Concerns that we’re a smaller agent, so won’t have enough buyers on our books.

Like most agents we have many thousands of database clients.  But are they looking right now?  How well is the database cleansed?

The reality is that most agents have the same buyers registered as none are mutually exclusive anymore.

And you could add up every buyer on every agent’s database and it still wouldn’t be as many as the number of active and eager buyers registered on both Rightmove and Zoopla for property alerts.   99.6% of all buyers now use these websites to find their new home.

When an agent says ‘I’ve hundreds of buyers looking right now for a property just like yours’ simply ask why they’ve unsold properties on their books if this is the case.  I’m sure they peddled that same line to every one of their clients.

And anyway – wouldn’t you want to market your property to the thousands of active buyers on the entire market rather than a handful on an agents database?

Every seller I’ve ever spoken to over the years who chose an agent after being told the ‘we’ve lots of buyers wanting to see a property like yours’ has been completely underwhelmed by the response, unsurprisingly.

Review by SE15 Mover – “We had concerns about going with an independent agent. (They’re less well known. Have they got enough punters? Will they do a good job? Should we go with one of the big names?) But we are so glad we did. From the moment we met James for the valuation it felt different than the other “named” agents we were also talking to. His strategy for selling seemed more realistic than the others. His advice about how to stage the flat for selling felt logical, practical and in line with what we were thinking. His valuation was pragmatic and realistic.”

Review by Susanne SE22 – “We did have some initial hesitation when choosing to go with an independent agent who couldn’t give us (false) promises of having long lists of prospective buyers lined up before even signing a contract, but James won us over with his marketing and sales strategy, his energy, the glowing reviews from past clients, and the feeling that James was a straight shooter as opposed to an estate agent just telling us what he thought we wanted to hear. Choosing James was absolutely the right decision and we’d use him again in a heartbeat”.

I have some concerns about using a guide price approach, rather than typically pricing higher and allowing buyers to make lower offers.

If you saw two identical properties for sale on the same road for sale, the same size and you felt both were equal in style and decor quality, and one had an asking price of £550,000 and the other said ‘offers over’ £500,000 – which one would you want to view first?

We’re all human.  We’re attracted by things we consider better value.

However, we’re all very competitive too.  If another person wants that thing we also want, we’ll fight tooth and nail to get it.  And if that scenario above was real, the lower priced property would attract far more viewings and offers and would statistically sell for the higher price of the two.

Price to entice.  That’s the best marketing strategy. Only agents who over-value to engage clients will disagree with this statement.

Review by Ryan SE12 – “Usually, I have a few local estate agents over to give their opinion, and James is always on point with his estimated valuation however he always has a better plan than the local agents, who by comparison seem a little uninspiring. This time around was no different. He suggested I go on the market using a guide price, at a range that would capture lots of interest and within a few days he was booking over 20 viewings! I had a very strong offer within 8 or 9 days and the sale went through fairly quickly in a difficult market.”

Review by Alexis SE26 – “The house got offers on or above the asking price from near-on 100% of the  people who viewed it. We didn’t want to hang around and sold it within a few weeks, for well over the asking price. We were thrilled. Even our buyer was lovely.”

Don’t I need a ‘big name’ agent to sell my property?

You’ll get a glossy brochure with a bigger agent.  Maybe even a fancy magazine too.   But these fanciful luxuries don’t sell properties.  People do.

As a smaller agent, my focus is to be utterly honest about the steps you need to follow to make sure you get the result you’re after.

Follow my six principles and I’ll guarantee you get a great result.

Review by LM SE5 – “I recently sold a residential property in Camberwell using the Estate Agent Fish Need Water. In the past I opted for the ‘Names’ in the Estate Agent World, but unfortunately, not with any great success as they tended to overprice my property resulting in no sale, and I felt other agencies were there to sell their ‘Brand’ and not for me, therefore, I opted for a smaller, independent agency. When the Agent from Fish Need Water came to value my home, James Hall, I knew immediately that this was the agent I wanted to market my flat, because he was honest, ‘down to earth’ and had years of experience. He explained the pitfalls in over-inflating a property’s value and gave me useful comparative figures for similar properties in the area. James also helped to manage the photoshoot which facilitated excellent internal photographs.”

