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Using estate agents

The agent-client relationship

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Many people leave the entire sale process to their agent and are extremely happy with the level of communication and service that ensues. Some people are never happy however much is being done on their behalf. Here are our recommendations that you should keep in mind to facilitate as smooth a relationship as possible between yourself and your agent:

Presentation of property details
Before the agent puts together the details of your property, make sure that they have a list of what you consider to be all the plus points of your property. There may be benefits that are not immediately obvious, which could convince a buyer that this is their dream home. If the trees in the garden yield a bumper crop of fine apples each year, let them know. If your stone floored kitchen is underheated, tell them. In almost every home there are hidden benefits that will not be picked up by someone who has not lived there. So impress upon the agent the importance of any features or aspects of the property that you feel are of particular importance, such as original fireplaces, real wooden floors and so on.

The agent will photograph and measure your property and then ruminate over a description. Confirm with the agent that the photos are to be in colour and are try to make sure that they are taken in good lighting conditions. Make sure that you get the opportunity to check their work before the details are sent out to members of the public so that the descriptions used are accurate and portray the property in a way that you are comfortable with. Check the dimensions that the agent is quoting for the sizes of the rooms, as these are one of the most likely things to be rushed and inaccurate.

Estate agents are legally obliged to give correct and accurate details, but everyone gets things wrong from time to time. Except my boss who is perfect…

Communication is the key in most relationships, and the one between yourself and your agent is no exception. Keep it going at all costs. Even if things start to get a little strained because things aren't moving along quite as quickly as you would like them to, keep the lines of contact open. It is in nobody's interest to let the lines of communication break down. You have a house to sell and they have a commission to make.

Establish who your point of liaison is at the estate agency. Try to avoid hassling people other than this person. You will probably find that other people know little about your sale, and communication will be more efficient if it is all conducted with a single person.

At the same time, try not to over communicate. Phoning up the agent every minute of every day is not going to win you any client of the week awards, nor is it going to help the sale go through any quicker. Though your main aim is not to win popularity contests, it doesn't do any harm to try and stay on the good side of the agent.

Try to avoid ad hoc visits to the estate agent's premises. If you do need to speak to your agent, telephone or make an appointment. You wouldn't wander into your bank to speak to the manager, or your solicitor's for a chat, so there's no reason to expect that your estate agent will be available to speak to you on the spur of the moment. Making appointments also helps make sure that they have the information you require to hand when you do drop in.

Where communication is non-urgent or a record of it is required, contact the agent in writing. You should confirm each stage of the sale in writing - offer accepted, solicitors appointed, contracts exchanged etc. You should also write to the agent if your circumstances change. It may be that there is a delay somewhere in your own buying chain and wish to put back the completion date of your sale. Relying on the relaying of messages in a busy office is a bit of a risk, so you should sent a letter and keep a record to cover your back.

Be available. Buyers will not hang around forever trying to get a viewing. If you can rarely be reached on the number that you provide to the agent, or are constantly unable to make arrangements to show the buyer round, then they will dismiss your property soon enough.

Try to build an open and honest relationship with your agent. If everyone always knows where they stand, it is much easier to work together to achieve a common goal. Of course, as much of this is down to your agent as it is to you, but you must do your share.

Listen to their suggestions with regard to the pricing of your property. They usually have the benefit of a great deal more experience of the markets than you do, and should know what they are talking about. This goes for making reductions in your asking price if the property is not selling, as well as setting the initial price.

Remember that the estate agent is a business with lots of other properties on the market besides your own. There is a limit to the amount of time that they can spend liasing with you.

You are well within your rights to ask to meet the person or people who will be showing prospective buyers for your property. Most agents will ensure that sales negotiators have enough interpersonal skills and intelligence not to put buyers off at the first hurdle, but there is nothing stopping you from making sure.

Don't blame the agent if a prospective buyer fails to turn up for a viewing or backs out of a sale. Ninety nine percent of the time, this is due to reasons well beyond the control of the agent and blaming them or getting angry is not going to help you find a new buyer any quicker.

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