So what is an Estate Agent?

An estate agent is a professional working in the propertyProperies in a surburban neighborhood in the UK market, arranging and facilitating the purchase and sale of both private homes and commercial premises. Part of their job often includes handling properties for rent on behalf of landlords and tenants, although those who specialise in this field are usually referred to more specifically as lettings agents. Most typically, an estate agent handles the marketing side of the property industry before a legal professional takes over to complete the required paperwork to complete the sale.

There are numerous firms of estate agents across the country, some being national chains while others operate in a particular locality, and others function independently. Some have a specialism in handling niche property types, for example luxurious homes, commercial premises, rural land, or overseas properties. Increasingly, estate agents are becoming more involved in the sale of property through auction.

So, what does an estate agent actually do?

An estate agent handles all aspects of putting a property up for sale or for rent. They also assist tenants and purchasers in finding a suitable property that meets their needs. They are often the first port of call when individuals and businesses are considering making a property purchase or sale, and therefore they have extensive knowledge, not only of their local property market but also national trends in the industry.

Their remit encompasses visiting a property in order to carry out a valuation and advising on appropriate market prices. They collect details about the property for sale and arrange for a photographer to take pictures. They also deal with marketing, whether through their own shop window, their website, via newspapers or other avenues of publicity, presenting each property in its best possible light in order to attract attention from potential buyers.

Signing a lease document
Signing a lease document

It is an estate agent’s responsibility to liaise with vendors and purchasers in order to arrange viewings, and often, they will themselves be engaged in escorting interested parties around a property. Part of their job description involves dealing with all relevant parties and organisations, including financial institutions, legal professionals and surveyors, as well as the private individuals involved in the purchase and sale. Estate agents are able to discuss requirements with purchasers and offer useful and relevant advice as to the ideal premises. They act as the representative for the seller, acting in their place to promote their property to those interested in buying, negotiating an appropriate and acceptable price for both parties.

If an estate agent is handling lettings, they are usually responsible for finding and vetting prospective tenants on a landlord’s behalf and ensuring that all credit and reference checks have been carried out. They also make certain that health and safety requirements such as gas safety checks are in place and draw up binding legal contracts for tenants. Often, they also act in the role of property manager, making regular visits to check the state of the premises, collecting rent and resolving maintenance issues.

Talents And Skills Every Good Agent Should Have

There are many skills and talents that are required by estate agents in order to fulfil their role efficiently.

Sales Skills

A major part of the estate agent’s job description involves selling and promoting properties to interested parties, so strong sales skills are essential. An ability to effectively present properties in their best light and to put the right spin on a potential sale in order to increase buyer interest is vital to their role. Being able to highlight the assets of a property and turn negatives into positives is key to being an effective estate agent.

Organisational Skills

The ability to liaise with multiple agencies and individuals, and deal with time management in order to manage all the different stages of buying and selling is an essential skill. Making and keeping appointments, networking and self-promotion are all key to success, while paying close attention to property details can make all the difference when arranging a sale.

Strong Communication Skills

The majority of an estate agent’s role involves communicating with a range of interested parties, from huge corporations such as banks and building societies to legal professionals, and from commercial clients to private house sellers. The ability to effectively communicate at all levels is vital, together with a talent for verbally presenting a client’s needs and representing their interests. Both spoken and written communication skills are important as estate agents are required to devise persuasive marketing and promotional materials to market properties, both in advertising contexts such as websites and newspapers and during face to face conversations with interested purchasers.

Good Negotiating Skills

Possibly the most important part of an estate agent’s job is the closing of a sale, during which time they must be prepared to negotiate in order to settle on a purchase price that is acceptable to both buyer and seller. Some flexibility, together with a good head for figures, strength of argument, and a thorough knowledge of the industry add up to a strong negotiator who can steer the negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion.

In fact we asked a very experienced agent from a Buckingham Estate Agents their opinion on which of these skills is the most valued by clients. Here’s what they had to say…

Being a good negotiator is absolutely crucial! The point of an agent is to ensure not only does the sale of the property run smoothly for the person they are acting for, but also in my opinion they should be strong enough in communication and negotiation that they are actually increasing the sales amount by more than what their actual fee is so that it pays for itself.