Review by Alexander SE4 – “In the end we accepted an offer £150,000 over the asking price and we are absolutely over the moon, as its helped with our plans enormously. You’d think he’d give up there, but no, through lockdown he was updating me, chasing the buyer, keep things moving along and even after all that, he’s helping my brother to find a rental property, going above and beyond anything I’ve experienced from estate agents in the past. I know I can call him for advice on my own purchase and he’ll be straight with me and has been all along.100% I’ll recommend him. He works hard for his clients and I wouldn’t be put off by the fact he’s a small company. He talked more sense than any of the other agents we saw from the start and true to his word, he delivered in spades.”

Review by Jonathan SE22 – “I would like to thank James and Susie for their very professional service. I had tried two large well known high-street Estate Agents with poor results and little input. As soon as I appointed fishneedwater, James was encouraging, communicative and most importantly came up with practical solutions to any difficulties. When it came to finalizing contracts Susie was also very helpful and encouraging and kept on top of the whole situation with the buyer. The team was a breath of fresh air after my experience with the larger agents who really just seemed to tick certain boxes. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to recommend James and Susie and would be very happy to use their services again.”

Review by Anna BR7 – “My agent, James Hall, sold my house within 3 weeks (we have now exchanged contracts) and kept me informed every step of the way. He conducted all the viewings himself, whatever time and whatever day, working weekends and into the evening and remained positive and cheerful throughout. I can honestly say that by going with a smaller agency, I felt as though I mattered more and the whole team couldn’t do enough. I’d also like to mention Susie Ralston, the Sales Progression Manager, who acted as a go-between during the sales process, right up to exchange who was so friendly and helpful and answered all my questions so quickly and never made me feel like a pest! Would definitely use again!”

Surely a larger agent offers a little extra service for the money?

You’d think that wouldn’t you.

But it’s simply not true at all.

I see 1.5m plus properties with 12 photos.

I see properties that are messy or where there’s been little care to prepare properly for photos.

What did these agents do here to help their clients?  If they really cared, they wouldn’t have put those adverts online, that’s for certain.

I’d say most bigger agents do a lot less than the smaller, far more passionate agents I follow on social media.  They are the guys killing it with bespoke services for their clients or creating amazing marketing. There’s not a brand name agent that gets close.

Review by Matt W SE19 – “The other service James provided us, that no-one else offered, was to assist us with buying our property. Like most buyers we don’t have lots of experience with property and we felt having an expert with inside knowledge of the market on our side would be useful. It turns out it was REALLY helpful. Firstly, he came to see the property with us that we wanted to make an offer on, then when we were dealing with the agent (and finding things difficult), he advised us to contact the owner directly (we were buying through an online agent, and he explained how the agents don’t like to get involved in time consuming negotiations, and he was right). We dealt directly with the seller and James advised us on what points we could negotiate on, and what reports and inspections to get done on the property to give us some leverage, and we ended up getting the property for nearly £20,000 less than it was advertised at and feel his help was pivotal to us achieving this result.”

Review by LH SE6 – “Once James had secured my buyer, he went far and beyond what I’d expect of any other agent I have ever used in the past. Due to my circumstances and my original seller pulling out on me, James suggested he could write to all the homeowners in the area I was looking in, targeting the very specific type of house I wanted, and after some thought I asked him to go ahead. He did exactly that and sent out over 300 letters on my behalf, not even charging me for his extra time. Because of his efforts, I’m now buying a property in the exact location I wanted and it wasn’t even on the market!!! He found me a property through his own proactive approach and has been brilliant, and I can’t believe he’s managed to do this for me, I’m so happy. James doesn’t just help you sell, but he helps you find a property too!”

Do I need an agent with a local office?

With 99.6% of buyers now looking online to find their property, the office is of little use anymore.  Not having an office in every local town hasn’t affected our results at all for years.

I regularly sell properties that aren’t close to the office address, and some of the biggest agents in the UK are online, such as The Modern House.  It certainly doesn’t affect them either.

Review Karen BR2 – “The valuation report we received from James was detailed, and he’d clearly taken a lot of time to review the market in our area. Even though his office wasn’t local, I didn’t feel it hindered him in any way, his valuation report was thorough and that gave us confidence. The fee also was very fair compared to other quotes I’d received. When James valued our house, he spent a lot more time than anyone else talking about how we should present it for images. In fact he walked through the entire house one evening where I took lots notes, he came back to review my handy work in getting our house prepared before the photographer came round. He was the only agent who suggested he’d organise dusk photographs, and we’re so happy he did as they were stunning and offered another dimension to the existing portfolio of photos. James booked viewings in the evening, and over the weekend as requested. We were pleased with the amount of interest we had in the first few weeks.”

