The No1 rule

The No1 rule about being No1 is knowing why you are. 

The No2 rule is being able to prove it to everyone.

We see it all the time in advertising, don’t we? Someone is always saying they are the No1 at this or that and its the same in estate agency. Open the local property paper and you’ll usually find an agent saying “we are the No1 agent in *insert area here*” or “we’re the No1 for sales in…”. If you’re looking for an estate agent to use, how might you work out who really is the No1?


You’d think a quick drive round an area would give you a pretty good idea of who’s got the most property. In Bath (more often than not), that doesn’t quite work as much of the city is a conservation area where boards aren’t allowed. Even outside this zone, there are owners that don’t want boards or areas where boards are pointless for anything more than an agents self promotion. At present, we have four properties on one local road but only one board so do we look like the No1 from a quick glance? Probably not, but we’ve sold more property on that road than any other agent in the last four years. Also, how do you decide on an agent from boards? Do you pick the one with the most or do you notice what proportion are “for sale” and “sold”? How about the boards that change from “for sale” to “sold” and back again (or the ones that stay there for months unchanged)?

Newspaper adverts?

Do you pick the agent with the most glossy spread or the one with the most Sold flashes on their ad? How about the one with a pretty graph they’ve printed off the internet (usually with a caveat in really small print below)? The real truth is, as an agent if you pay the local paper enough, they will not only sell you as many pages as you like but they’ll probably also prioritise you in the page order and do your artwork for you. This doesn’t help the consumer much but looking at editions over several weeks will certainly give you a flavour of trends and who might be taking on and selling lots of property.

Google page position?

Where does the agents own website rank on Google? Are they on page 1 or lost in the woods from page 2 backwards? You’d think tapping in “estate agents in insertnamehere” would give you a decent idea of who might be good to use and it may do but there are variations. For example, have they paid either to be in the ads at the top or asked a friendly SEO consultant to optimise their site? 

Property portals?

Its natural to notice some agents more than others on Rightmove or Zoopla – some have paid for banner ads at the top of each page or a featured listing on the search page. Others have spent on premium listings or displayed their logo next to each property but what does that mean? Is the agent with the most amount of visible property the best? They might well be the ones with the most “available” but does that mean they are as good at selling it?

Both Rightmove and Zoopla provide estate agents with a professional section of their website, which allows agents to see the differences between them and their peers in terms of new instructions, available stock, reductions and so on. As a member of the public, you can’t see this but you could ask agents where they rank? If you do, bear in mind the results can easily filtered so make sure you’re comparing like with like – it would be quite easy to cherrypick results to show a particular service aspect in a favourable light . ranks each agent in an area on two criteria – average property price and time on market. The second should be the most useful in this case as a higher ranking should denote successful selling if maintained over a decent period. They also operate a Top 20 Most Active Agents list for each area, showing market share at a glance.

Customer feedback?

The short answer is it depends where you look. Almost every estate agents website contains customer testimonials but, since the agents themselves control the website, it might not always be a completely impartial source. There are Tripadvisor equivalents for the estate agency industry and is the largest – customers submit feedback independently and have to have reviews verified before publication (but agents can also pay to have an “enhanced” service and are thus able to highlight certain reviews over others). Probably best to take an overview of each agents reviews and look at averages as well as individual quality. You can also find reviews on Google and Facebook for some agents, or you might want to try asking opinions on Twitter?


  • As you can see from the above, there isn’t really a quick answer or one place to go that gives you an immediate clear picture.
  • Taking your time and watching over a longer period will give you a more in depth insight into agents success and behaviour, which will also allow you to ask around for as many recommendations as possible. 
  • You could also take the opposite tack and first ask yourself exactly what you need from the estate agent – then target your research on those aspects.

As an illustration of some of the points above, I have searched for rankings on Madison Oakley as of today (20/03/15). For the sake of accuracy and transparency, I have applied the following filters where possible –

Date range – last calendar month. Area – BA1 and BA2. Price  – all results up to £800,000. Property type – All

Rightmove (agents section) –

  • 2nd of 74 agents on New Instructions,
  • 5th of 74 on Available Stock

Zoopla (agents section) –

  • 1st of 82 on New Instructions
  • 2nd of 82 on Sold
  • 8th of 82 on Marketshare
  • 11st of 82 on Price reductions
  • 1st of 82 on Sales Fallen Through (or lack of) –

  • 8th Most Active Agent in Bath (marketshare)
  • 3rd ranked for Time On Market –

  • 1st of 19 in BA2
  • 3rd of 69 across Bath
  • 309 of 13081 across the UK