It’s all about values (but not the values you think)

Roly matthews director at hinchley wood officeRoly Matthews, Director at the Hinchley Wood office

Grosvenor Billinghurst’s series of articles that aim to pull back the curtain on the estate agency profession continues with Roly Matthews, Director at the Hinchley Wood office. Here he outlines why estate agents should focus less on property values and more on core values such as integrity, honesty and transparency when dealing with their clients.

What does it mean to be a good estate agent? It’s a good question, and one that’s likely to spark debate amongst those who have experience in using one to sell or purchase a property, which, let’s face it, is probably the vast majority of Elmbridge.

Having spent more years than I’d care to admit as an estate agent, 13 of which have been with Grosvenor Billinghurst, the answer is quite simple: core values.

Traditionally speaking, the general conversation between an estate agent and a seller is dominated by property values. How much is my property worth? What should I be putting it on the market for? Sadly, it’s this aspect of our profession that has the highest influence. More often than not, the highest valuation wins the instruction – even if the agent’s valuation is unrealistic.

And this is where core values can sometimes be called into question.

Taking a long term view

Having gained a rounded and fairly representative experience of the business I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s one recurring theme that seems to plague the profession, and that’s short-termism.

The pursuit of an instruction, which, in some of the more ruthless estate agencies comes down to a pressure to meet targets and ‘hit the number’, means that customers can be unfairly lured into making an instruction. And here’s why.

When it comes to selling a property you’ll want to get a balanced view, so you might instruct three estate agents to value your property. You want to sell your property at the highest possible amount and the agent wants an instruction, so typically speaking you’ll go for the agent that provides the highest valuation. What’s important to remember, however, is that marketable price and sale price are two very different things. Furthermore, a property has a natural market value and there’s nothing an estate agent can do to influence that. Therefore, the difference between a realistic valuation and overvaluation is time.

Many estate agents’ business model is built on gaining an instruction based on a high valuation knowing that they’ll need to manage the price down over time. It might take 16 weeks and three price reductions before it sells. However, as long as the agent can wait 16 weeks and is comfortable with fielding calls from a disgruntled customer, then what does it matter – they have the instruction.

The property will sell eventually, once it’s reached its real market rate. But wouldn’t you rather have been given an honest value from the outset; one that would have seen your property sold quicker and saved you the heartache of repeatedly dropping the price?

Honesty is the best policy

Good estate agents that are in it for the long haul know two things. Firstly, good and bad markets come and go. Secondly, core values such as integrity, honesty and transparency are the lifeblood of a successful property business. If you’re invested in the local community you have to have all three. If you don’t then it won’t take long before you run out of credibility.

Of course, how do you know if you’re being sold a dream or if you’re receiving honest advice? How can you differentiate one estate agent from another? You have to ask the right questions. These include ‘how any other similar properties have you sold in the last 12 months?’, ‘how long did they take to sell?’ and, crucially, ‘what was it valued at and what did it sell at?’. Generally speaking, the best estate agent will be the one with the smallest gap between the two.

There have been many cases where we’ve been called out to a valuation and, based on what the homeowner has told us, advised them to stay where they are and extend. Five years later, when they really were ready to move they’ve instructed us straight away based on the fact that we gave advice that ultimately benefitted them, whereas other agents were advising to sell.

As they say, treat people as you’d wish to be treated, which is a sentiment that continues to work for our clients. And, as we approach our 20th anniversary, it’s one that continues to work for Grosvenor Billinghurst, too.

Looking for a trustworthy and community-driven family-run estate agent in Cobham, Claygate or Hinchley Wood and the surrounding areas? If so, contact our team to arrange a valuation.

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