Strong Self-Motivation

Estate agents must be strongly self-motivated as a sale can rest on their determination to reach a positive outcome. Self-motivation also assists in the attraction and maintenance of new clients together with a drive to use innovative and appealing marketing strategies.

Professionalism and Trustworthiness

An estate agent must present a professional outlook to clients, ensuring that they always handle themselves in an appropriate manner. Customers need to be reassured that their estate agent is presenting them with true facts, therefore trustworthiness and a friendly, approachable attitude is important.

Should An Estate Agent Be Qualified?

Although many estate agents hold qualifications in the property industry, not everyone working in the field has an official certificate to prove that they are skilled and trained.

It is a little known fact that anyone can set themselves up as an estate agent without even the need to undertake any training, gain any experience, or take any qualifications. Of course, for those attempting to find a position with a recognised and existing estate agency firm, there must be certain skills and talents that they possess which set them apart from the other candidates.

Sometimes, an individual can begin working in an administrative capacity for an estate agency company and work their way up through on the job training to a more senior position in which they are able to negotiate sales for themselves. They can do this without the need to attend college and take formal exams that qualify them as an estate agent but they will have gained valuable experience during the course of their day to day employment.

Other people are taken on by estate agency firms because they are able to impress their interviewer during the selection process through their self-motivation, communication, enthusiasm and drive, even when they do not possess any relevant qualifications in the industry. Often, these individuals may have already had experience in the sales field and will be able to display their skills and talents in this area. Their outgoing confidence will be more important in these cases than paper qualifications.

However, there are still countless estate agents who do have paper qualifications, together with years of experience in the field. There are several different types of degrees held by those working in the property market, including those in business management, estate management or surveying.

National Association of Estate Agents LogoThere are also specific qualifications that pertain to the estate agency field and that are endorsed by The National Association of Estate Agents or their sister company, the National Federation of Property Professionals. These include technical awards for residential sales at several levels. There are also apprenticeships as well as several City and Guilds, NVQ and diploma qualifications in estate agency which are held by many professionals in the field.

Professionals working for national firms and those in more senior positions may also be registered with RICS (the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) and also be members of the National Association of Estate Agents, meaning that they must adhere to certain standards and behave within a given framework.

What Are The Most Effective Marketing Strategies?

Marketing a property isn’t always easy. Sometimes, the property market can be a very crowded place, so making an individual home stand out from the crowd can be challenging. The key to an effective marketing strategy is to increase exposure in order to attract as many potential buyers as possible.

Online Marketing

In the 21st century, paper advertising just doesn’t cut it any more. Yes, there is always a place for a sign in a shop window or a column in the local newspaper, but promoting a property online is the best and quickest way to increase exposure to a much wider audience. Advertising a home on a website vastly increases the number of people who are able to search for and access the property information, and therefore exponentially boosts the number of potential buyers. An online forum enables interested parties to view a greater range of details as well as to peruse a larger number of photographs and explore the property’s location on a map, all of which are likely to improve the chances of a successful sale.

For Sale Signs

It may seem old fashioned, but research has shown that in fact For Sale signs Estate Agent Property Boardsdo actually work, especially for properties that are located on busy thoroughfares.  Often, people who are interested in making a purchase in a particular area will visit that location in order to assess available properties as well as to explore the local facilities and amenities. Spotting a For Sale sign is likely to encourage buyers to approach the estate agent directly rather than relying on a search of properties on the market in that area. A clever modern touch is to include a QR code on the sign which can direct interested purchasers to the relevant web page in order to immediately access information such as the purchase price and property features without the need to even visit the estate agent’s office or carry out any further research.

Targeting Potential Buyers

There is no point in advertising a large suburban family house to a young single professional who is in the market for a city centre apartment. The key to effective property marketing is to be aware of who would be interested in a particular home and tailor the advertising to only those who would have expressed a desire for a property of that type.

Video Advertising

Another innovative modern technique is to use videos to market properties. Potential buyers are always on the lookout for more information about homes that they are interested in, so providing an internal video tour of the main rooms and features of a house is a great way to pique interest and encourage interested parties to arrange an actual viewing. It is also a good way of weeding out time-wasters, as those who book a visit will already be aware of the condition and décor of the property and there will be no off-putting surprises.

