Probably second only to used car salesmen in the list of professions I can't really abide dealing with on a regular basis.
I've never reviewed an Estate Agent, nor really had the need to compare them, so I present my own experiences below in the hope that it helps others.
Having recently relocated far north to the Scottish Highlands we're left with that daunting challenge ... selling the house in Glasgow.
In my area there are a few agents that pop up more than others; Nicol Estate Agents, Rettie and Co, and Allen and Harris being the prominent ones.
There is also a relatively new entrant trying to shake up the market a bit, based in Edinburgh but using loads of Gamma Telecom VoIP numbers to make it look like they have loads of local offices - McEwan Fraser Legal - who do offer an unique proposition in some ways; aiming to re-invent the wheel a bit.
Nicol Estate Agents
Recommended by family, and with a really strong local presence, these were my first choice to get out and estimate the value of the property.
Their valuation was pretty good, and although a bit 'salesy' in person, the representatives (one of which was the owner of the business) were professional and, in-person, explained that their fees were a simple fixed ("nothing else to pay", "everything inclusive" etc) 0.75% and waxed lyrical about their attention to detail.
Shortly after they left, I received a "Marketing Report". The first line of which was;
Thank you for inviting Nicol Estate Agents to visit your late Mother’s property in order that we might provide you with our proposals for the marketing and sale of this property.
Well, my Mother is neither late (unless you mean that time she didn't turn up until 30 mins after we were expecting her, but that's more the fault of the bus company) nor did she ever own this property... so much for attention to detail.
And that fixed fee of 0.75%...
I confirm our fee will be restricted to 0.75% + Vat of the total proceeds (0.9% inclusive of Vat)
So, 0.9% then... This is a recurring theme, all agents quote prices excluding VAT. how is this even legal when selling to a consumer? but Nicol are the only one not to mention that it's exclusive of VAT in person.
This, along with the numerous typos in their Marketing Report, made me question the attention to detail and put me off somewhat.
I replied, in my usual inimitable light-hearted style, expressing my disappointment that they were acting as a harbinger of my Mother's death, and they didn't even respond.
And so ends any chance of selling with them... Shame, as I believe - for others - they've worked well and achieved good prices. Ah, well.
Cost of selling a £270,000 home with Nicol: £2,430
McEwan Fraser Legal
This is a relatively new entrant, based in Edinburgh but becoming increasingly prominent across Scotland.
The first thing that attracted me to McEwan Fraser Legal is my experience as a buyer - they were helpful, professional, and their phone lines are open until midnight (yep, midnight) indeed it's possible to call up at 7-8pm, arrange a viewing for the same night, or at 11pm and have one arranged for the next morning - brilliant.
Secondly, they offer an 'online portal' which lets you manage your own viewings, see messages and feedback from viewers, and generally makes you feel more involved in the process... great (although, it's not that unique or innovative - I had a similar online calendar view in 2007 with Pattison & Sim, a GSPC solicitor)
We arranged a "Valuation" and a few days later were visited by the local representative for MFL. The whole experience reminded me of how I believe 1950s door-to-door vacuum or encyclopedia salesmen must have been!
Firstly, the "valuer" hardly looked around the house, instead preferring to give us a sales pitch first in the living room which he kindly adorned with a For Sale board as a prop... not that we'd ever seen one of those before.
The board had a QR code (this is a gimmick - it is not useful, a big quick reference like A1345 would be FAR more useful) and was adorned with various logos, including the local SSPC (ESPC etc) which they will later describe as "pointless" - so why have it?!
McEwan Fraser Legal use Gamma Telecom VoIP numbers to provide the illusion of a presence in many areas, all calls are answered in Edinburgh. There's nothing wrong with this, indeed I think it's a good idea, but it's worth noting they have no local presence.
What followed was a bit strange... a lengthy sales pitch in which the "valuer" staunchly refused to provide a valuation, saying that they were waiting for the surveyors who do their home reports (who, I might add, have not seen the property!) to get back to them! He apparently had eMailed them on Friday, and again this (Monday) morning and hadn't heard back.
Makes me wonder why I took time off for a valuation.
Then there's the fees... 1.75%, but we'll reduce it to 0.75% (ok, so thats more normal) + £150 "Marketing Fee" + £395 "Photography Fee" + £75 "Schedule Upgrade" + £49.50 "For Sale Board" + £599 "Media Package" + a 10% 'bonus' for anything over home report.
After they left, we contacted the surveyor they blamed for the delay. They had received an eMail, only a few hours before - not the previous week as claimed.
I do not deal with companies that lie to me.
Just when you think the saga is over, I decide to give them a second chance (yes, even with the exorbitant fees) and phone and speak to their Operations Director, who was very pleasant and clearly to help - they have a unique offering, and the "everything online" is a big attraction to me.
They agree to remove the individual above from the process, and send his boss out to discuss the property. Shortly thereafter I feel somewhat railroaded into signing a contract (remember you can always cancel!)
After signing, they present "evidence" that they eMailed the surveyor and also provided an eMail from another one of their customers complete with their personal eMail address and full name complimenting the person I had criticised, to prove that generally he is well-received by customers. This complete disregard for data protection concerned me.
I also got to view their "online portal", for the small time I was a customer it's nothing special and felt like it was thrown together in PHP in a few weeks.
Resetting my password resulted in this...
Which bodes well for the security of the service if they haven't even got the basic configuration right...
display_errors(0); is what you're looking for here :) oh, and the CSS disappeared too.
Lastly, it concerned me that there was an implication that they can influence the Home Report value produced by the independent surveyor because 'we give them so much business'. If this is true, and I sincerely hope it is not, consider for a minute what way they are incentivised to influence it;
HR Valuation: £250,000
Sale Price: £270,000
Fee: £1,875 + £2,000 bonus = £3,875
HR Valuation: £270,000
Sale Price: £270,000
It's not in their best interests to get you a higher home report value.
Cost of selling a £270,000 home with MFL (assuming a HR value of £265,000): £3,793.50
Rettie & Co.
Somewhat exasperated, and seriously considering private sale or simply putting up a sign saying "buy my house!", I called Rettie & Co.
Rettie & Co have a local office (very local, on the same street as my house) and although the idea of a 'sign in the window' seems rather insignificant next to Rightmove and the likes, being local has it's benefits.
Harvey (a bona-fide RICS surveyor) was out to value the property within a few days, and actually gave me a valuation; as opposed to making excuses about why he couldn't.
Their fee is 0.75%+vat, no hidden extras and - the clincher - they'd do viewings without charge.
He had barely left the house on Monday when I phoned the office to instruct them. A few hours later, paper work signed (one piece of paper, not five! - looking at you MFL!) and I felt the sale was in good hands.
Being local, and managing viewings themselves, they ensure everyone based in the office has seen the property in person... so the next day, Tuesday, was spent showing them around as they played with the dog - very friendly and informal.
By Wednesday their photographer - Gareth from Zoomtech Media - was out first thing. Alison at Rettie was kind enough to forward the images over at about 10pm and he made it look fantastic;
Along with some more arty shots which make good filler in a brochure
The property went live on Thursday afternoon and today, Friday, the first viewers are going out.
I don't have an online portal to manage this, instead they just eMail me the appointments and I add them to iCal... works just fine and they keep me in the loop with regular eMails.
Thank you Rettie & Co for your professionalism thus far, I'm confident you will be the right choice.
Cost of selling a £270,000 home with Rettie & Co: £2,430