Starting at the Beginning
Now that we’d made arguably the biggest decision: to actually move house, here we were, faced with the first decision on our house moving journey. How do we choose an estate agent?
Do we go for one of those online agents that charge you peanuts but seem completely and utterly unreliable and quite possibly a scam?
Do we call all the agents in our area, ask them 60,000 questions and see how quickly they lose their patience, deciding that the one to snap first is out of the running?
Or do we just do this the good old-fashioned way and invite a bunch of strangers into our home and make them compete against each other to offer us the highest valuation and convince us to choose them?
We chose the latter.
We had 4 valuations in total, and I have to say, the people-pleaser in me was close to a nervous breakdown by the end of it.
There’s a lot to think about when deciding on an agent. I had promised myself I wouldn’t get attached or detached to the personality of any of them, because this isn’t about who you want to be friends with, it’s about who is going to support you through the number 7th most stressful thing you can experience in life. But when it comes down to it, you have to deal with these people for what I since know to be 23 hours a day. You have to get a good vibe from them at least.
How Different Can 4 Valuations Be?
We naively expected that we would be given a rough, ballpark figure from all agents. We thought it would be pretty straightforward to choose a price, because they are estate agents, it’s their job to price houses, and they know what they’re doing. Plus how different can each valuation be?
There ended up being a £70K difference between the lowest valuation and the highest valuation.
Our house is an end-terrace, but it has what we label “the car park” on the side of the house which can fit up to 5 cars on, and it has a large garden complete with outside loo, large shed, patio area and a rather large vegetable patch at the back of the garden, plus some dead space that we do nothing with at the other side of the house. So we knew it might be difficult to price, but we didn’t expect such differing opinions.
So How Do You Choose an Estate Agent?
Out of all 4 agents, we both felt the same gut feeling about the very first. The valuer was professional, helpful, and provided us with a load of information that left us feeling pretty clear about next steps and the process as a whole. He was with us for an hour, he understood our concerns and emotions about leaving the house we’ve lived in for the last 10 years, and he was actually buying a house in an area that we were considering, so we had some common ground.
One agent bounded through the door at 12.15pm, flew around our house like a tornado, gave us a valuation based on god only knows what – because there were barely any materials or insight into it – and was out the door before 12.25pm. It was her birthday weekend and she clearly didn’t want to be working. Fair play.
One agent gave us an eyewateringly high valuation, so high that whilst we got excited seeing dollar signs and thinking of the mansion that had suddenly come into our periphery, we were a bit suspicious and wondered what exactly that valuation was based on, given that it was quite far out from the others we had received at this point. We since found out that this particular agency tend to go in higher than all the others in a bid to get you to choose them.
The final valuation was just a bit much and I just got an off feeling about him. He was salesy, pushy, and I knew after meeting him that it was him who had given my mate a bit of hassle when selling her home last year, and I just wasn’t feeling him. It was a no on that front.
SO Which Estate Agent Did We Choose?
We went with valuer number one: the guy we had the good gut feeling with and who had made us feel most comfortable. And the choice seems to have paid off so far (let’s see how long this lasts for!)
The one caveat was that this agent had offered us the lowest valuation. We figured it was worth a shot at least to call him and give him some of the figures the other agents had offered us, and ask if we could find a middle ground. We had a figure in mind, and decided that given our lack of urgency to move (we are yet to find somewhere), putting it on initially at a higher price than perhaps we expected to get might not be a terrible thing. Let’s gauge interest, see how far we get in terms of viewings and then reassess. He agreed and was happy to follow our guidance, and off we went!
The house is now at the time of writing about to go LIVE, exciting times!
- You can’t please everyone. If you have multiple agents round, you’re going to disappoint someone. It helps to try to take the personal aspect out of it and remember, they’re just doing a job.
- Go with your gut. I know I said earlier that you’re not going to be friends with them, but you do need to work with these people regularly for what could be the next 6 months to a year, possibly even beyond. You have to get a good feeling about working with them.
- Assess the information. A good agent should be confident, knowledgable and understand the current market. They should provide you with all the information to back up their valuation, plus all the information you need, and answer any question you have. They need to at least look like they know their shit.
- You ultimately hold the cards. If you want to put it on for higher than an agent recommends, explain your reasons and a good agent should ultimately follow your lead.
- Don’t ghost them after the valuation. There’s no need. After you choose an agent, just have the courtesy and common decency to let them know you have gone with another agent. Hold your nerve when they email and call you to try and change your mind and if they try to negotiate their fees and tell you how they’ve sold more properties in the area than anybody else, remember: you made your first decision for a reason. Also, remember that whilst it’s uncomfortable to tell someone no, YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS.
Next steps, viewings!