Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Finding the right estate agent in Liverpool

Well it has been a journey, and I feel I ought to share it with you for future potentials vendors. (Yup, that is me, now officially a vendor!)

I have always had very strong views about what makes a good estate agent. Let me begin with what does not make a good estate agent - and which helped guide me with my choice.

A good estate agent is not the one who agrees to market your property at the greatest possible asking price. They are simply flying a kite and it will be you who has to wait around for about three months with few viewers and no offers, until the agent suggests you reduce the price to something more market friendly. If you actually want to sell your home then you should start with the right asking price, not end with it.

A good estate agent is also not the one who is only open during traditional working hours, when all your potential buyers are at work too. Is that clear enough? A good estate agent is one who is open when the buyers are looking, which is evenings and weekends. A very good estate agent is open 7 days a week, and in my experience that is rare.

A good estate agent is not the one who does not have an answering machine to take messages when they are closed. People ask to view properties on a whim. They are bedazzled with a fine array of choices, particularly if they use sites like Rightmove and they will attempt to engage with your agents then and there. If they are looking on a Saturday tea-time and your agent is closed until Monday morning with no answering machine, then your potential buyer will line up appointments to view someone else's lovely home instead and forget about yours.

A good estate agent is not the one either who having been sent an email request to view your property, leaves it four days before replying to the potential buyer. Oh yes, believe it or not, as a potential buyer as well as a seller, I have been very disappointed by the response rates of some Allerton Road estate agents to get back to me to arrange viewings, even three working days after my enquiry.

A good estate agent should not expect you to carry out all the viewings unless you particularly want them to, but should be geared up to undertake accompanied viewings if you are not available to do them yourself - maybe you are away from home, working long hours or on holiday for instance.

And a good estate agent should be competitive, they should not ask the highest price for selling your property, nor mislead you by suggesting that they can sell for a cost they know they will not be able to honour.

So, now that we are clear about what we need and want in a good estate agent, how did the various offices manage on my check list?

I started with a good firm, based on Allerton Road, a nationwide chain. They responded very quickly to my request for a valuation and the man who came to assess the property was a good representative for the firm and recommended one final improvement to the "dressing and setting" which I agreed with and subsequently organised. He also negotiated his best selling price with me, which was less than the advertised price. We agreed that if I went ahead with them it would be 1.25%  (It is always worth haggling, that is rule number 1). They also do accompanied viewings if required.  Unforunately this firm is not open 7 days a week but they did well on all the other counts.

The next firm who came to call were a local Liverpool family based firm with one shop on East Prescot Road. The man who came to assess the property was a little bit prefunctory and failed to say anything pleasant or encouraging about my house - and I do think a little bit of flattery goes a long way. They are only open 6 days a week, see no benefit on being open on a Sunday and were dismissive of my views about the need for an answering machine - they don't have one. Their selling fee was only 1% and the representative was keen to add a property in my area to their portfolio. Their website was also out of date. They don't do accompanied viewings either. So for all that they were cheap and a local family firm which would be an attractive option for me, I didn't feel I would get the best service from them.

The third firm were an internet based firm from Manchester with no shop front at all. I thought I should try the full range of options so included them in my research. They were charging 1.95% which was nearly twice as much as most of the other estate agents and they also wanted me to put the property on the market for 10K less than I believe it could achieve. However, they are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week which if you have a ready to sell property at a realistic if not actually under-selling price, and if you are in a hurry, this would be a bonus. They also advertise on 150 websites, rather than the usual half a dozen of  the office based companies.

The fourth firm were another big estate agents on Allerton Road, and one that is currently offering 0% fees. Definitely one to see. However, they did not respond to my request for a valuation for 4 days and neither did they follow up my request to view certain of the properties they had on sale. I had to push for both. They are only open 6 days a week and again they do not have an answering machine. The woman who came to do the valuation was a great ambassador for their firm and I really liked her, but the customer service on offer was very poor. They also admitted to me that the 0% fees offer had a shelf life of only 3 months, and if you didnt sell your house in that time, all bets were off. Not impressed of Wavertree, I pressed on.

Thoroughly dissatisfied and fed-up, I approached the fifth firm. Sutton Kersh of Allerton Road. They sent Beverley Sutton to value my property and negotiate with me. And glory be, this firm is open 7 days a week, and they have an answering machine and they do accompanied viewings if necessary. They responded quickly to my requests to view other properties and generally offered the level of customer service you would hope for. Beverley was positive about my  home and took photographs, with my involvement and support, which showed off the property to its best advantage. We also had a good conversation about a reasonable selling price, taking into account that they had a property already up for sale on my road. They were clearly in the running, and then we came to selling fees. I told her what I had been offered, accurately and for each other firm, and she tapped a few figures into her calculator and came up with a selling price which is most likely to be less than 1%, it being a fixed fee.

So, I have gone with Sutton Kersh, the cheapest, the best customer service and the most market-oriented.

Have I made the right choice? It is probably too early to tell, but what I can say is that having signed the papers on Monday, I have already seen two viewers and  another is due tomorrow, the board is now up, the property is on rightmove, they also offer a 3D floor plan which I have not seen elsewhere and I am generally very impressed. Also Tim Beaumont recommended them to me.

So fingers crossed I am with the best

And what a shame that so many other agents fall short of what we need.

Details of my lovely home can be found here


JM said...

My experiences have reflected yours with probably the same Allerton Road estate agents. Took them a week to value the property and the man still showed up over an hour late, all of which I documented on a rather critical allagents review. I can get that it's difficult to sell a property at these times but they could actually try! Have ended up using one down the road. Pleased you got yours sold though - I'm still trying!

Louise Baldock said...

Which one did you use in the end? I have not sold mine, I have only put it on the market thus far but have shown 5 lots of people round with 1 more booked in for Monday, in three weeks... a good start