What is a proper estate agent? Right in the middle of Purplebricks’ website homepage it says they are “proper estate agents” and I wish yesterdays BBC Watchdog & Radio 4 broadcasts had picked up on this point alongside the myriad other issues highlighted. Most online agents advertising seems to suggest they are “just the same as other estate agents” but are they really? Here are our thoughts on what we think some of the real differences are;
Proper estate agents get paid on results, not paid upfront whether you sell or not. We only get paid after you move and we get precisely zero if you don’t. How many industries do you think operate on a payment structure where the trades pay all the costs themselves in the hope they might get something back? Quite unusual isn’t it? This is why proper estate agents have the best incentive to sell your home. We also generally charge a percentage, not a flat fee, so we have an extra incentive to get the best price for you because we’re getting more too.
Proper estate agents do viewings for their clients. Apart from all the practical reasons (like most owners actually having jobs and commitments of their own), we get better results precisely because we’re not the owner. One other really important point on viewings – in the last 48hrs alone, I’ve agreed sales on two properties where I first met the buyers on viewings at other homes they didn’t like. Helping buyers by suggesting alternatives or letting them know about new instructions is a big part of viewings. Online agents just can’t generate this activity if they never meet the viewer.
Proper estate agents have a mailing list of buyers. We’ve spent years and a lot of money building up a database of clients that we know everything about. Some of them may not be constantly looking on Rightmove, some are looking for property types that come up only infrequently and some even need coaxing to consider certain homes outside their comfort zone. Before we launch a property to the web, we can usually have a double handful of viewers ready to go and these are people we have met and are familiar with.
Proper estate agents are real local experts. We operate in small geographical areas, usually only a few miles max from our offices and we’re intimately familiar with every inch of our patch. We know the tiny but important local variations that really matter and we’re an integral part of the community. The property market is made up of thousands of microcosm markets – some of the online “experts” cover territories covering half a county. We also don’t just go out to see clients who are definitely selling – half of my valuation workload includes probate work, divorces, advice on extensions or renovations and so on – I’m not likely to be paid for this but it helps my clients so I’m happy to do it.
Proper estate agents are accessible. Most of us have a prominent physical location and I know a good chunk of our clients really value being able to just pop in on their way to the butchers or the post office. We’re also constantly asked to meet up and help clients with advice or documents. Being able to sit round the coffee table in our office with an owner or a buyer means we get stuff done quicker. Whilst we’re perfectly used to offering all the technological connections like email, live chat and social media contact, there’s just no substitute for face to face contact for some clients. You don’t need to stay on hold to a call centre miles away or leave messages that never get returned if you can drop by and get what you need instantly.
Proper estate agents spend as much time or more on managing sales as making them. Any decent conveyancing solicitor will tell you estate agents can be a huge amount of help during the process. However, we don’t just deal with good solicitors, surveyors and mortgage lenders so our firefighting skills can make a big difference to the success or failure of any sale. Over the last 24hrs, I’ve been in contact with owners face to face, on the phone, by text and by email on various matters from plain reassurance to complicated negotiations over survey issues – this is entirely normal and very much an integral part of the job. In over two decades of working as an agent, I’ve rarely encountered an online agent that does anything to help a sale progress and, worse than that, some can be a positive hindrance.
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