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Posted 16 Apr 2024

How To Choose An Estate Agent In The UK: Best Practices

buy / estate agent / to let

Here are my best practices for choosing an estate agent who'll provide a great service, if you're not sure how to choose an estate agent in the UK.

Not sure how to choose an estate agent in the UK? That’s understandable – there’s plenty to think about isn’t there?

And there are also plenty to choose from. The number of estate agents is growing, according to The Negotiator. In recent years there has been a 10.6% increase, bringing the total to approximately 24,500.

Now as you’ve probably noticed, Fine Living is an estate agent too. So you might be thinking something like: “Why should I take your word on how to find the best estate agents in my area, Simon?”

Well, with my many years of experience, there’s plenty of advice I can share around how to choose an estate agent that will deliver the kind of service you expect. I can also warn you about what to watch out for, so that you don’t end up with one that will let you down.

Here are my best practices for choosing an estate agent in the UK. While at Fine Living we help people buy, sell, let, rent and invest, to keep things simple in this guide I’ll focus on finding an estate agent to help you sell or let out a property.

Find out how they’ll market your property

There are lots of different marketing approaches that estate agents can use, aiming to make sure that the right people see your property.

The right approach should depend on your preferences, not the estate agent’s. Do you want to be minimally involved, or heavily involved? Are you looking to sell or let out your property quickly or is time on your side?

The estate agent will take photographs of your property. Then, some of the potential marketing options include:

  • Listing the property on property portals e.g. Rightmove and Zoopla
  • Offering virtual tours and viewings
  • 360° photos and videos
  • Floorplans
  • Email marketing to potential buyers
  • In-person viewings
  • Off market / discreet marketing
  • Open house events
  • Social media
  • Print advertising…

…Print advertising, that is, if you’ve chosen an agent who thinks it’s still the 90s – and there are lots of them!

Think about what types of marketing you want to see, but also ask the estate agent – a good one should provide tailored advice for your specific property.

Ask about their valuation process

There is a fine art – but also, science – to accurately valuing property. If an estate agent gets it wrong, it can waste a lot of time and money.

An undervalued property means that as a buyer, you may not get the return on investment you hoped for.

But an overvalued property has consequences too, because ultimately the estate agent will need to reduce the price in the future anyway to sell it. And according to Which? properties that are reduced by 5% or more take an extra 64 days to sell on average.

So, browse the estate agent’s listings and see how many are reduced. There may be a few but if lots are reduced, think about whether this could be a warning sign.

Also ask about the estate agent’s valuation process. What ‘science’ do they use to value properties accurately?

For example, a Fine Living valuation takes a vast range of factors into account to find a fair price. My team stays updated with the latest market data – studying:

  • Market trends
  • Local borough updates
  • New development plans
  • Migration patterns

And much more!

Are they knowledgeable about your area?

Speaking of local borough updates and new development plans, it’s important to have an estate agent that knows all about these.

That helps with everything – from ensuring that your property is marketed at the right price, or if you’re buying, that you have a smooth experience.

So if you’re selling a property in London, use an estate agent with plenty of property knowledge in the capital. Take me for example – I’ve lived in London for over two decades.

Do they market properties similar to yours?

If their portfolio features properties that look similar to yours, that’s a good sign. It suggests they have experience selling or letting out properties like yours.

You can also ask the estate agent to show you specific properties that are similar to yours, what price they achieved, how that compared to the asking price and how long it took.

Why not try it out? Take a look at the Fine Living portfolio – do you see properties there that look like yours?

But if they don’t have many properties that look like yours, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not right for you. The key thing is to look for signs that the agent does their homework, working out how best to market a property based on its specific merits.

This brings me back to my last two points – are they knowledgeable about your area and how detailed is their valuation process?

How experienced are they?

If there’s a brand new estate agent on the block, who knows, perhaps they’ll one day be the best in the country.

But your property is too valuable to take a chance on them right now.

An estate agent with plenty of experience suggests they have a proven track record of accurately valuing properties and efficiently pairing them with their perfect new partners.

Industry credentials

An experienced agent should also have relevant certifications, showing that they do things by the book and that any money that’s spent with them is safe.

Estate agents are subject to consumer protection law. But there is no overarching statutory regulation of letting or managing agents, as UK Parliament confirms.

That’s one of the many reasons why Fine Living follows the Propertymark professional standards – a commitment to transparency, compliance and high standards. Propertymark has a Client Money Protection  (CMP) scheme – here is Fine Living’s certificate.