Here is a good example showing a video tour of a property:

Warning Signs To Look Out For

Choosing an estate agent to handle your property sale isn’t always easy. An estate agent plays a key role in the transaction, so you need to be certain that you can work well together and have a good understanding of each other. It is vital that your chosen agent has a good knowledge of your needs and requirements, can represent you effectively, and has the organisational skills necessary to co-ordinate your sale efficiently. Above all, you need to be able to trust them to negotiate with buyers on your behalf in order to get you a satisfactory price for your home.

No two estate agencies are the same, and some will be a better fit for you than others. It is worth taking the time to shop around and find a company that you are completely happy with. If, however, you have already made your decision, how can you be certain that you’ve made the right choice? Here are some warning signs to look out for that tell you that you should maybe consider placing your property with a different firm.

Lack Of Response

a frustrated woman phoned the office. stress and strain in the workplace.
Trying to get hold of your estate agent

If you are always trying to contact your agent but find that they never seem to be around when you need them, alarm bells may start ringing. If every time you call into the office your agent is in a meeting, they are always away when you call, or never respond to your answer phone messages, you may need to think about transferring your sale to a different agent. A successful sale requires an ongoing dialogue with your representative, and regular contact needs to be maintained in order to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

Failure To Listen

If your agent is too concerned about their own agenda to listen to what you want and need, it’s time to look elsewhere. At the end of the day, it is your property and you need your requirements to be taken into account. If they are ploughing ahead with negotiations that you haven’t agreed to, heed the warning signs and choose a different firm.

Lack Of Professionalism

If you find that you are opening the door to prospective buyers for a house viewing at 8 AM on a Saturday while you are still in your pyjamas, you need to view it as a major warning sign. A disorganised estate agent is the death knell of any successful sale. Above all, you need a representative who can plan in advance and keep you well informed. If they fail to arrive at meetings, don’t call you back at the agreed time or forget to turn up to viewings, you are going to struggle to sell your home.

Luckily, most estate agents are extremely professional and will always do their utmost to assist you to achieve a successful sale. However, if you are in doubt, it is always better to switch estate agents sooner rather than later so that you can enjoy peace of mind.

Unhappy man who has ben waiting for an estate agent
Waiting for an estate agent who is late

What Should Happen Once An Offer Is Made

New detached single family luxury home with stone facade and double garage
New detached single family luxury home with stone facade and double garage

Everything has been leading up to this moment. For months you have been perusing the property pages, scouting out neighbourhoods and viewing houses. Finally, you’ve found your dream home and put in an offer. Unfortunately, you aren’t out of the woods yet, and there’s still a few more hoops to jump through before you finally own your ideal home. So what happens next?

Will The Buyer Accept The Offer?

Once you approach an estate agent to make an offer on a property, they are obliged to present that figure to the seller, even if it is less than the asking price. In a best case scenario, the seller will immediately accept your offer and the process can continue. If your offer is rejected, you may need to consider opening negotiations if you feel that there is room for manoeuvre.

Take The Property Off The Market

Once your offer has been accepted by the seller, you should speak to the estate agent to ensure that the property has been taken off the market. This prevents gazumping from taking place, where the buyer agrees to a higher purchase price from a different buyer later in the process.

Arrange A Mortgage

Unless you are lucky enough to be a cash buyer, you will now need to look for finance for your home purchase. You can do this by approaching lenders directly or going through a mortgage broker. If you have previously experienced any credit problems, it makes sense to speak to a trained mortgage adviser, who will be able to assist you more effectively in finding a product that is tailored to your individual needs.

Valuing The Property

Once you have chosen a mortgage lender, they will then need to carry out their own valuation of the property. Depending on the provider, they may simply inspect the property from the outside, however others will require an internal inspection.

Carrying Out A Survey

The next step is to arrange for a survey of the property to be carried out. There are several different types of survey and your mortgage company may dictate which form is required. Alternatively, you may select from a basic valuation and condition report to a full detailed survey of the buildings and structure.

Arrange A Solicitor

Once you have reached this stage, it is time to instruct a solicitor or conveyancer. They will draw up all the legal documents for you as well as arranging checks with the Land Registry to determine whether there are any legal problems relating to the sale such as outstanding property disputes.

