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Power to the people (or how to stand up to estate agents)

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

So today I'm talking about empowerment. I'm all for people speaking up and standing up for themselves generally in life and the same goes for the house selling process. Your house is your biggest financial investment and you deserve to get the best return on your investment so you should take charge of how it is being sold.

First of all, do some research: look at other similar houses on your street and in the area and see how much they are on the market for or have been sold for (Zoopla have made this easy).

Next, and I think this is an important one: find an estate agent that you like - you're going to be working with them for a few weeks (possibly a few months depending on the climate) so it's worth picking one you'll get on with.

Pick 3 agents with local knowledge, invite them all round and see what they will do for you. Don't make your decision based solely on cost, or on who values your house the highest, and don't discount the new kid on the block - independent estate agents are more likely to go that extra mile and offer a more personal service than established commercial giants. You need to analyse what each agent will do for you to sell your house for the right price. Ask them to explain to you what you are getting for your money.

Once you've engaged an estate agent, please remember that you are paying them to sell your house, they are not doing you a favour. Don't just assume that they are the experts and therefore infallible either - if you believe that something needs changing then speak up and fight your corner. Too often I have heard that customers haven't been sent the photos of their house to approve before they go online, or the photos have been uploaded in a strange order, or every single photo that was taken has been uploaded. All these things can create a bad first impression of your house and can cost you viewings.

So what to do? You can basically follow what I do when I'm staging a house:

Engage with the photographer - don't crowd them or get in their way but do volunteer to be their assistant and ask them if you need to move anything out of shot (they sometimes want to move things but daredn't ask) or ask their advice on moving furniture round to get a better shot. The more you engage with them the more they'll engage with you and the better the results will be.

Ask to see the photos they are taking - most photographers will be pleased you've shown an interest.

Feature shots - if there is something that really stands out or if there is something you think is a unique selling point then ask them to take a picture of it (and explain to your agent why you want to include this photo).

Hallways/porches - these areas are notoriously difficult to photograph but I believe that hallways and porches sell houses as much as kitchens and bathrooms. However, don't assume that your photographer will take a photo of this area as standard (a lot of them won't) so make sure you ask them to. One of my clients told me that her buyer nearly didn't even come and see her house because she thought that you walked straight through the front door into the lounge. It was only when she did a drive-by that she could see there was a porch on the front of the house and booked a viewing.

Photo selection - a good estate agent should vet the photos taken and choose the best ones. Again, don't assume this will happen as a matter of course and ask to see the photos in the order they will be uploaded. If you don't agree with something the estate agent has done then please speak up. You are paying them for a service and they are supposed to be presenting your house in its best light, so if they're not doing this then please let them know.

Photo order - I believe that the online photos should take you on a journey through the house from the street, through the front door, into the porch/hallway, to each room as you come to them downstairs, up the stairs, to each bedroom in size order, then to the bathroom, and then outside. I find that if I'm confused and have to repeatedly refer back to the floorplan then there's a problem. You want potential buyers to look at the photos and book a viewing, you don't want them to have to do any additional work and be left wondering whether there is somewhere to hang their coats, which floor the shower room is situated on, or whether the kitchen is next to the dining room.

Floorplan - ask to see it before it is uploaded. There are quite often little mistakes such as doors opening the wrong way, or rooms labelled incorrectly - I had a client recently whose garage and office had been labelled as bedrooms so it looked like a 7-bedroom house. It already had 5 bedrooms so this made it look very bedroom-heavy and lacking in living space and this will have put some people off.

In the past, estate agents labelled any room big enough to put a bed in it as a bedroom. In the current climate office space is at a premium so I would make sure that any area that could be used as office space should be labelled as such. The same goes for utility rooms/areas - these are also notoriously difficult to photograph but high on the wishlist of potential buyers so if there isn't a photo you need to make sure that it is labelled on the floorplan.

What I want you to take from all this is that you should take an active part in the process of selling your house and speak up if something isn't right. Estate agents can be quite forceful but please remember that they are on your payroll.

And if all that really seems too much to take on then I'll happily do it for you.

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