Thursday 20 July 2017

Video Series 4/30 - How to choose an Agent to Sell or Let your Investment Property

Day 4 of the video series...

Thank you very much for the overwhelmingly positive response to my video series! Looks like video is really the medium of 2017, so here comes another one, this time I'll discuss the things to watch out for when choosing an agent. Remember to give me a thumbs up, comment or share to discuss your thoughts also.

So.... here comes 6 factors you should be looking at when deciding on an agent for your investment property!

1. Online or High street - It will come as no surprise that I will be for the old-fashioned High Street agent, having been one myself for nearly 15 years. Local agents have... local knowledge. They are trained to better standards (most of the time) and generally have a lot of experience in the field. Online agents generally only get paid to list and then forget about the listing, so you have to pay them and then pay an agent to do it properly. Exception to this is if you are an experienced landlord and don't mind doing your own viewings and paperwork and you "know what you're doing." Sadly most people don't - they don't stay up to date with the changes in legislation, and issuing (or not issuing) the right documents can lead to disaster. DIY if you are competent and well-read on the matter. The other factor to consider is time vs money. If you earn 100k per annum do you want to spend your precious free time doing viewings and hosting no-shows at ungodly hours? Weigh up the money spent vs time saved...

2. The hallmarks - ARLA for lettings and NAEA for sales. Are they members? If not then why not? It's a very basic examination, I'd argue that it's easier than a driving test, but then again I have been doing it for a very long time. Any agent should be sitting these exams within 12 months of joining their company really and their company should be accredited to train their staff to pass these exams. It's a benchmark (albeit very basic) of effort the agent goes through to stand out from the crowd. Do you have a Diploma or a Degree? Doesn't make you a better person/employee necessarily, but it makes your CV stand out, or perhaps these days the bar is so high you need one? Not sure I'll let you be the judge of that, but personally I want an agent and agency that has sat the exams and is accredited, if for nothing else they have an annual number of hours to fill with core professional development so they keep learning and stay industry experts.

3. Recommendations. Speak to other investors in your area, who do they use? Why would they recommend the company? Perhaps they got lucky because they had the right buyer or tenant literally missing out on a property the day before, could happen to any agent I'm sure, but if they've used them for a few years and always had good dialogue and sensible advice, now those are things to look out for. Avoid the ones with staff turnover so high that you never see familiar faces. Yes, you want salespeople to be on their feet and the underachievers exit through the back door - a sign of a good office, a good agency is one where the staff stays and helps you year in year out. Saying that, the average lifespan of an estate agent in the industry is 18 months, so perhaps it's a tall order!

4. Appearance. And I'm not just talking about the agent's appearance. Look at the web; not their site, who cares, nobody will go on it. The only thing you want to know really is "How do they present their properties on Zoopla and RightMove?" The answer should be: "impeccably." If the photos look like your 4 year old took them, the beds are unmade, the loo seat is up with whatever floating... then look for the next agent. Quality presentation means care taken in their work. Now I'm not suggesting the photographer should spring clean the house, but so much can be done to make sure the photos show the property in a positive light just by moving a few things around. How much effort is taken? Have they told the tenants to tidy up? Have they asked to clear things away? Have they put the loo seat down? Doesn't take much really does it?? If they have quality listings they will have an abundance of enquiries compared to those with rubbish photos... and more applicants on their books to instantly alert when your property is listed with them. Selling? Floorplan is a must.

5. Experience - leading on from what I said earlier, experience is a good thing. Has the agent sold/let in your road? In your block? They will be familiar with the type of property and likely to have buyers/tenants on their books who were interested in the last one. Check out what type of property they typically transact on. Some agents are renowned for selling more expensive property, some cheaper. Is your property catering to Savills clients or Bairstow Eves clients? No good marketing a million pound house with an agent who sells ex-council flats all day long! Get the right agent to represent your property because they will cater to a certain demographic of tenant/buyer.

6. Lastly, NEVER choose an agent on price. Price is the last thing that should be of interest to you. As long as the commission falls within a "reasonable" range (sales 1-2% and lettings 8-12% you shouldn't be quibbling over a few pounds here or there. The reason I say this is because if you look solely for the cheapest agent you won't get good value. Remember what I said the other day, the best value is found around the middle of the price range. Not always - this is a choice on the aforementioned factors, you may find the one that ticks all the boxes is the cheapest; or most expensive. Point is, DO NOT dismiss an agent based on the commission they ask. They are used to haggling, for sure. But if you turn around and ask them "your commission is higher than others have quoted and I like value for money. I'm not adverse to paying more, but what am I getting for the money?" they should have an answer for your straight off the bat if they hadn't made it clear already. Remember, they only get paid on results, so they should be motivated to get you that result. Are they going to be motivated by a pennypincher? no.... don't be "cheap!"

So that's it for today, I hope you enjoyed that video. Give me a like on YouTube, FaceBook or LinkedIn, whichever platform you're watching on and do share with your network. Stay tuned for tomorrow's video where I go more into the detail of managing your rental property. As always if you'd like to pick my brain give me a shout on social media or ping me an email: or come and join me at the Clapham Property Meet, the monthly social networking event in Clapham for property investors.

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