This year will mark my 20th year in Estate Agency since my first estate agency job at the age of 16. Starting out as an office junior, it wasn't long before I started my first viewings and from then on I was hooked. Since then, I've worked in many estate agencies over the years. Some have been large agencies that dominate their patch, and some have been smaller agencies that offered bespoke services. During this time I've seen the lengths that agents will go to in order to win business. I've seen agents offering massive fee discounts to effectively try and buy market share or board presence. Save for short term promotional offers, this inevitably never works as the consumer is always skeptical about something that seems too good to be true. They would be right as well, because this sort of business is unsustainable and quality of service begins to suffer as the agent prioritises the higher value sales above the discounted fees. I've seen agents resorting to masquerading as disgruntled customers, leaving negative and malicious feedback on review websites in order to damage the competition. We've all seen overvaluing in all its ugly guises, a thinly veiled attempt to flatter the customer into awarding the agency its business. We all know where that story ends with prolonged marketing periods and price reduction after price reduction until the asking price becomes realistic. Ultimately, there's no barrier to entry in Estate Agency and therefore there is a proliferation of agents and huge amounts of competition. And competition is healthy and ultimately the consumer should benefit from this. As Co Director of Normie & Company I've tried to incorporate the aspects of agency that I have seen consistently deliver value to the customer and aims to achieve the best price for their property. So how do you choose and what questions should you be asking your agent when they come to value your house? Experience is Everything Be sure to ask your agent what recent experience they have had of selling homes in your particular area. If the answer to this question is sketchy, you will likely find their suggested valuation or marketing figure will either be ludicrously high or ridiculously low. Experience counts and adds a lot of value to any sales process. The Best Local Knowledge Comes from Living Locally I've worked at agencies where the staff didn't live locally and I saw first hand how the level of advice that they are able to offer both buyers and sellers can suffer as a result of this. Our agency is staffed by people that live locally, shop locally and send their children to school locally. This invaluable experience gives them the ability to provide accurate valuation advice and offer detailed recommendations on schools, local transport and shops. These are questions every buyer will have, so why choose an agent that can't answer these questions. Estate Agency is more than uploading pretty pictures to the internet so be sure to ask what proportion of the staff live locally. Sales Progression Anyone can stick a for sale board out side a house and hope for the best, but where is the real skill in Estate Agency? Sales progression is the key. After a price is agreed, that's when the hard work begins. There are many hoops to jump through from surveyors, to mortgage companies, to solicitors, to moving dates. If there is a chain involved as in most cases this process needs to be repeated up and down the chain. At the best agencies you will have a dedicated sales negotiator that will personally guide you through your sale from start to finish. They will be there at every step of the way to constantly monitor and assist your sales progress. They will communicate regularly with everyone in the chain to make sure that your sale doesn't lose pace for even the briefest of moments. What are the key selling points of my house? If the agent cannot answer this instantly in your living room then then chances are that he or she is there to sell themselves and not your property. Don't fall for a well rehearsed pitch. Make them tell you why your property will sell. Every house is unique as no two houses are exactly alike. Let them tell you why yours should stand out. Style over substance Every agent should embrace modern technology. The marketing process has become extremely well automated and its hard to imagine a world without Rightmove or Zoopla. However, its fair to say that at its core the negotiation process and sales progression system has remained largely unchanged. Traditional estate agency still has its place alongside the modern improvements to marketing. The stereotype of the flashy estate agent is embedded in our psyche for a reason, so beware of any agent that appears to offer something which looks pretty but lacks substance under the bonnet. Make sure your agent is spending as much promoting your house as they do promoting themselves. Fees aren't everything Believe it or not fees are not the be all and end all of instructing an agent. After all, the best value agent is the one that can achieve a higher selling price for your home. Every special offer will be subject to terms and conditions, minimum fees and other small print. Make sure that you feel that your agent will be incentivised to achieve the best for you and your property and ask yourself whether that can still be the case after any discount has been applied. I'm proud to say that at Normie & Company my colleagues represent the very best that I have had the privilege to work with over the past 20 years. They all show real skill, care and dedication that is relentless. They all also have real personalities and build great rapport with buyers and sellers alike. People buy people and in a sales environment that helps a lot. We are proud to offer a service that is "Far from the Norm". At Normie your house is in safe hands.