Is your home is on the market, and are you struggling to sell? Sometimes it can be difficult to decide whether or not to stay with your current estate agent. There are good reasons to avoid being too hasty, not least of which is the fact that you may inadvertently leave the better of the two agents, and jump from the frying pan into the fire.
Reasons to give your existing agent a second chance
- Is the market against you? The very best of agents won't be able to sell your home if the market is stagnant, especially if your price is over-optimistic.
- Many agents make a significant up-front investment in order to offer you a premium service, especially if your property is high value. Professional photography, stylists, drone photography, bespoke brochures and social media marketing don’t come cheap. Is it fair to leave before they have done everything possible to validate that expense?
- The agent may be mid way through a marketing strategy. Why not ask them what they are planning to do if you give them the opportunity to continue? The successful strategy may be just around the corner. If the answer is 'nothing', ask them why not? There is always something they can do, for example switching the photos around, taking fresh photos, altering the headline features, or upgrading the Rightmove listing.
- The agent may be nurturing some excellent buyers in the background, and waiting for them to be in a more proceedable position.
- Some marketing takes time to implement, for example, press releases may have been sent out, or advertisements booked, but they may not bear fruit for a month or more.
- When you change agent, Rightmove marks your old listing as ‘No longer on the market’. There is no link to your new agent’s listing. This means that if a potential buyer previously saved your house as a favourite, they would now assume that your house was no longer available.
- Your next agent may well persuade you to drop the price. It's often the first thing they try to do, as soon as you have signed on the dotted line. If you are willing to reduce your price, why not give your existing agent that opportunity?
Possible pricing issues
- If you are not getting viewings or offers on your property, are you sure that you have the price right? Buyers are very price-sensitive at the moment.
- Phrases like 'offers in excess of' may not be doing you any favours. Buyers may not bother to view because they think you won't even contemplate an asking price offer or slightly lower offer.
- Did your existing agent deliberately overvalue your property to attract you to use their services? If this is the case you're highly unlikely to make a sale at its present price.
- Did your existing agent research the price properly? A lazy agent will run off a quick report from Rightmove or Zoopla. This takes seconds, and may be way off the mark. I used to provide my sellers with a long, carefully researched report, showing dozens of comparable properties, and I updated this as required.
- Has the market changed since you last valued your house? The market has been very volatile since Covid and the problems with the ecomomy, so it’s important that your price reflects the changes locally and nationwide.
Is your agent offering a full service?
Is your existing agent’s service robust enough? Are they are using a broad and effective marketing plan? Are they looking after you well?
- Who deals with enquiries? The agent who has visited your property? Or an office junior? If the agency is large, the team may not know your property well enough to make it stand out to potetial buyers. The smaller the agency, the more likely it is that callers will deal with an expert on your property, who has seen it in person, and knows it inside out.
- Are your agent’s hours limited to office hours? Small self-employed agents can be much more flexible. My clients were able to call or WhatsApp me at any time, on any day. If I was with a client, on the phone, or sleeping, I got back to them as soon as possible. Does your agent do that?
- Is your agent knowledgeable? Your average agent may know about local schools, eateries and transport links, but these days it’s easy to Google that kind of information, or ask locals on a Facebook group. Much more useful is expert knowledge which is specific to your particular property, for example do they have an understanding of its history, the care of listed buildings, rights of way, adverse possession, subsidence, flooding, narrowboats, and moorings? If they are not asking you questions, don't assume that they know the answers! I even offered house history research for my sellers!
- Does your listing on Rightmove include professional photography by a qualified photographer? Does it include drone imagery? You could offer to stay with your existing agent if they agree to upgrade their imagery, for example by adding floor plans, drone photography or video.
- If you’ve been on the market a long time, your agent should have offered to update the photos for the new season. Nothing says ‘lazy agent’ quite like a set of photos of your house under snow when it’s the middle of summer.
- Does your agent have a good online presence? Your property may be languishing because the agent has no marketing reach beyond their shop window and old fashioned mailing list. If your agent does not have a social media strategy, I'd be wondering how they can justify that.
- Moving across the country, especially for work, is much more common than it used to be. Does your agent have a local presence AND a national presence? Having lots of branches doesn't really help if there are no strategies in place to market your property within those branches. A good agent will actively leverage their contacts to promote your property.
- Would it help to have a stylist visit your property to make recommendations on how to present your home for sale? I included this as an option for all my sellers. They found it very useful to learn how to see their property through a buyer’s eyes. Some stylists offer free visits in return for the opportunity to upsell their services. If your estate agent doesn't offer this service, why not try booking a stylist yourself?
Instructing two agents
I do not recommend instructing two agents at the same time for a plethora of reasons. I'll save that discussion for another time!
Watch out for double fees!
Once you have considered all these thoughts, if you are still considering a change, please bear in mind that you may need to give notice to your existing agent, or wait for your existing contract to come to an end. You may also be liable for the previous agent’s fees in certain circumstances. Check your contract carefully and always ask them for a list of people they introduced, for whom they will claim a fee, and ask how long that agreement lasts (six months is typical).