Who should do viewings – agent or owner?

Viewings and who does them seems to be a very popular topic at present. Having personally experienced most of the approaches agents take to the subject, we have a fairly defined view of the answer. Here’s our thoughts and some views from other agency pundits.

So, you’ve chosen your agent and tidied the house ready for buyers to pour through the door. Did you discuss who has the responsibility for accompanying the purchasers? Consideration needs to be given to the following factors;

Security/Safety – Estate agents must check out prospective buyers prior to agreeing a viewing, partly to qualify them (can they afford the house or are they ready to buy/proceedable) but also to see if security is a concern for the owner and/or the agent. Most buyers are friendly, polite and well behaved but there will always be exceptions and you might not want a single lady owner encountering these exceptions! Do also remember that rummaging through personal belongings is not unheard of from buyers and the agent is best placed to keep a close eye on proceedings.

Convenience – Foxtons in London suggest on their website that 39% of their viewings are carried out after work and at the weekends. Like most buyers, most of my vendors work full time so a)would rather not be faced with the responsibility of showing viewers once they’ve clocked off and b) have busy social lives that occupy the majority of non work time. Having checked with she who must be obeyed, I know we don’t have a free weekend until June so I couldn’t do viewings on my house if we were selling. Let’s not even discuss owners doing viewings during work time – a lunch hour just isn’t enough time to rush back, prep the house and then get back to your desk (and the buyer would probably be late anyway).

Knowledge – Of course you know more about your home than agents do but do you know more than them about local comparable sales, local amenities, historic price changes, local search results, school league tables and all the other myriad questions a buyer WILL ask? Questions about the house in particular make up a maximum of 20% of the conversation I have with buyers (most of them can see what’s right or wrong/have parents who know/can commission tradesmen to check). If you don’t swiftly/comprehensively answer ALL of the buyers questions at the property, doubts will remain and fester in their minds. Any objections to the house MUST be handled at the viewing to generate the right response.

Expectations – If you’re paying an electrician to rewire your home, you don’t do some of the job yourself and then pay them. Same principle with estate agents – you’re being charged thousands of pounds so you should expect the full service.

Comfort – Buyers feel uncomfortable with the owner. Maybe it’s because we’re British but there are studies and statistics to show that almost 50% more offers are achieved from viewings with agents. Owners can be unknowingly guilty of verbosity, over-familiarity, pushiness etc. My wife always reminds me of the time our daughter inadvertently pointed out the damp under the windowsill during a viewing. Agents will already have spoken to the buyer before the viewing, built a rapport and identified what is important to tell them to match is with their requirements and needs. Don’t forget buyers also want to re-plan the property and discuss what they would change – an uncomfortable topic with an owner earwigging from the next room!

Emotion – Your house is your home and you desperately want everyone to love it. However, the information you need out of a viewing is what’s wrong with it (in case you can fix a problem and improve your chances of selling). Success rates on viewings run to around 10-13 viewings per offer so there will always be plenty of people who say nasty things/knock on walls/make assumptions etc. Best to let the agent take the emotion out of the viewing and concentrate on providing useful feedback to you. After all, how many times have you seen a house with an owner and said nothing more than “that was lovely, we’ll be in touch” when you really meant “I hated it within seconds but had to be polite and look round”.

Punctuality – The estate agent’s biggest day to day problem is buyers who are seemingly unable to arrive on time. We automatically allow for this in our schedule but owners often can’t.

Targets – Some estate agents push their sales negotiators hard towards “viewing” targets. Because of this they will push any potential buyer towards your home, regardless of whether or not it is the right property for them. This could result in a stream of unnecessary and time wasting viewings – fine if it’s the agents own time they’re wasting, aggravating if it’s yours.

Frost & sun oak tree

Richard Rawlings (MD at Estate Agency Insight) wrote a superb article on viewings in Estate Agency Today. It is well worth reading in its entirety but briefly put, he divides the process into three distinct sections – heart, brain and empathy. The first viewing is done with the heart, in order to fall in love with the house. The second viewing is led by the brain, to identify if there are any reasons not to buy the house. Empathy comes from the estate agent, in order to demonstrate how the house works for the buyer and waterproof the deal.

In an ideal world, we would suggest that the agent accompanies all viewings. In practice, we admit that this is not always possible (there’s always one buyer who rings up on a fully booked Saturday and “can’t do any other time”) but we manage at least 92% accompanied viewings at any given time. Our viewings are accompanied by full time experienced partners not junior negotiators (but that’s a discussion for another day!).

For more info on Madison Oakley or contact details for our directors, do visit our website.