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Changing estate agents

what to do when your estate agent’s not performing

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House not selling? An estate agent not performing is one of the key reasons that house sales falter. So the reality is you probably need to change your estate agent. That sounds like it should be simple, but sellers often find switching agents more complex than they first thought. Here, we explore what you need to consider.

House not selling? Is it time to change your estate agent?

Did you know that estate agents only sell about half the homes on their books? Sadly, agents not performing is pretty common, but most homeowners going into the selling process aren’t aware of this. They optimistically choose an agent based on recommendation or the fees they charge (or a bit of both).

Unfortunately, there are good estate agents and bad estate agents – and it’s hard to tell them apart. And when you do sign with an agent, it’s easy to overlook key clauses in the terms and conditions, which can make it difficult to extricate yourself when selling doesn’t go to plan. It’s a story we hear time and time again when people contact us for help.

How do you know when it’s time to change estate agents?

Do you remember the feeling you had when you first signed with your agent? You probably felt like their best client and that they were completely focused on you. If that feeling is a distant memory, you might be in trouble.

The scenario probably played out something like this... You started the sales process full of optimism, the agent was really enthusiastic and got you a spate of viewings right away. Plus they gave you lots of thorough feedback on how it was going.

Now you’re a while down the line and they’re not calling you. It’s been some time since the last viewing and when you contact the agent they make you feel like you’re being a nuisance.

They’re not calling you back. Just one of the signs your estate agent's not performing

Checklist: How to be sure your estate agent’s not performing

Here are some quick questions – if you answer yes to some or all of these, then you can be pretty sure your estate agent’s not performing and it’s time to make the switch:

  • Are you getting lots of excuses?

    Common excuses include: “With so much uncertainty in the air, the market has become very slow”; “It’s the wrong season to sell. Things should pick up in a few months”; “The weather has caused everyone to stay home rather than make viewings”; and so on. At times, these excuses may be valid, but it’s vital that you don’t simply nod at everything they tell you.

  • Have the number of viewings dried up?

    You should be aiming for multiple viewings every week. If that’s not happening, something needs to change.

  • Have you been told to reduce the asking price?

    This is usually an agent’s go-to solution to your problem. This is frustrating when they’re the ones who advised you on the asking price in the first place, but it’s also not the best solution.

  • Do you find it hard to get hold of them?

    If they’re constantly ‘out of the office’ or not picking up their mobile, then you know things aren’t working. If it seems like they’re trying to avoid you, they probably are.

Ready to change estate agent? Did you check the terms and conditions?

How easy is it to change estate agent?

So your estate agent’s not performing and you’ve made the decision to switch agents, but how do you actually go about it? The first thing you need to do is check your terms and conditions. It’s unlikely your agent will have pointed this out to you when you signed, but you could well be locked into an exclusive contract.

In brief, that means you can’t list your house with another agent until the end of that exclusive period (or if you do, you’ll still be liable to pay your original agent their fee upon sale – even if the sale didn’t go through them).

If you’re stuck with an exclusivity clause, there’s not a lot you can do immediately. But you can certainly make a plan for when that period comes to an end. If you’re one of the lucky ones who isn’t trapped, then don’t delay any longer. It’s time to think about your next move.

Change estate agent, but don’t make the same mistake twice

The problem with switching estate agents is that it’s hard to know whether the next one is going to be any better. You were charmed or impressed by the first one – and that got you precisely nowhere.

So how can you tell a good estate agent from a bad one? Well, let’s just say that from our experience of finding the best agents for home sellers, you need to finely tune your jargon radar. Here’s our view on what makes a good estate agent...

A good estate agent:

  • Has a proven track record (preferably with homes like yours).

  • Hustles like crazy – they have a great list of prospective buyers on their books and they call them. If they’re relying on Rightmove, move on.

  • Sets up viewings with the right buyers – not just anyone who’s vaguely interested.

  • Pushes hard to close down offers.