All agents want to make sure their clients property looks its best don’t they?

Look online for the answer.

I regularly see far too many sub-standard adverts that will honestly do more damage to the owner than good.

I don’t know of ANY other agent who does what I do for my clients, in attending, styling and curating their property for images.

Review Olivia SE26 – James really stood out – not only was he passionate about our property but he had done his research before meeting us, and gave some recommendations and useful advice at our first meeting. He then came up with a strategy and plan of action to help get our property noticed. To get our property look its best for the marketing photos, he spent several hours before the photographer turned up to help us get it ready and he even stayed during the photoshoot to ensure it all went well. We didn’t expect this at all and as a result the photos looked amazing and we had enquiries the same day our property went live.”

Review Stephane DA14 – “When we first met James, he spent a lot of time with us explaining how the ‘look’ of our flat on Rightmove and Zoopla had to be right.  He spent a good while talking through the little changes we needed to make, so we could take notes, and then came back again to see what we’d done before getting the photos taken.  His attention to detail here left us realising he’s very passionate about his job and making sure he does all the right things to help us stand out online. The photos looked amazing and he also did a brilliant video too which we were really pleased with.  We were so happy he’s made us work hard to present it properly as when we saw the images it was obvious why he’ taken this much time with us.” 

If I use a guide price approach when marketing my property, buyers will always want to pay less won’t they?

Experience says this is absolutely not the case.

Buyers will always pay what they feel a property is worth, however will value it higher when there are other people wanting the same property too.

Setting a more accurate and realistic price will ALWAYS yield better results than setting an unrealistically high price.

Properties that sell more quickly statistically sell for higher prices than properties that have remained unsold for longer periods, and subsequently been reduced.

So never be afraid to market at the correct, realistic price range.

Agents have always tended to ‘embellish’ values – as they tell it how you want to hear it.  An agents market share is far more important to them than potentially losing your instruction.

Review by Nik M SE5 – “James and team were amazing. Out of all the agents we invited to appraise the property, James was the most down to earth and had the most pragmatic approach to the sale: present the property well, set a good price, generate interest, and drive the price up through competition to balance a quick sale and a good price. That’s exactly what happened, and we sold for over the asking price, which was a great result in a skittish market. To do so, James instructed us exactly how to present the property, down to the spacing of the ornaments and the arrangement of the books on the bookshelves. It never looked as good as it did in the photos they took, and the photographer was patient with us as we adjusted and readjusted for the perfect shot.”

I want an agent that will go the extra mile to make sure my sale happens!

As a smaller agent, I realise that I can’t take too much business as it would only compromise my time too much leaving me unable to do the job properly.

I also only get paid if a sale completes as I don’t have a base salary, therefore I want each sale to complete as much as my client does.

Offering unique services such as organising an interior designer consultation, styling a client’s property for photos or supplying furniture to owners with empty properties shows that I definitely am willing to do more than what’s usually expected in the industry

Review by Sarah SE4 – “In such challenging times (Brexit/Covid 19), the whole transaction took only 3 months as FNW were able to recommend a highly efficient and very reasonable conveyancing service with whom they work on a regular basis. I have nothing but praise for the staff, particularly James and Susie, who were clearly working unsociable hours (and remotely!) to try to satisfy both the buyers’ and seller’s wishes to have the sale completed before Christmas, which they did achieve. The coordination with everyone involved was orchestrated extremely well by FNW and I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone who is seeking to appoint an agent who really do what they promise. FNW are truly in a league of their own and I consider myself lucky to have come across such a highly motivated team. Thank you so much to all at FNW for your outstanding service over the past decade.”

Review by Gurpreet SE15 – “James and his team were very responsive. We had a number of views, even on weekends and late in the evenings.  They always provided us with feedback which a lot of other agents didn’t do. Susie from sales progression was very helpful worked really hard to keep things moving and provided us with regular updates on the progress of our sale.
Out of all the agents, James and Susie worked harder than any other agent to get our sale through. We’re so happy after nearly 2 years trying with other agents that we can move on with our lives

Review by Nik M SE5 – “When it came to progressing the sale after the offer was agreed, Susie and the team at the office did a great job, pushing the vendors while my conveyancer kept the pressure on their solicitors. Communication was great throughout the whole process, with emails and messages getting a response right away, and James always available at the end of the phone, right up to the day of completion.”

