By Nick Churton, Chairman, The Mayfair Office

Good estate agency is about understanding the needs of people and the talent to translate that understanding into effective action. It is about unsurpassed local knowledge and a deep appreciation of how property can meet people’s needs.

The best estate agent is someone that understands the importance of accurate pricing and has the skill to place each property on to the market at precisely the right time and at exactly the correct price level.

This ability is not gained through the smooth advertising and publicity generated from a centralised marketing department. It is gained through hard-fought front office years of relevant market experience, countless successful sales and a few hard knocks: all brought about through a unique combination of training, experience, talent and relentless pursuit in the cause of a client’s best interests above their own.

Some people choose an estate agent on the basis of the highest valuation, others on the cheapest commission. Surprise, surprise, estate agents know this, so some value high to gain the instruction and some lower their fee to attract business because they aren’t quite good enough to compete on service. Both are best avoided. You don’t want your most valuable asset being handled by a desperate and often inexperienced operator with little or no confidence.

As Charles Dickens said, “ Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence.” Sometimes the best advice does not come in the flashiest wrapping. If you are talking to agents about the sale of your property ask how long they have worked in the area and how well they know their patch. Ask how many property booms and busts they have worked through and, most importantly, what they learnt from them. Finally ask them how many similar properties to yours they have sold over the years and - a crucial question this - how many they have sold recently. A wise seller needs sage advice based on experience and know-how. Sellers will need the services of those who offer their clients skill and candour as well as respect - not the scant attentions of those who regard other people’s homes simply as commission-generating units of residence, or as another tick on the office dry-board score sheet. The knack of choosing an estate agent is to listen out for the voice of experience and try not to be lured by style over substance.