Many think that estate agency is money for old rope. Surely all you do is visit the house, take a few measurements and photographs, upload the details to OnTheMarket or Rightmove and wait for the viewings and offers to flood in. This part of the job takes up only 20% of our time. So what makes up the other 80%?
Handling offers and negotiating the final price is a key step and one that requires sensitive handling. A quick cash offer after the first viewing can be good news. But it is also vital to test the market fully, to give all interested buyers a chance to view to make sure your client gets the best price in the market at that time. Keeping the person who made the original offer happy while allowing others a chance, requires diplomacy (and the patience of Job).
Once a property is Sold Subject to Contract (or Sale Agreed or Under Offer), the fun really begins. Until contracts have been exchanged, either side can pull out of the sale, buyer or seller. And, across the country 35% of agreed sales fall through, not only causing distress to at least one side but also incurring expensive solicitor and surveyor fees.
Our level of fall throughs is much lower than the national average and this is down to time and effort we put in after a sale is agreed, carefully nurturing a sale to completion. To get a sense of the common pitfalls, we interviewed Jane Bailey who has responsibility for progressing sales at RAH. This is her list of recommendations to ensure a smooth sale.
1. In my world it is paperwork, paperwork, paperwork rather than location, location, location. If you are selling, get your initial paperwork done early – a solicitor cannot send out a draft contract to the buyer until you have filled out the forms they need to check you are who you say you are. There is no point insisting on a fast exchange of contracts if you delay the start of the process. If you have had work done to the house, make sure you have the guarantees or building regulation sign-off to prove that everything has been completed properly. The same is true about fixtures and fittings. Think about what you are leaving behind and return the form to your solicitor quickly. That way, any problems or issues can be identified early and sorted out before they jeopardise the sale
2. On the buyer’s side, providing the right paperwork on time is key to getting a mortgage offer quickly. Mortgage offers take more time than you think. It is more than a year since new mortgage regulations changed the way that lenders assessed new borrowers, who must now meet tough affordability criteria. If that utility bill is out of date by the time you send it, you will have to start again
3. Communication is king. Most sales involve a chain of people and a problem at any point in the chain can affect your sale. Making sure that milestones are reached at the right time is vital. With the rise of online estate agents and solicitors, talking to a real person about eliminating a blockage in the sales pipeline is becoming more and more difficult. Having someone on your side who can talk to (and badger) the different estate agents, solicitors, surveyors and other professionals is really important
4. Be prepared for a renegotiation of the price. Mortgage valuations may come back lower than anticipated. Equally surveys can throw up structural problems that need attention. Both reasons can prompt buyers to ask for a price reduction. If the market is strong you may decide that remarketing is the answer but if you are under time pressure to move quickly negotiating a new price might be the better option. Either way, keeping the lines of communication open is the key to a successful outcome
5. Don’t underestimate the importance of your agent’s office. This is the place that surveyors come to get access to conduct the survey. It is also the place where keys can be held, ready to be handed over to the buyer as soon as completion takes place. Having someone on hand who knows the sale inside out, definitely helps to keep things on track.