“Put it on the Internet and wait for the phone to ring”. That’s perhaps how many people see an estate agent’s life, and there’s undoubtedly some mystery around precisely what agents do beyond putting a property on the market and showing people around.
While a big part of the day is being out in the neighbourhood and looking at homes, there’s plenty more work that might not be so obvious. A bit like a swan gliding majestically across a lake, there’s a lot of action under the surface to keep things moving smoothly.
To shine a light on all that happens, you're invited this week for a look behind the scenes of Hunters Southampton for a fly-on-the-wall experience. By the time you’ve read this blog, you’ll be armed with insider info and primed to choose with confidence the estate agent that’s right for you.
Remember that you’re always welcome to get in touch for a talk about moving home: just pick up the phone for a chat on 02380 987 720, or send an email to email@example.com. But meanwhile, let’s dive into a typical day of getting the neighbourhood moved.
There’s definitely an art to putting the right buyer together with the right property.
When someone sends in a viewing request for a home they’ve seen on the Internet, they usually don’t end up buying it. Sales come from listening to the hopes and desires of buyers and learning what lies at the heart of their move. Very often, people start looking for one thing but end up choosing something completely different.
Typical moving stories include simplifying a commute, needing more space, wanting to downsize, changing schools or work, finding a permanent solution to working from home, or having somewhere secure to park a prized new car.
But not every buyer needs to move; some of them simply want to. One might like the idea of a new renovation project; another might be looking for a change of scene, and someone else might find themselves with a sudden chance to move up the property ladder through a pay rise, promotion or inheritance.
As well as looking at motivation, matchmaking also means ensuring that anyone coming to view your home is actually able to buy it. Do they have a mortgage agreed in principle; are they really a cash buyer; is their current home already under offer; is there anything else that might affect their ability to move?
These factors are essential elements in pairing people with property, meaning more relevant viewings for buyers and fewer wasted one’s for you.
Sometimes – actually, quite often! – a property that seems at first unsuitable could allow someone to create their perfect home. Not everyone gets their ready-made ideal, but with some thought, imagination and even a pencil and paper to sketch out an idea, an agent can show that a home is a good fit, even if it doesn’t fit now.
Could a house be extended to provide the accommodation a family needs in the location they love? Presenting a home that’s significantly below someone’s buying power could free them to reconfigure or expand the interior with the money they save. Perhaps a loft conversion would give them the bedroom they crave away from the kids, while a large garden might provide space for a family-sized dining kitchen.
Other creative thinking might look at whether a large living space could split to create a separate study for working from home, or whether removing a wall could provide a larger dining room for people who love to cook and entertain.
By encouraging buyers to look beyond a home’s current layout and towards its future potential, an estate agent can create excitement and the possibility of transformation. And by making introductions to local architects, builders and contractors, a project that might have felt too large can suddenly feel more achievable.
Photographs and descriptions are only the beginning; your agent must stay on top of the market to ensure your sales strategy stays right.
If the market rises, it may become apparent that you can achieve significantly more than your current asking figure: a few weeks at a new level might net you extra tens of thousands of pounds. This same logic applies when prices weaken: a quick reduction of a few percent could save you months of chasing the market down.
Both scenarios require constant study of the market, from demand to sentiment and sales. Swift communication is essential to agree on the best course of action and to keep you assured that your interests are being looked after.
If you’re switching agents, you have the opportunity for a whole new strategy and to completely revitalise your move. Sometimes, an upward tweak of just £5 can lift you into a new price bracket with an entirely new audience of wealthier buyers.
Many homes fail to sell because the asking price fails to exploit the price bands of the property portals, and a simple adjustment can change your fortunes and capture the eye of your perfect buyer.
Have you noticed how we're never far from a sensationalist story about the future of the property market? Whether it’s a pandemic, a change in interest rates, or a rise or fall in the number of sales, rarely does a week go by without commentary and dramatic predictions.
News is one thing, but scaremongering can severely impact buyer confidence and lead someone to withdraw from a purchase – regardless of the financial consequences – forcing chains to collapse and leaving multiple moves in shreds.
When a buyer reads so much negativity, it's understandable for them to have second thoughts, but that doesn’t mean that every doom-laden story in the media needs to be followed or treated as gospel. Buyers who withdraw can come to regret their decision soon afterwards, only to discover their dream home was snapped up by someone else. When people lose sight of why they fell in love with a home, it’s up to estate agents to help them remember.
Even when positivity reigns, the days before exchanging contracts are where the reality of commitment bites. When it’s time to put the money down and sign on the line, people can take a deep breath and ask: “Is this the home we really want?”. So it’s up to an estate agent to maintain momentum and enthusiasm throughout the sales process by staying in touch, noticing signs of doubt, and talking them through.
Many sales are saved with a simple, respectful and open conversation.
Not every sale of every property gets to exchange of contracts without a hitch. And while it’s a conveyancer’s job to carry out the legal work, it’s often the estate agent with local knowledge who provides the solution to problems.
There’s no requirement for conveyancers to be in the neighbourhood, and, if you’re selling in one area and buying in another, your conveyancer will be a stranger to at least one location. So when disparities or irregularities arise, it’s an agent’s local expertise that can go a very long way.
Funny old-fashioned lease clauses might have been solved on other nearby sales; boundary rules or shared rights of way could appear odd to anyone unfamiliar; even knowing whether a house is at the top or bottom of a hill can make the difference in avoiding delays.
Estate agents are also the ones who challenge the valuations of mortgage lenders and surveyors when their figure is below an agreed price. Current ongoing sales provide the most up-to-date comparable evidence (and can be crucial to support the price agreed), but those sales won’t yet appear in the Land Registry database.
A solid case often needs to be compiled that shows a price is correct and reflects the levels achieved on other nearby homes, particularly when new ceilings are being set.
Hopefully, that gives you plenty of insight into the day and life of an estate agent. From matchmaking to dream weaving, hand-holding to problem-solving and keeping an eye on the market, there’s rarely a dull moment and hardly ever a spare minute.
It’s an absolute privilege to be entrusted with anyone’s move, so if you have a property in Southampton and would like to discover if we’re the estate agent for you, why not get in touch? You can call us on 02380 987 720 or email firstname.lastname@example.org - everything starts with a conversation.