What's it really like?
I spoke to Laurie Woolmer about working as an estate agent.Although I went to University I knew that I never wanted to have an academic job. I funded my studies through numerous sales jobs and I knew when I left University this would be my career path. I tried working as a charity seller on the street and working door-to-door for the first summer after I left University, which were some of the hardest jobs I have ever had although they taught me excellent selling skills; if you can do those jobs you can sell anything! A family friend, who was an estate agent, suggested that I could earn a lot of money selling houses so I shadowed him for a few days and immediately started applying for jobs. My previous selling experience definitely acted in my favour and the interviews confirmed that this was the right job for me.
I wanted to work for a larger company as I knew the opportunities would be better for me. I applied to some of the major London based companies, and in the end chose Atis Real due to the diversity of its departments and its country-wide status. I have been working for the company for nine months now and have loved every minute of it. Being based in London the types of properties we get to sell are so diverse, and it's great not having to spend all my time in an office. I meet different people every day, yet you get the opportunity to build up a rapport and relationship with your clients as they need to be able to trust you.
I enjoy dealing with property and I hope to stay in this market. Although the job is currently still fresh for me I have identified that I enjoy the surveying side of it and can see this as a potential career progression for me.
An estate agent is responsible for selling houses to prospective buyers, as well as being the port-of-call for those wanting to sell their property.
The buying and selling of property is a process in constant flux, which needs to be controlled and aided by an estate agent. These agents help people sell their properties, providing them with potential buyers, and offer those looking to buy a range of available houses from which they can choose.
The basic salary for a trainee is around £12,000 to £15,000, plus commission which depends on how successful they are at the job. This can rise to £30,000, plus commission. Larger companies, mainly based in London where house prices are much higher, can offer a much larger salary, often around £50,000.
- The agent will view the house that is going to be put on the market, collecting information about it and taking photos to be used for the prospectus. Included in this process is the provision of an estimated value for the house. Other home inspectors may need to be employed at this point for specialist properties.
- Next the agent will compile a prospectus for the house, including details about each of the rooms in the house, land that surrounds it and any planning permission that the house includes. The property will then be put on the agents’ “books” so that it is available to buyers.
- The agent is then responsible for marketing and promoting that property, matching it to the needs of prospective buyers and making sure that it is advertised suitably. The agent will take potential buyers to view the property, when they will have to promote it as much as possible, drawing attention to its special and attractive features.
- Once a buyer has been found the agent will have to make sure that an agreed price, which is acceptable to both parties, is established. This will often be a time of extensive negotiation and the agent will represent the seller.
- The agent needs to keep up to date with properties that are available on the market, and what trends are prevalent. If a potential buyer approaches the agent they need to be able to recommend houses which fit their needs.
- The agent will advise their clients which properties they should make an offer on.
- When the buyer finds a suitable house the agent will represent them as the sale proceeds, especially for surveying and negotiating the price.
There are no set qualifications essential for this job; the employer will be more interested in the skills and experience of the applicant (see below). If you wish to undertake some formal qualifications, the NVQ levels 2 and 3 in Sale of Residential Property are seen as an advantage. The National Federation of Property Professionals (NFOPP) provides some Technical Awards at Level 3. The four main awards offered are:
- Sale of Residential Property
- Commercial Property Agency
- Residential Letting and Property Management
- Real Property Auctioneers
Some companies will provide their employees with the opportunity to train for some of these qualifications whilst working for them.
The NFOPP also offers Level 5 Diploma courses in:
- Commercial Property Agency
- Residential Estate Property
- Residential Letting and Property Management
The qualifications NFOPP website provides more information on these.
The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), which is a subsection of the NFOPP, also provides some courses. The most popular of these is the Certificate of Practice in Estate Agency, but there are some other short courses also available.
Excellent written and communication skills are needed; estate agency is a sales job so you must be able to place the property in the best light possible through the use of both the written and spoken word. Negotiation skills are also vital, as many potential buyers clients will try to reduce the price. An interest in the property and housing market is essential, as is a good business sense as well as excellent computer skills. You must have a friendly yet professional attitude, be trustworthy and have excellent time-keeping skills. Many companies will set targets for their employees, so you must thrive in a competitive atmosphere and be able to work under pressure.
The work of an estate agent is varied so that only around half of their working life will be spent in the office. A great deal of this time will be spent with clients, discussing their needs or showing them houses that have recently come on the market. Trips to houses to make initial valuations and to show people around the property provide a stimulating environment away from the office. Due to the nature of the job, a great deal of driving is included and the company will usually provide a car for this reason.
The average working week is between 35 and 40 hours, although this can vary greatly according to the employer. Hours are not usually set, although the office will usually open for business at around 9 a.m. The estate agent may need to show houses outside office hours to fit in around the commitments of the client. Most Estate Agents open on Saturdays, so the agent will usually have to work one or more weekends in the month.
Experience is often viewed as more important than qualifications in this industry, thus joining the company at a lower level, such as an administrator or secretary, and then working up to becoming an estate agent is often possible. If you show enthusiasm and a desire to learn whilst occupying a lower position in the company, the employer may give you the opportunity to accompany them on viewings and later do some of your own. This can lead to a promotion.
Other experience in sales is seen as a great benefit. Some knowledge of the housing market would be an advantage, but, if you can show that you have sales experience, lack of this knowledge will usually be overlooked.
Most cities and towns in the country have a selection of Estate Agents, some which are private and others that are large chains with branches across the country.
Major companies include
One of the possibilities for successful estate agents is to open their own agency. This takes a lot of capital to set up though, and with a great deal of other companies also selling houses, smaller agencies are not always guaranteed to last.
Some estate agents decide to train to become a surveyor after the experience provided in this field in their current job. Many of the major Estate Agents will often have a surveying department within their company which makes this progression even easier. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors offers more information about potential jobs in this area.