Horrendous, nightmarish, awful, I’m never doing it again!

All things that you will have heard from someone who has moved, tried to or is in the process of moving home. Some of those words may even have escaped your lips.

We have an imperfect system in this country for handling the move, it falls down at several points and to be completely honest, the prognosis is: It’s likely to get worse.

Frustration is the most common emotion people experience when moving. Frustration with the process, with conveyancing, with the estate agent, with others in the chain and it all boils down to one thing – lack of communication.

Good communication isn’t just about the estate agent talking to their client. It isn’t just about the estate agent talking to the solicitors or chasing the other agents in the chain. Good communication stems from thinking about a bigger picture.

Good estate agents think about the whole chain and everyone in it. Good estate agents anticipate problems and initiate discussions, sometimes painful and difficult ones but in doing so they can calm stormy seas.

The most frustrating thing in the moving process are deadlines or unrealistic expectations. The worst thing is constantly hitting deadlines and finding not everything is resolved so good estate agents try to talk sensibly throughout the chain to manage expectations.

Why is the process looking like it’s going to get worse?

There are a lot of good estate agents out there, people who care deeply about their clients. There are also estate agents out there who need to sign up as many clients as possible to hit targets. There are estate agents out there who, because they charge very little need volume transactions to earn a wage, to pay the staff, to pay the running costs of the business. If all day long they are chasing the next listing, how much time have they got to think about their client, to think about the others in the chain whose lives are being impacted. At what point does it not matter so much if you lose a sale, you’ve been paid in advance, ‘it’s only a few hundred quid to lose, not the end of the world’, ‘I’m not going to hit my listing target if I spend more time chasing this sale!’ ‘It’s not my job to chase that’, ‘you need to talk to your solicitor!’ Ever heard that one?

Some homeowners choose to try to handle the move themselves. Some are very good but when the pressure is on and you’re at boiling point how rational are you? How good are you at calming a situation, at asking the right questions, at knowing where to direct your attention, at how to get the best from the professionals in the process, all while dealing with your day job, your kids, your stressed partner? Is it acceptable to call your buyer or seller six times a day, every half hour, at ten pm at night, on sunday at eight am? When do those emails go from being helpful or acceptable to being an irritation, an imposition. Everyone gets stressed at some point.

Good estate agents sometimes have their hands tied, they get given partial information by other agents, they get fobbed off. Solicitors and conveyancers can view estate agents as irritations to their working day, some give answers just to get the agent of the phone; yes sometimes you do guys and we generally recognise when you’re doing it. It’s why choosing a solicitor can be so crucial. Good solicitors and good estate agents can add calm to the process, talk sensibly, act rationally and diffuse problems.

Some agents just don’t ring back or ask the questions they’ve been requested to tackle. Some agents outsource sales progression and lose that connection with their client, the understanding of what drives the move and what is important to the individual. Some buyers and sellers can be frugal with information, everyone is human, everyone slips at some point but when it’s involved with a home move the chances are there will be more than one person affected.

No one likes paying for insurance, giving money away and receiving nothing back, until that fateful moment you need it and it’s too late. Didn’t pay for holiday insurance and suddenly there’s a problem? We’ve seen the stories, people at risk of losing their homes to pay medical bills etc because they scrimped on a little insurance policy.

Choosing an estate agent is a little bit like that although if we make the analogy with insurance it’s pretty safe to say that nearly everyone who chooses to move will call on their insurance, the estate agent, at some point. The big question is, will your insurance policy, your estate agent be up to the task or found lacking?

No one likes doing someone elses job and not getting paid for it. For thirty years I have been in that position. Every week there will be a frustration, why am I having to do that agents work? I’m not the only one in my industry who will feel that way, many will sympathise. It’s part of the business unfortunately and it’s likely to get worse.

Choose your agent carefully and ask yourself what really matters to you. Flashy sales pitches, low fees, selective services they can all come at a price. You expect your estate agent to progress your sale diligently and thoughtfully but not all of them will.

When you are choosing your  agent think carefully about what really matters to you because the chances are fewer agents will prioritise progressing your sale themselves. Some of you will make choices that will help improve the moving experience; I wonder how many of you won’t and if you don’t it probably won’t be just you who pays the price.

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