“ Estate Agent. „
As anyone who has ever done it will tell you, selling a house is not fun. The whole process seems designed to make money for everyone but you. One of the first stages in selling your house is, of course, to choose an Estate Agent to represent you. Heres my experiences with Tabern Estate Agents in St Helens, Merseyside.
Tabern Estate Agents are a small firm, owned and run by the husband and wife team of John and Grace Tabern. Situated on the outskirts of St Helens town centre, they are slightly out of the way of the main drag of estate agents, which are mostly on one street. They are also relatively new firm, set up a few years ago. This was a factor in my decision to sell my house with them. I felt it would mean that I would be more important to them as a customer. With large firms, you sometimes feel you are just a number with a smaller, family run firm, they are far more dependent on getting your house sold, so that they can get their commission. As a result, they try harder. Happily, this proved to be the case.
My initial contact with Tabern was incredibly impressive. Due to personal circumstances, it was difficult for me to phone during the day to make appointments for valuation. As a result, I phoned a number of estate agents at night and left messages for them to ring me back. I contacted Tabern at 8.10pm one Tuesday night. Ten minutes later, they rang me back to arrange an appointment! This level of service really got things off to a great start and gave Tabern the edge straight away. In fact, I subsequently found out that they work seven days a week between 8am and 9pm, so if, like me, you find it hard to get in touch during the day, you can arrange to speak to them in the evenings.
Despite this impressive start, before I selected Taberns as my agent, I got several agents to come around to value my house and discuss how they would go about selling it. It was an eye opening experience! Both the values and the level of service varied massively in one case, there was a £30,000 difference in the valuation of one agent over another (on a relatively low price property). Some agents were very punctual and happy to discuss my questions, others turned up late (one national high street company turned up over 50 minutes late, with no apology, spent less than two minutes in the house before shoving some papers at me and leaving; another decided to alter the time of the appointment by over an hour, without actually asking me was that OK!). Some were friendly, spending 20-30 minutes or more discussing how they would set about marketing the properties, others seemed to want to just give me the valuation and run.
Tabern were the very model of professionalism. About five minutes before they were due to arrive, they phoned to say they had got slightly held up. Envisaging another wasted hour waiting in for them, I asked how late they were likely to be about five minutes, they said we just wanted to let you know we hadnt forgotten. It was nice that they had bothered to let me know they would be even slightly late when some other companies had just turned up when they felt like it.
They also were happy to discuss how they would go about marketing the property, gave advice on little things I might do to make the house more appealing and asked permission to take some photographs there and then, so that if I did decide to go with them, they could the ball rolling more quickly. Again, other estate agents has simply taken photographs without asking (OK, I dont really mind, but its the principle!), others said theyd come back to do it if I decided to go with them.
As mentioned above, the valuations on the property differed, but Tabern gave a valuation which most closely matched the figure I had in mind one designed for a quickish sale, but a fair market price. Importantly (for me), they were not at all pushy. They explained their contract clearly, then left me with the paperwork so that I could read through it and sign and return it if I went with them. Again, other agents were far more pushy, more or less demanding I sign the contract on the spot or refusing to leave it with me to read. One agent was even on the phone less than 2 hours after they had visited, demanding to know if I had made up my mind yet! With Tabern, there was no pressure and I was allowed to make my mind up in my own time.
The fees Tabern charge are also lower than every other estate agent in the area. When I signed the contract, most of the other agents were charging 1.75% or even 1.99%, Tabern charge a fee of 1.25%. Now, obviously, this is still a large amount of money to pay, given todays stupid house prices, but wouldnt you rather keep as much of the proceeds as possible, rather than pay more than you need to into the hands of an estate agent? Equally, there is the danger that you get what you pay for and this was an area of concern. However, they had impressed my so much on their valuation visit, that Id more or less already identified them as the best bet the fact they were also the cheapest was just the icing on the cake!
Tabern work in partnership with you to decide how best to sell your house. Most of the other Estate Agents who came around TOLD me how they would sell my house. Tabern told me what they did, but also made it clear that if I didnt want any of them (e.g. if I didnt want a board outside the house or the house advertised in the local paper), then all I had to do was say. Of course, they recommend you do all these things to increase your chances of selling, but they check that you are happy with their plan. Although I went with all their recommendations (you are, after all, paying them for their advice and expertise!), it was nice to note that there was a choice.
