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Using estate agents

Their role

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Like them or loathe them, the fact remains that estate agents are still responsible for the overwhelming majority of property sales in this country. In a nutshell, an estate agent will find you the right buyer for your home. This is achieved through the activities outlined below, though different agents may not fulfil all of the functions mentioned.

The first job that will be carried out by someone on behalf of the estate agent is putting a price on your property. This is a crucial step in ensuring that you find a buyer and therefore requires considerable expertise. Make sure that the person who values your home possesses the appropriate professional qualifications from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors or the National Association of Estate Agents.

The price needs to be set low enough for you to be able to sell it within the timeframe you require and also so that you can attract enough potential buyers to view the property. But it also needs to be set sufficiently high that you don't lose out on any money that you could have made from the sale. Valuations of property can vary quite considerably from agent to agent. Different agents build in varying amounts of scope for negotiation, some agents deliberately overvalue property to try and get you to use their services, whilst others will simply be more over optimistic that others.

Presentation of property details
This involves compiling a description of your property that will encourage viewings, taking photographs, measuring the dimensions and sometimes even constructing floorplans. These will then be put together into a standard format used to present property details. Again, the techniques and level of detail employed varies from agent to agent.

It's a good idea to show the agent around the property, pointing out all the features that you like. There is a good chance that the things you like about your home will appeal to any potential buyers, and the agent may not spot them not having had the benefit of living in the property.

Attracting buyers through the use of advertising and promotional material is one of the key functions that estate agents fulfil. To gain access to a good selection of potential viewers, the advertising must be of sufficient quality and targeted to reach the right sort of buyers. It would be quite inappropriate to take out a full page spread in the Sunday Telegraph to advertise a small rundown bedsit in an aging seaside town. Then again, if the property under question is a palatial castle in the highlands of Scotland, complete with hundreds of acres of farmland and small settlements, then such an advert might be more suitable.

Most agents will take out some local press advertising, place your property details on their internet site and some will also have their own company brochure with details of homes for sale across the chain.

Different agents will have their own style of conducting viewings, ranging from the passive 'let it sell itself' agent who stays largely in the background, to the aggressive 'push, push, push' salesman that will try every trick in the book to close the sale.

Some agents will not expect to conduct the viewings. If you feel particularly uncomfortable about showing people round yourself, then you should be able to persuade the agent to take on the work if you make enough fuss. Make sure that you discuss this at the outset though.

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