Review by Eva SE22 – “We even spoke on weekends and Sundays when I had further questions about the property! He was really friendly and supportive throughout the process, which when buying can be a very stressful and daunting experience. There were delays with the bottom of the chain at my end and James and Lorraine did everything they could to support with that aspect too, even though it wasn’t their responsibility at all! They were really efficient and supportive, and I am genuinely grateful for their help throughout. It felt like a family service and having previously bought” through larger agencies, I would now think twice, the amount of help I got was incomparable!

Other agents have said to market my property as it is while you have suggested making some upgrades!

This is one is a real bugbear for me.

I’m always totally honest about what my clients need to do.

If anyone ever tells you ‘you don’t need to do that, it’ll make no difference, you’ll get the same price without it’ then please do stop and think for a moment.

Would you pay the same price for a property knowing there’s money you need to spend?  I doubt it.

How do you know an estate agent is lying?  Their lips moved.  An old industry joke.

Luckily, not all agents are the same.

Even something as simple as de-cluttering a property can add several thousands in premium.  A re-paint can add as much as a £10,000 premium for you.

Review by Joe BR2 – 2 In my seventeen years experience of buying and selling property in London, I can truly say James is the best agent I have come across in that time. Usually estate agents tell you what you want to hear in order to win the business. I listed my house, being a former rental, with two of the biggest agents in London. One achieved just three viewings in two months. The other pushed to drop the price almost immediately and I received one derisory offer a full 60K below the list price. Accepting this offer would have effectively left me in negative equity. Needless to say my opinion of estate agents was at an all time low!I was introduced to James through a mutual contact and I was very impressed from the start. In a Frank and constructive manor, James pointed out the error of my ways and why I wasn’t achieving true market value. James encouraged and inspired me to improve the property through a refurbishment. I had a limited budget and James understood this helping me source the right trades people, the colour schemes and furnishings finding a fair few bargains along the way! James was always on the end of the phone giving advice and making regular visits to monitor the progress. It was a stress free process, took a month and cost just over 10K (this included a complete new kitchen). The quality of the works was fantastic and James’ project management took the stress out of the equation. We then listed and two weeks later I accepted an offer 10K over the list price, a full 70K more than the first offer received through the other agent. This is a life changing result for me and I cannot thank James enough.”

If you get commission all agents are aiming to get the best result, Surely?

If an agent charges 1.5% plus vat, and they pay their sales negotiator 10% commission, if he/she sells your property at £50,000 below the asking price, that negotiator loses £75 in commission.  You’ve lost £50,000 in your head, however.

Do I believe a sales person would care about losing £75, against losing the sale entirely and the remaining £300 in commission?

It’s why I’ve had so many people over the years tell me they felt their agent was working to get the deal agreed rather than working to get the best price.

As a rule, I like to agree a fee on a sliding scale.  A motivator for doing brilliantly, because every salesperson likes to have the proverbial carrot dangled.

An agent who wants the best result, will tell you how they intend to do this.  They will have a plan from the outset of what they’re aiming to achieve.  They will execute this plan.

Review by Peter SE4 – “I met initially with James and Darien after fishneedwater were recommended to me by a good friend who had an excellent result and experience with this relatively new Company. My first impressions were that they were unlike any other agent I’d met before. They didn’t wear suits, though were impeccably presented, and came across more down to earth and communicative, taking more interest in what my plans were. We agreed a fee structure that although was unusual, clearly was a motivator for their agency to work hard and sell my property for the best price possible. During their marketing, they didn’t do one open day, but more like four or even five and after each one managed to obtain a higher offer for me, which I was delighted with. Even after I agreed to accept an offer, Darien persuaded me to allow him to do more viewings and actually was right as I got a much higher offer. Over all the experience with the guys was fantastic and they always kept me informed and were open and honest with me. I recommend this unusually named business highly, and would most certainly tell anyone to give them a try, they certainly exceeded my expectations. I would have no hesitation using their services again.”