Not only that, but Fine Living also adheres to these:

Transparent fees

No-one likes nasty surprises, especially if it means you have to spend more money than you had anticipated.

So ask estate agents for a detailed breakdown of their fees as you’re shortlisting them – a lack of detail here is not a good sign.

For example, take a look at the level of detail included in the Fine Living landlord fees breakdown, with a clear list of the different permutations. 

Look for signs of proactivity and enthusiasm!

Once you’ve ultimately finished choosing an estate agent, you’ll likely spend plenty of time working together before they finally sell or let out your property. You don’t want that time to feel like hard work, do you?

When getting in touch with an estate agent for the first time, see how friendly and responsive they are. If they’re hard to get hold of or seem disinterested, that’s probably how they’ll behave once you’re their client too!

Selling or letting out a property takes time and effort, so an agent that doesn’t look like they’re working hard for your custom is a red flag. Look for signs that they are not only enthusiastic, but proactive – likely to take the initiative, get things moving and make suggestions.

Is the agent a good listener? Do they ask you lots of questions? That’s a good sign that they’re thinking about how to tailor their service to your specific requirements.

Relationship building

By the same token, if you’re going to be working together, it’s important that you get along with each other.

Selling a property isn’t straightforward – that’s why you’re considering using an estate agent in the first place. So they shouldn’t bring the complexity back into your life, they should spare you from it.

How can you tell if you’ll have a good rapport with an estate agent? The first contact or meeting with them is a good indicator.

  • Are they getting to know you?
  • Do they remember what you’ve said previously?
  • How did they make you feel?
  • Do you feel like you can trust them?

And here’s another great sign that they’ll work hard to build a relationship…

Reviews and testimonials

If the estate agent’s previous clients are satisfied, there’s a good chance you will be too.

There should be plenty of positive testimonials on their website, so start with these. Then look further – what are previous clients saying on Google?

To see what I’m talking about, take a look at the Google reviews for Fine Living and see what you think.

Minimal or no delegation

Imagine you’re calling a customer service department. You listen to an automated voice, push a few buttons on the phone, wait in line and finally speak to someone.

Then that person listens while you explain the situation and hands you over to someone else. You wait in line again, get through to the new person and have to tell your story all over again…

…Sounds familiar? It’s frustrating when staff pass you around and it’s hard to feel a sense of continuity, which matters when you’re working with their company for weeks or months.

That’s a risk if you choose a big corporate estate agent, for sure. That’s not my way of doing things though.

The stance at Fine Living is that the person who meets you at the start is the one who will help you reach your property goals – no outsourcing, no delegation!

How do they vet potential buyers or tenants?

Another big waste of time is if lots of different buyers or tenants come round without making an offer. Let’s take tenants as an example.

Your estate agent shouldn’t just be focusing on the Right to Rent check and other tenant checks.

Long before they even come round to the property, the estate agent should be vetting them, making sure that they’re an appropriate potential candidate and a good fit for your property.

Ask the estate agent how they do this – does the approach sound like they’ll find the kind of tenant you want living in the property?

Final thoughts: Are they easy to get in touch with?

Last but by no means least, look for an estate agent who will make time for you or is straightforward to contact.

There’s little more frustrating than having an estate agent that’s hard to get hold of. That’s why the motto at Fine Living is, name the time and place.

That means a meeting in your home, at a coffee shop, by the river… I know you’re busy, so let me know where’s best. I’m also easy to reach by WhatsApp, phone, email, Zoom and so on. 

So if you were wondering “which estate agent should I use?”… I hope you’ve found this guide useful. There’s plenty to think about around how to pick an estate agent, but it’s worth taking some time to make an informed decision.

For some additional guides, take a look at the Fine Living blog. Recently we’ve covered whether you need a solicitor or conveyancer when buying a house, for example.

And if you want to see if this estate agent is right for you, please contact Fine Living!

GOOGLE REVIEWS

Simon is absolutely fantastic to work with. He is authentic, honest and trustworthy. As first time renters in London, Simon explained everything to us and remained accessible throughout the entire process. Definitely the best agent experience we have had.

Jackson Smith

09/15/2023

I had a very smooth collaboration with Simon who was reactive, a good adviser and kind. Thank you for the great service!

margot ch

05/13/2023

Simon was very accomodating and helpful throughout the rental application process

Brett Felsenthal

02/15/2023

An absolute pleasure to interact with Simon. A true professional with a mastery of the London property market. Very knowledgeable on all his properties, with high quality virtual viewings tailored to the current climate. Highly recommended.