My initial impression that Tabern was a highly organised company was confirmed when they started trying to sell my house. I signed the contract late on a Saturday afternoon. By 9.30am on Monday (i.e. the next working day), the For Sale board was up outside my house; on Wednesday my house appeared in the next edition of the local paper. Some estate agents had told me it might take 7-10 days to get a board up and up to a month to get the house in the paper! The property was on the Tabern website and the Fish4Homes website (they also now advertise on Rightmove) within 48 hours as well. In addition, the property was advertised every week in the paper. Again, this is the advantage of going with a smaller firm with a more limited portfolio other, larger firms told me that the house would probably be advertised every three or four weeks.
The other point on which they were efficient was in relation to arranging viewings and this was due to my slightly peculiar arrangements. As I had started a new job, I was living in one place during the week and returning home at weekends. I asked them to contact me for any weekend viewings and my parents (who live in the same town) for weekday viewings. Most of the other estate agents had real problems with this either they wanted written confirmation that they were allowed to deal with my parents, or they just couldnt understand who they were supposed to ring when! Tabern got it straight away and stuck to it. This may only be a small point and unique to my particular circumstances, but once again, it demonstrates their efficiency and attention to detail.
Taberns staff were extremely friendly and polite. Whenever they contacted you, they actually made you feel like a valued customer, rather than just someone they had to deal with. In particular, John and Grace - the owners - were extremely friendly. Whenever you had to call into the office, they would give the impression that there was nothing they would like to do more than sit and chat with you about pretty much anything. They would remember tiny personal details (your interests etc.) and ask you about those. Once again, it made you feel like they actually cared about you as an individual customer, rather than just someone who was going to pay them money!
Viewings wise, Tabern were excellent at getting people round the property. They clearly knew their market and targeted people who exactly matched the profile of the house. Virtually everyone that came round said they were looking for a house in that exact area. By the time the house had been on the market for a week, there had already been 10 viewings and one offer pretty good going in a market which was showing signs of slow down! When the offer, unfortunately, fell through, Tabern re-doubled their efforts to sell the house placing it as their Property of the Week in that weeks advert in the local paper and moving the details back into their shop window. I really couldnt fault their efforts to get it sold.
Perhaps the one downside to going with a smaller firm was that they preferred you, where possible, to do the viewings yourself as they do not have a staff large enough to do viewings themselves. Obviously, when an estate agent accompanies a viewing, they know the bits to talk up and what to say in response to particular questions. However, to be honest, I preferred to do the viewings myself anyway, rather than have a load of strangers walking round my house, so this wasnt much of a problem for me.
Communication & Feedback
Tabern were also very good at keeping you up-to-date with what was happening. Every month, they sent through a printed report detailing how many times the property details had been viewed on their website, how many times people had phoned up or emailed to request the details, how many times the details had been sent out, how many viewings there had been and so on. Again, this helped give you an idea of how things were progressing, and it was useful information to have. Im not sure how common it is to provide this sort of thing is, but I appreciated being kept in touch.
The downside was that there wasnt much communication after viewings as to what people thought of the house. Im not sure whether this was because people didnt provide any, or whether Tabern didnt pass it on. In fairness, I never asked for feedback either, so the blame lies just as much with me as with Tabern.
Equally, once an offer had been put in and accepted and matters were with solicitors, things went a bit quiet and there wasnt much contact. Again, in fairness, this is probably because there wasnt much to report. However, there were times when I felt a little concerned that the silence meant things had stalled and it would have been nice to receive a call every once in a while just re-assuring me that things were OK. Instead, I had to call them to check. However, given the excellent levels of service received in all other areas, this is really just a minor quibble.
Choosing an estate agent can be a bit of a lottery. Get it wrong and you can end up paying huge amounts of money for very poor service. There is no doubt that I made the right decision in choosing Tabern. From my very first contact with them, they were friendly, polite, efficient and helpful. Apart from the minor quibble over feedback (which, as I say is as much my fault as theirs), they provided an excellent service at a cheaper price than any of their competitors.
Despite what the recommendation bit at the bottom of this review might say, my experience with Tabern has been overwhelmingly positive and I would heartily recommend them to anyone looking to sell a property in the St Helens area.
Tabern Home to Home Ltd
Unit 1, YMCA Buildings
Tel: 01744 22166