First time sellers – the forgotten people?

I recently went to see a  young couple who have been trying to sell their home through a well-known estate agency chain.

I don’t know why they selected this particular estate agency, or who they bought the property through when they were first time buyers, but I do know their chosen selling agents were the only ones they invited when they decided to put their home on the market.

They were, evidently, swept along by the crescendo of noise the valuer created  when he arrived: “our track record in this area… our website… our database of buyers… we’ll get this sold in 2 weeks… sign here”.

They signed a piece of paper that not only granted the agent a lengthy (by our standards, at any rate) sole agency period, but also a 28-day notice period.

28 days? That’s two weeks longer than the timescale the valuer said they would need to get the property sold! How confident he must have been!

In fairness, there have been viewings. About one a week. But no real interest.

“What can we do?” the owner asked. “We really do need to sell”.

“First”, I said, “I’d like to ask you a few questions about how things have gone so far”:…

Thanks for this lovely cup of tea. I looked at your property on Rightmove before I came out to see you. It’s clear the photographs were taken on a rather horrible day. And it looks as though, dare I say it, you hadn’t had time to , er, tidy up your daughter’s toys beforehand. Have they not offered to come back on a sunny day, when you and you daughter have had a chance to put some of her things away? No.

 What feedback have you had from the viewings? Not a lot except the smaller bedroom is a bit too small for buy to let investors.

Oh. Well, it’s not that small actually, although you don’t appear to have made the most of it. Did the agent suggest you redecorate the walls to lighten it (hence accentuate space) and (forgive me if I’m starting to sound like a broken record) take some of your kid’s toys out so you can actually appreciate how big the room is? No.

Anyway, surely investors would have been able to see the size of it before they came? No. The agent said we’d have to pay extra for a floorplan.

Sorry. I’ve just spluttered this lovely cup of tea down my tie. Did you just say “pay extra for a floorplan”? Yes.

That seems odd. We know that buyers LOVE floorplans. And they’re relatively cheap to prepare, if a little time-consuming. Was there anything else they asked you to pay for up front? Yes. An Energy Performance Certificate.

Oh, so you have one of those then? Well, no, because they said they’d only order one if anyone asked for it.

Right. Now I am definitely going to have to go home to change my tie. The thing is, we’ve never sold a property before and we don’t really know what we’re supposed to do.

Know what? I think that’s one of the fundamental reasons for employing an estate agent to do the job for you. There aren’t that many people who sell property regularly enough to know exactly what’s right and what’s not.

….There are many people who were, for their last property transaction, first time buyers. I bet they had agents crawling all over them (awful analogy, I know, sorry) offering to give them advice and “please now talk to our financial advisor”.

But now that they are first time sellers, they have suddenly, in some agents’ minds, become experts who don’t need advice. How can they be experts? They’ve never sold a property before!

Surely, part of our responsibilities as estate agents is to advise our vendors, particularly those who are experiencing the process for the first time?

I can’t remember the last time potential vendors were so grateful for a bit of advice. Especially, the Free Decluttering Service Voucher I gave them, courtesy of the Guild of Professional Estate Agents.

So, do you think you’ll be serving your existing agent with their 28 days’ notice? We did that a few days ago.

Well done. You’re learning fast.<