Alfie Ashton

02/15/2021

Simon has been great throughout all the process. He is extremely professional and reliable, I would definitely recommend him.

Luca Baldini

05/01/2024

Simon was a great agent. Understood what we were looking for, excellent communication and a very nice guy to work. Would highly recommend.

Luke Russo

02/15/2023

Simon was fantastic as both a lettings and sales agent. Very communicative and flexible in his approach.

Chloe Nankivell

02/15/2023

Simon has been a great guide and support throughout our tenancy. He was always available, helpful and he managed the communication with our landlord perfectly.

Paul Biard

08/15/2023

Very professional and offers excellent service. You will be well looked after. Impressed with the technology and quality of virtual viewings. Thank you Simon!

Arta Alfere

02/15/2021

Can’t thank Simon enough for helping us secure our first flat here in London. He was super helpful during the whole process and was always available for any questions. We are really happy!

Abby Wilson

10/15/2023

Excellent service, would highly recommend.

Kirk Pereira

02/15/2022

I would highly recommend Simon and Fine Living to anyone looking for a professional, attentive and transparent real estate agent to work with. Simon went above and beyond what I expected in order to successfully complete the sale and always did so with a helpful and respectful manner.

Alan Casey

02/15/2023

It's been a great experience renting a flat through Simon, he is always very kind and helpful

Tijana Markovic

02/15/2023

Excellent service from Fine Living the second time around. Always kept updated & the process was thorough & seamless. Would highly recommend!

Jennifer Nursiah

02/15/2023

Simon is truly a special estate agent. He's knowledgable and cares about the relationship with customers going the extra miles to inform properly and not to rush in his viewing. He makes you feel extremely taken care of and guided alongside the process.

Davide Cavagnino

02/08/2024

I've known Simon for quite a while now and his expertise and effort to attend to clients/tenants queries and problems are second to none. Simon is efficient, which comes from his years of experience and therefore things get sorted quickly. In a time where things are so fast paced, it's nice to know there is someone competent in charge dealing with the situation.

Pete-Sam

02/15/2023

Seriously knowledgeable, very reassuring and the friendliest chap you could hope to meet. Goes well beyond "just" an estate agent. More like a high end property consultant that can talk about investment decisions, interior design and everything in between. Highly recommended!

Dipta Malik

05/07/2024

The whole process was a breeze, and everything happened in a blur. I moved from a foreign country and Fine Living was able to get everything done within a week, from answering my first message to handing over the keys. I absolutely recommend!

Merwane Drai

02/15/2022

I had a very smooth collaboration with Simon who was reactive, a good adviser and kind. Thank you for the great service!

margot chollet

05/15/2023

Jack and Simon done an incredible job working around the current restrictions with the pandemic and managed to secure a sale on our property within months. They took on all the strain and pressure of securing a sale within a tight timeframe and made us feel at ease. They took every precaution to ensure we were safe during viewings and ensured everyone followed strict rules to ensure our safety and the safety of others. Both were great at communicating and offered constructive advice throughout that helped secure our sale. Thank you both for everything

Amal Jaber

02/15/2021

I was really impressed by the service I received here, in particular from Jack. He was 'on it' from the start and took his time in understanding what kind of property we were after and our other requirements. He was knowledgeable, professional and gave us an all-round easy experience and personal service. To be honest, I'm still pinching myself that he managed to find us such a great place to rent. Would highly recommend.

India Semper-Hughes

02/15/2021

Simon’s service was top notch. Professional, quick to respond and a great mediator between me and the landlord. Definitely a good experience overall. 🙌

Isauro López

09/15/2023

Positive experience working with Simon & team, from the start with the viewing, they were very responsive and timely in getting all the my questions answered and documents sent during the letting process. Would 100% recommend their services!

Joseph Chung

02/15/2022

The service received from Simon was excellent. From ensuring all maintenance jobs were attended to, all legal requirements were adhered to and actually finding the tenant. A very seamless process. Would highly recommend.