Contract Exchange And Completion

Your solicitor liaises with the seller’s solicitor in order to work through any issues and draw up the relevant paperwork. Once both parties are satisfied with the terms, contracts will be finally signed and exchanged making the deal a binding agreement. At this stage, the deposit must be paid and buildings insurance organised. Shortly after this, the sale will be completed and you can move into your new home!

The Agents Responsibilities When You’re Buying A Property

If you are looking for a property to purchase, there are many options open to you. Homes can be bought privately, online or through auction, however the most popular choice is still usually through an estate agent. So if you approach an estate agent about looking for a new home, what should they be doing to assist you?

Often, when you approach an estate agent about purchasing a property, you will have a specific home in mind. You may have spotted a house advertised in the local press or in their shop window, or you may have made an enquiry after spotting a suitable home through one of the many property websites available. The estate agent will be able to discuss this particular property with you and liaise with the seller to arrange a viewing, however they should also talk to you about your needs and requirements.

It is an estate agent’s responsibility to find you your dream home, so in order to facilitate this, they need to be completely aware of exactly what you are looking for. Arranging an appointment to discuss your requirements with an agent will enable them to establish a picture of the types of property and features that you are interested in, as well as in which areas you are house hunting.

defining an area for your property search
Defining an area for your property search

They should ask you a broad spectrum of questions to find out where you would like to live, what sort of property you are looking for, the size of home you are interested in, and details about essential features that you require, such as number of bedrooms, whether a garden is vital and whether you need a driveway or garage. This is also an opportunity to outline any features that you consider to be desirable, even though they aren’t essential, in order for them to be able to match you to your perfect property. Perhaps you have a burning desire for a walk-in wardrobe, an en-suite bathroom or a loft conversion, and this would be the time to mention it.

Once you have outlined your preferences, the estate agent should present you with some options that meet your needs for your perusal and arrange for viewings of any homes that match your requirements.

old cotswold properties
Specify your ideal location

They should also bear you in mind when future properties come onto the market and inform you straight away of anything that meets the outline that you have given them. You should not be receiving constant communications about homes that do not match your remit, only information regarding relevant properties.

Your estate agent should also maintain regular contact with you in order to check on your progress, finding out if your requirements have changed, whether you are considering other options or thinking of branching out your search into other local areas.

Above all, your estate agent should be pro-active on your behalf, facilitating and aiding your search for your perfect home.

Things an Agent should do when You’re Looking To Sell A Property

If you are selling your home, choosing an estate agent is just the first hurdle and making the right choice is vital to achieving a successful outcome. So what should your estate agent be doing for you if you are looking at selling your property?

Valuation

The first step that your estate agent should take after you approach them about selling your property is to arrange for a valuation. They should be able to give you some idea about a rough market value based on similar homes in your area that have recently been sold, however they will organise for a valuer to visit your home in order to appraise its value based on its condition, features and specific details.

Marketing

Having received a valuation of your property, your estate agent should then begin the active marketing process for your home. Firstly, they will visit your property and take full details, measurements and take photographs to present your home to its best advantage. They should then market your property through as many channels as possible. They should use a broad spectrum of avenues, including in their own premises, on their website and in the local press. You should also ensure that your estate agent is registered with at least two of the following internet property portals; Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket. Over 90% of all property sales within the UK start on these websites so it’s imperative that your property is listed there. They should also ensure that you are supplied with a For Sale sign, should you want one, that will be erected on your property to attract buyers in the area and drum up interest.

property-portal

Advising

Your estate agent should also offer advice on other aspects of home selling, including fees, instructing solicitors and arranging for an Energy Performance Certificate. Your estate agent may be able to assist you in organising these things.

Arranging Viewings

Following successful marketing of your property, your estate agent will hopefully receive a number of enquiries about your home. They should then liaise with prospective purchasers and yourself to arrange convenient times to arrange a viewing. Some estate agents will accompany viewings while others will expect you to conduct them yourself, however they should always keep you in the loop and inform you as to when to expect people to arrive.

Woman Looking In Window Of Estate Agents
Looking for potential properties you want to view

Negotiating

Your estate agent should be responsible for handling all negotiations with potential buyers. If you receive an offer on your home, they should contact you in order to discuss whether you are prepared to accept it or not. If you choose not to accept their offer, it is within their remit to negotiate on your behalf, acting as a go-between in order to arrange an price that is satisfactory for both parties.

