The relationship between sellers and estate agents can be somewhat complicated. Both parties need each other but few people would admit to liking agents. Indeed, in opinion polls, agents are often rated alongside politicians - and are therefore firmly at the bottom of the list of people considered popular and trustworthy!
Certainly, a seller’s perception of an agent can be negative virtually whatever the agent does. If he sells a property quickly then he is considered to have made a lot of money unfairly without having done anything to justify it. However, if he struggles to sell a property then he is considered lazy, uncaring and useless.
Of course, agents vary enormously - from those who are conscienious and have iron integrity to others who are manipulative and dishonest. However, all agents possess two things in common. Firstly, they are committed absolutely to selling your property. Unless they sell your home they will make no money from you and every moment they spend on listing your property, promoting it or speaking to you or a potential buyer is a waste of time. Life, for an agent, is therefore nothing if not ‘binary’.
Secondly, all agents work in a highly charged atmosphere where everyone involved tends to be under great stress. Certainly, few matters are as stressful as buying or selling a property and the tension created frequently brings out the worst in people. Indeed, I doubt there is an agent alive who does not regularly have to deal with people close to hysteria. This is as true of buyers as it is for sellers both of whom can become extremely unpleasant - with any agent invariably becoming the butt of their tempestuous fury, depression, elation and sometimes sheer spite.
In short, an agent’s life is not easy despite appearances to the contrary. Indeed, matters are exacerbated during a property crash when many agents will be fighting desperately for their own survival whilst working in one of the most vulnerable industries within any economy.
Of course, as a seller you may ask what has this got to do with me? Why should I care? After all, an agent chooses his profession and, like a boxer, has chosen to accept his work environment...
In fact, in difficult times you need to be able to exploit any and every ‘angle’ that exists to improve your chances of selling. So, as one of your most important sales tools, your agent needs to be understood and ‘managed’ if you are to get the most out of him. You need to maximise his effectiveness and, importantly, ensure he prioritises consistently the sale of your property above and beyond all others. Try the following:
Listing. When your agent comes to look at your property give him a CD that has clear, accurate and objective written details of your property. Vitally, also supply digital photographs of your home and make sure these are superb. If necessary, employ a professional photographer. No-one has a better chance of producing better photographs than you with an agent normally having only a small window of opportunity - perhaps during poor weather or when the light is not at its optimium.
Paperwork. Provide your agent with a neatly bound copy of all the principal documents relating to your home such as a copy of the Escritura, last paid utility bills, proof of payment of IBI, any building guarantee and any licences relating to anything relevant to the property. If necessary, get your lawyer to put together this pack of documents
Contact details. Make sure that your agent has all your contact details, the details of your lawyer and an alternative emergency keyholder (if your agent is not to be provided with a key).
Your home. Treat your agent’s listing visit as importantly as that of a potential buyer and make sure that your home is looking its very best. Show him carefully (but not laboriously) around your property so that he is familiar with it and any particular features.
Commission. However painful, offer your agent more commission than he charges normally. This will mean that he will favour always your property over other ones that are similar.
Price and commission. Be clear about your sale price, the commission to be paid and whether your deal is for sole or multiple agency. Place this in writing. Equally, always advise your agent immediately if you change your price. Never ‘play games’ and drop your price with some agents and leave it the same with others.
Viewings. Decide upon who will show your property to a potential buyer (the agent is normally best when it is a buyer’s first visit) and do not interrupt an agent-led viewing unless it is going very badly wrong
Always react quickly and efficiently to any notification of a potential viewing (however inconvenient it is) and never make it awkward for an agent to bring a buyer to your property. Always keep your home in top condition and accept gracefully the annoyance of impromptu viewings
Moral obligation. Treat your agent as a sensitive human being(!). Make ‘friends’ with the people in his office. Do not badger them but gently make sure they remind your agent constantly of your existence. Drop a bottle of wine into the office or a cake or flowers. Make your agent feel ‘wanted’ and get the whole of his office to feel a sense of obligation towards you.
Keep calm. Do not pass on the ‘hassle’. Control your stress and do not over-pressurise your agent. He will be under pressure himself and raising stress levels, however upset and frustrated you may be, is never constructive. Remember that it will be in your agent’s direct self-interest to make the sale of your home happen
Finally, never, ever give your agent any reason to mistrust your honesty. Nothing will more terminally damage your relationship than your agent thinking that you will go ‘behind his back’ with one of his clients to avoid paying his commission. This is lethal and your lack of integrity will be quickly transmitted to other agents in a brief moment of competitive unity - resulting in no agent ever wanting to act for you...