Jennifer Nursiah

02/15/2022

Simon was extremely professional and a pleasure to work with in securing a flat in London. Would certainly recommend to all

Tommy Griffin

04/25/2024

Simon manages a rental flat for us and we very much enjoy working with him. His service is exceptional. He takes care of everything for us and we feel totally reassured that our property is in great hands. Any little issues our tenants might have, such as small repairs etc are dealt with right away in an efficient and professional manner. We recently had a change of tenants and Simon did a fantastic job of marketing the property and finding us excellent new tenants. He is proactive, communication is excellent and he is a lovely guy to work with too! Highly recommend.

Sarah Faulds

11/15/2023

Renting our first London apartment through Simon was an incredible experience! Handling everything from abroad was made effortless by Simon's exceptional assistance. He accommodated our requests promptly, addressing all queries without delay. Our experience was flawless, and we're immensely grateful to Simon. We highly recommend his services to anyone seeking to rent in London, especially from overseas.

Zvika Weksler

12/15/2023

We've been working with Simon for a number of years now and he has always been efficient and pragmatic on each letting, doing his best for both the landlord and tenant. He has also overseen works for us and is thorough in his inspections. Overall, he has been an absolute pleasure to work with.

E M

04/11/2024

Simon is great to work with, super friendly and responsive. I would highly recommend house hunting with him!

Kelly Lenihan

02/15/2023

Easy, quick and smooth experience overall.

Ana Maa

02/15/2023

Simon is the most reliable trustworthy letting agent you can find! Paying attention to all details and doing fantastic job!I know him for 5 years, did few flats with him and all went smoothly. Try yourself and see.

Yael Epstein

02/15/2023

Simon is professional, pragmatic and efficient. He gives us great confidence that our properties are being managed well.

Richard

04/11/2024

I recently purchased a flat through Fine Living and I couldn't be happier with the service I received. From the very beginning, the communication was outstanding. They kept me informed every step of the way, promptly answered all my questions, and were always available to address any concerns I had. The entire process was smooth and stress-free. Simon and Steve were professional, efficient, and made buying a flat a positive experience. I highly recommend them to anyone looking to buy or sell a property.

K L

05/31/2024

Really smooth move in process, Probably the best I’ve experienced so far living in the city! It’s been really nice having Simon/fine living as our estate agent - you can really tell they look after the tenants which can be quite unheard of nowadays.

Fleur

03/15/2023

I engaged Simon and Fine Living for the legal work on letting my home, his knowledge of the lettings market and the legal aspects made me feel very comfortable using him. We’ve got a great tenant and Simon is available should I need him for any assistance.

Kirk Smith

02/15/2023

We noticed a significant difference when our landlord change from our previous management company to Fine Living. We received information and response to our inquiries very quickly and when needed, we were able to communicate more effectively with the landlord. We felt that Simon cared not only about the landlord but also us, the tenants.

Alejandra Cordero

02/15/2023

Simon is fully hands on and on top of everything. Has made my life so easy while being an overseas landlord.

Roxanne Cohen

12/15/2023

Simon has been an excellent professional. He was very helpful and trustworthy since the first time I visited the flat. He went out of his way to make sure my needs and the landlord's were met and the lease signed as quickly as possible. In the uncertain environment of the London property market, having Simon's help was invaluable.

Nicola Speranza

05/15/2023

This is truly a unicorn of an organization! Simon is approachable, thoughtful, and extremely knowledgeable about his property. He made the entire process completely painless from the viewing through to signing the lease. He’s incredibly communicative and ensured that our rental was finished to the highest standard of cleanliness and repairs. We are now the proud tenants of the most wonderful home and are so grateful that we found Simon. 10/10 service, no notes!

Michaela Zamloot

10/15/2023

I recently had the pleasure of working with Simon, and I must say, he exceeded all expectations. Simon's professionalism was evident from the get-go, and his friendly demeanor made the leasing process an absolute breeze. What truly impressed me was his lightning-fast response time to all of my inquiries. No question was too small, and he always made me feel like a top priority. If you're in need of leasing assistance, look no further than Simon. He's the epitome of excellent customer service and professionalism.

Laura Giersdorf

03/06/2024

Simon is one of the best estate agents I have ever worked with. He really cares about looking after his clients and properties and makes the whole process easy and stress free. Would highly recommend

Manal Shaker

02/15/2023

5 stars at least! Moving abroad with a property in London and a busy life I wanted someone to deal with my property. Simon has been amazing as he is personally taking care of everything. He is quick, he explains what I do not know and he is very professional. He takes on the responsibility and take actions. 100% recommended

Erika Felici

02/08/2024

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