Liaising With Solicitors

Once you have accepted an offer on your home, your estate agent will be able to liaise with your solicitors and continue monitoring the progress of the sale until it finally reaches the stage of exchange and completion.

Renting a Property through an Estate Agent

Many people choose to find a rental property through an estate agent. In fact, over 50% of private rentals in the UK are handled through a lettings or estate agent. So what should they be doing to assist you in finding a suitable place to live?

Registering

If you approach an estate agent about renting a property from them, the first step of the process is to complete your registration so that you are “on their books”. Only then can they begin to consider suitable properties that meet your needs.

Carrying Out Checks

One of the first things that an estate agent will do is to carry out background checks on you as a potential tenant. This means that they will run a credit history check, gathering information as to your proof of income and checking up on your references to make sure of your identity. These may be personal references as well as those from your previous landlords.

Informing You About Fees

Unfortunately, renting a property usually incurs some fees and charges. It is your estate agent’s responsibility to advise you as to likely charges and deposits that you are likely to incur both before your tenancy commences and after it comes to an end.

Discussing Your Requirements

Your estate agent cannot find you a suitable home unless they know exactly what you are looking for. Part of their remit is to discuss with you your requirements and determine the sort of home that you need. They will confirm details with you such as the number of bedrooms you are looking for, the areas you are interested in and whether you would prefer a house or a flat.

Door keys for tenant staying in a rental property
Once all the tenant paperwork is completed you can collect your keys

Showing You Properties

Once they have determined your requirements, your estate agent should present you with a selection of rental possibilities, matching you with properties that meet your needs in the areas that you have outlined. You can then express your interest in viewing the ones that you like the look of.

Arranging Viewings

Your estate agent will arrange for you to view prospective rental properties, often showing you around themselves. They will be able to answer any queries that you have about the property.

Completing Paperwork

Once you have chosen a rental property, your estate agent is responsible for drawing up and assisting in the completion of all the paperwork and collection of fees and deposits.

Arranging Maintenance

If your chosen rental property requires any repairs or maintenance, your estate agent should be able to arrange this for you.

Using an Estate Agent to Manage your Rental Property

If you are a prospective landlord, looking for an estate agent to represent you rather than handling the management of the property yourself, it is important to know what an estate agent should be doing to assist you.

The advantage of using an estate agent rather than dealing with renting out your property yourself is that you free yourself of the stress and hassle of finding a tenant and arranging background checks. Many estate agents also offer a full management service that carries out rent collections, property inspections and organisation of maintenance so that you have no need to get involved with the day to day running of the rental. So what should you expect when you approach an estate agency about renting out your property?

Discuss Your Requirements

The first thing your estate agent should do is talk to you about the services you require and outline what they can offer you. They should be up front about charges, packages they are offering and services they will provide such as offering a To Let board for the property and keeping you informed about advertising and marketing avenues. This is also your opportunity to describe your ideal tenant to the estate agency so that they can match your property with a suitable candidate. For example, if you are unwilling to rent out to someone on benefits, you must inform them about this. You should also state if you are looking for long or short term tenancies and the types of people you are hoping to attract such as singles, professional couples or families.

Visiting Your Property

Your estate agent should arrange to visit your rental property in order to collect details and take photographs in order to portray your home in its best light to draw interest from potential tenants.

Marketing

There are numerous advertising avenues open to your estate agent and they should use multiple methods to promote your property, including the local press, their own shop window and via their website in order to let out your property as quickly as possible.

Paperwork completion for Landlord agreement
Paperwork completion for Landlord agreement

Finding Tenants

It is your estate agent’s responsibility to handle all enquiries from prospective tenants and to run all credit and background checks to ensure that they are suitable people to rent your home. They will also arrange for all viewings of your property and may even, depending on their policies, conduct the viewings themselves.

Collecting Deposits

Once a tenant has expressed an interest in your property and agreed to the rental, your estate agent will handle all the collection of deposits and other charges to which you are entitled on your behalf.

Arranging Maintenance and Inspections

Depending on the package that you have chosen from your estate agent, they may also handle all maintenance and repair issues that crop up and organise for regular inspections to check on the condition of your property. They may also collect rents on your behalf if you have selected this type of package.