Of course, it can be hard for home sellers to know whether an agent will do all this. In terms of doing due diligence, it’s worth knowing that many agents are members of trade bodies. Membership means they have to comply with a code of conduct, which should (hopefully!) indicate a higher level of professionalism and diligence, and reduce the risk of an estate agent not performing. Trade bodies to look out for are:

  • Guild of Property Professionals

  • National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)

  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

But ultimately, a lot of it is about asking the right questions and really getting them to talk you through their sales process and how they’ll market your home (particularly if it’s already been on the market for a while). As well as assessing their promptness and responsiveness in meetings with you (if you’re not sure about them, the buyers probably won’t be either).

Ask the right questions when you change estate agent

Questions to ask prospective agents

Ask prospective agents if they have ‘hot’ buyers already on their books. Find out if they will accompany the people who come to view. Ask how often they will keep in touch to let you know how things are going. And find out what they do once a sale is agreed – a good agent will be able to tell you about ‘sales progression’ which is really important to make sure the sale goes through.

In addition, a good agent should ask you plenty of questions too – so that they can best help you.

They should want to have an understanding of your circumstances and needs. Perhaps you have to sell by a certain date because of a job move or there’s a baby on the way and you need to get a bigger home. Everyone has particular requirements and a good agent will tailor their services to deal with them.

If you speak to enough agents, you’ll start to get a feel for the ones who are selling you a line. That’s why when we’re helping our customers sell their homes we use independent data to immediately narrow down the 4 agents in their area. And then we interview them all to make sure they walk the walk. It helps that our team are ex-estate agents too, of course, as it means they can spot a bad agent a mile away.

Selling your house fast isn’t just about changing estate agents. You need to change your process.

Get sold faster – don’t just switch estate agents, switch your process

We help customers sell their homes three times faster (and for more money). And that’s because we’ve figured out how not to fall into the estate agent trap.

Here’s our tried and tested process to get a quick sale at a good price:

  • Choose the best estate agent based on independent data. As discussed above, this doesn’t just mean choosing the agent who has the lowest fees, or the one that was recommended to you by a friend. This means changing to an estate agent who has a proven track record of selling homes like yours and interviewing them to make sure you’ve got the real deal.

  • Negotiate a good deal on fee and make sure there’s no exclusivity clause in the contract. You can negotiate estate agent fees down quite considerably if you have the right know-how. We find that even with our fee added on top, our customers usually pay less in total than they would have managing the process on their own (we play hard ball!). In addition, getting rid of that exclusivity clause means you can take advantage of the other tips coming up.

  • Monitor activity – if viewings and offers aren't at the expected level, immediately take action. This could be to relist or to bring in a second agent straight away. What you do will depend on your individual situation, so it’s important to get advice from experts.

  • Bring in a second agent rather than reduce the price, after 4-6 weeks (if the house is unsold). We can’t say this enough – reducing the price of your house shouldn’t be the first approach to getting it sold. Bringing in a second agent exposes you to a whole new set of buyers (it’s not just about Rightmove, remember). This keeps the energy and momentum up, and also creates competition between the agents to bring in more prospective buyers.

  • Push through to completion once you have an offer. This means chasing local searches, keeping on top of your solicitors, and making sure all questions are being answered as fast as possible.

  • Never assume that under offer means job done. You’ve got to keep pushing things through, right to the very end.

A multi-agent approach creates competition between estate agents – and gets your home sold faster, for more

The lesson: Don’t just change estate agents, go multi-agent

That all sounds incredibly time intensive, we hear you cry. Well, truth is that if you decide to manage the process yourself it can be – that’s exactly what our founder Tom did. On the other hand, you can leave all the hard work to us.

Tom set up Movewise after his own experience, with the aim of making the multi-agent process super simple for sellers like you. You only have to deal with us (and we’re a nice bunch) – we manage the agents and the hassle for you.

Speak to us before you speak to an agent