the number of views you get on your listing. Zoopla have this on the listing itself, and your agent will be able to get this directly from the other portals. Push for it, and have it guide your conversations.

- Are you getting enquiries? Set up weekly check-ins with your agent to assess how the market is reacting to your property. Ask for the numbers of enquiries the agent is receiving, converting to viewings and the questions they’re being asked.

2. Refresh photos

If you’re not seeing many online views, refresh the order of your photos every week or so. It may be that your agent has not chosen the best picture and this will draw buyers back to your listing. It takes seconds for the agent to do this.

3. Consider sponsored posts

If you’re well-priced, you shouldn’t need this from the beginning but if you’ve been on the market for a while, ask your agent about sponsored posts to bring your post to buyers’ attention.

4. Keep an eye on the competition

The market is constantly changing and buyers are always looking for new properties. Assess the new properties coming on in the same search category as you and objectively think about how your home compares. You may want to consider a price drop to remain competitive.  

Viewings but no offers

You're getting people through the door, but haven't seen this translate to offers. This can be really frustrating, but understanding the reasons why is key.

1. Insist on buyer feedback

Probably the number one complaint we receive about other agents (apart from them over-inflating prices) is how they don’t relay feedback quickly to sellers. You shouldn’t have to (good agents should do this anyway), but do ask for specific feedback after there’s been a viewing on your home. You’ll soon see if there are trends.

2. Consider small improvements

You should start to see if there are trends in the feedback you’re receiving. Also continue to keep an eye on the competition online, especially for properties going under offer. There could be simple ways to improve the viewing experience for buyers, such as a quick paint job, or there could be a more fundamental problem to address, like price.

3. Mystery shop your agent

If your agent isn’t giving you any feedback and has become unresponsive, ask a friend to enquire about your property and go on a quick viewing. They should come away feeling like they’re sold on your home and that they would use this agent to sell theirs. If they don’t get a response quickly, or feel like they’ve not been given a good experience of the viewing immediately have a call with your agent and complain.

Offers keep falling through

Unfortunately, 1 in 3 offers fall through. We believe a lot of this has to do with agents not being well equipped or incentivised to progress the sale past an accepted offer. It’s a really complex and frustrating process, so you want to get as much help as possible here.

1. Insist on buyer feedback

If a buyer has fallen out, ask your agent to find out why. If it’s a flaky buyer, ask your agent how they check a buyer is serious and proceedable. If there’s a problem that has come back from a survey, consider getting your own independent survey done as it may be something you need to fix to avoid this happening again.  

2. Look at an agency with a progression team

If your agent isn’t particularly proactive after an offer is accepted and it then falls through you may want to consider switching to an agency with an in-house progression team. You know you can go under offer and it’s better to make sure you’ve got a dedicated person who can focus on this stage of the process. Nested is one of the only agencies in London who has invested in having a progression team to help sellers and buyers complete in the quickest time.

3. Invest in a proactive solicitor

Delays are often down to poor solicitors on either the buyer’s or sellers’ side. This is really frustrating but we have a panel of hand-picked solicitors who are fantastic to work with. Alternatively, it’s worth while going off a personal recommendation for a solicitor.

In summary, we know that selling can be a frustrating process, made even more frustrating with poor estate agents. Nested believe that sellers should be given an exceptional service and remain totally in control of their sale. Nested are happy to give objective advice about your home sale so far. Hopefully you can use the advice here to remain in control even if you sell with another agent.