In a digital world, sometimes good old fashioned word of mouth can’t be ignored, especially for independent and high-street estate agencies. We’ve done some research on why people choose their estate agents, and recommendations from friends and family came out on top, leading us to think more about the power of word of mouth…
Recommendations and referrals
News travels fast, be it good or bad; reviews from your customers can return business and be a form of advertising in themselves. In fact, recommendations are a valuable factor when it comes to choosing which agency to use to sell your home: 44% of sellers choose their estate agent based on recommendations from friends and 36% choose based on recommendations from family. These reasons only come second and third respectively to % fee charged by estate agent (63%) when it came to deciding factors according to When You Move’s survey on why people choose their estate agents. Word of mouth is a valuable form of advertising that costs nothing!
One in six home movers told Which? they were dissatisfied with their estate agent, so it is important that you do your best to provide excellent service that will lead to recommendations and create long-term valuable relationships with your clients as it may lead to them recommending you, or indeed being repeat customers when they come to move again years later.
You can even create a referral scheme to encourage your clients to recommend your services. When you have finished working with your client, send them an email asking for feedback and ask them to recommend you to a friend in return for an incentive, such as gift vouchers.
But if you are going to generate these word of mouth recommendations, you need to be top of your game, both when selling the property and when presenting yourself as an agency and offering valuations.
Even before a seller selects you to act as their agent, they will be comparing you to other agents in the areas based on your shop window, reputation, sales boards etc. When conducting a valuation, sellers care more that the valuation is fair and honest than if it is high (44% of sellers). So ensure that you give an honest valuation, as bluffing a high price and coming across as pushy could generate bad word of mouth even if the seller does not end up using you as their agent.
34% also believe an estate agent must show excellent local knowledge. This can be a great advantage to local agencies over online agents who will not know the local area. Demonstrate that you know about the locality when meeting with potential clients, e.g. local schools, nearest supermarket, transport links to near major cities via train or road. This way you can prove that you have the knowledge which could help to sell the house to viewers.
Unfortunately, estate agents as a group of professionals have garnered a negative reputation. Don’t get tarred with the same brush as the few bad seeds that give estate agents a bad name. Estate Agent Today conducted a survey on what people are looking for in an estate agent and discovered that “the large majority of people disliked the over-salesy aggressive approach which characterises certain agents, and instead favoured open communication and reliability.” So ensure that you are honest, approachable and upfront with your prospects.
When you meet with prospective clients, you should be open about your percentage fee and any additional costs, as this is often sellers’ main concern. The Home Owners Alliance has a list of questions on their website that they recommend you ask estate agents, so ensure you have honest answers for the following:
- How much will you charge?
- Are there any other costs?
- How will you market my home? (i.e. local connections/using portals like Rightmove)
- Are you an OnTheMarket member?
- Which portal will my home be advertised on and when?
- Can I negotiate a reduced percentage fee for the delay in my property appearing on Rightmove or Zoopla?
- What type of contract do you use? (i.e. sole agency)
- Does your contract include a tie-in period?
- Will I have any future liability if I take my home off the market and sell with another agent at a later date?
- What happens if we disagree on something?
With so much information available online, even first-time sellers will have a particular idea of what they are looking for from their estate agent and will have high standards of expectations.
An effective way to boost word of mouth by sponsoring local events or sports teams to get your logo seen and be seen to be doing things to help to local community. (For more tips on good PR, see our blog on owning local community.)
Having a sales board in the local area is also what prompts 23% of people to approach an agency for a valuation when selling their home. If they see that other local people are trusting you to sell their home, they can be more likely to contact you when they want to do the same.
At a time when property portals are most house hunters first port of call local newspapers are still relevant. A study by Fine and Country estate agents found that nearly 80% of potential home-buyers base their decision on their instructing agent based on whether they advertise in their local paper.
Richard Rawlings, an award-winning estate agency trainer, says, “An issue that many estate agents overlook is that of presence. The only estate agents to whom home-movers will have been exposed are those whose boards are prominent locally, and those whose advertisements they see in the local newspaper during the time when they were not interested in moving. This is likely to be several years’ worth of valuable local presence.”
Remember that online reviews play a part too: 28% of sellers said that online reviews played a part in deciding whether to use an estate agency. Try to include testimonials on your website, but also use an independent review site such as Trust Pilot, as this garners more public trust as the company cannot edit the reviews in their favour.
You should also ensure that your website is in check to make yourself look trustworthy. Have a section explaining your sales policy and contracts, and add profiles of your agents so that the agency is personalised: literally put a face to the name.
No matter the size of your agency, bad reviews can take their toll; so as well as getting recommendations, ensure that you appease any complaints or disgruntled clients. Additionally, according to Nielson, 92% of people will trust a recommendation from family and friends over any form of advertising, proving that you should value your clients as brand ambassadors and encourage them to refer you to their friends and family. If you have a good reputation, new work will come to simply by doing your job well.