Estate Agent jobs and Careers
They may be the butt of many jokes, but many estate agents find their careers incredibly rewarding.
This is a varied job, divided between office work and visiting locations. The variety of sites and people involved mean that this is a job where days are rarely the same.
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An estate agent works for an agency involved in selling, renting or managing buildings, land and properties. This involves valuing and marketing the relevant properties, preparing legal documentation to support the sale or lease, and liaising with financial institutions and other agencies during the process. Here, we look at careers in these three key areas of estate agency: residential sales, residential lettings and property management.
Overview: Residential Sales
An estate agent sales negotiator initially prepares a fair market value for the seller of a house or property, usually competing with two or three other agencies with the aim of securing the job. Their fee will be a stated percentage of the final sale price. If the seller enters a sales contract with them, the agent will then put together a marketing plan for the house.
This will involve advertising the property and indicating its strengths, such as location, state of repair and likely market value. Measurements and details are noted and photographs are taken. The properties are advertised through the agency's own websites, on shared websites and via newspaper advertising.
Availability of public amenities in the area is important, such as shops, schools and recreational facilities, transport connections, etc. The sales negotiator also has to know the potentially negative aspects, such as development plans for the locality. This means being fully aware of the local market, as well as knowledgeable about market trends in general.
The negotiator will then respond to enquiries from prospective buyers and, when requested, shows them around the property. If a prospective buyer is interested in purchasing the property, the agent will assess their financial ability to meet the price. They then negotiate between buyer and seller, property surveyors, mortgage brokers and solicitors, regards price and sale date.
Once the sale is made, the estate agent's fee is drawn from the funds before they are paid on to the seller. If the sale fails, for whatever reason, the agent does not receive their fee.
Estate agents also perform other roles associated with the sale. They may assist in finding finance for buyers in the form of mortgages - there is usually a specialist financial services representative on the agency's staff.
The degree to which the individual professional's role is defined varies according to the size of the agency. Sellers and buyers may also wish to rent out properties, so agents in smaller businesses may handle different areas of work, while in larger agencies, different staff are responsible for the various areas.
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Overview: Residential Lettings
Estate agency lettings negotiators handle the leasing of residential property to tenants. In these cases, they earn fees according to the level of service provided to property owners: in some cases, they only find the tenants, whereas in the majority, they find tenants, collect the deposit and rent, organise repairs and conduct inspections.
The lettings negotiator who only introduces a tenant will charge the landlord a percentage of the total rent over the tenancy period. Paid in advance, this fee is usually 7-12.5%. For managing the property and tenancy throughout the period, the agent usually charges a monthly commission of 7-12.5%. Additionally, they frequently charge prospective tenants a processing fee for their application.
As with estate agents who sell houses, lettings negotiators need to visit and assess the property. Importantly, they need to ensure that all legal health and safety requirements are met. They then take photos and measurements to write a description that will sell it to tenants. The lengths to which they go when doing this often depends on the rental value of the property in question and the likelihood of it renting out swiftly. In areas of high demand, properties will be let very quickly, so little effort is required.
Rental properties are advertised through the agency's own websites, on shared websites and via newspaper advertising. Viewings are arranged which, depending on the demand for the property or area, are either for individual tenants or group 'open house' viewings. Applications are invited from all who are interested.
Tenants may be appointed on a first-come, first-served basis, or be selected due to owner preferences. Once a tenant is provisionally selected, the details of their application need to be checked. The lettings negotiator takes up tenant references from previous landlords and employers. They'll check proof of identity and bank statements. They might run a credit check on the applicant with one of the UK credit check providers.
If the tenant comes through this vetting without problem, and is approved of by the property owner, the agent draws up tenancy agreement contracts and organises bank transfers. They will then collect a deposit from the tenant as well as the first month or two months' rental payments.
Overview: Property Management
Property managers working in estate agents do more than handle residential lettings. They normally handle larger rental properties, such as commercial office buildings, or rural estates with a variety of tenancy interests. The property manager is responsible for overseeing maintenance as well as tenancies. Interests may be as diverse as community assets or agricultural production.
They handle the accounts and finances of the property, undertaking all liaisons with tenants, contractors and insurers. This may include legal proceedings in relation to non-payment and evictions, or public nuisance problems. Property managers need to be knowledgeable about relevant law.
The kind of property management undertaken varies considerably from agency to agency, depending on the type of clients they are associated with and the nature of the geographical area.
Other Jobs in Estate Agencies
As well as the above, positions in estate agencies include branch manager and assistant branch manager, acquisitions negotiator, sales progressor, mortgage advisor, mortgage consultant, lettings administrator, sales administrator and secretary.
Would This Kind of Work Suit You?
What Is Required for Estate Agency Work?
Customer focus is crucial. A confident and outgoing manner, couple with excellent communication skills, is needed, as these jobs involve a high level of contact with people. There are times when clients are under stress, so diplomacy is essential.
An awareness of marketing techniques helps with identifying and describing the selling points of properties. IT skills should be solid, as marketing is increasingly an online activity.
Persuasive negotiation skills are valuable. A logistical approach and problem-solving skills are also important, as there are invariably obstacles to overcome in the sales negotiation and closing stages. Patience and determination are needed in equal measure, with the ability to withstand the failed sales when they happen.
Numeracy and the ability to understand finance arrangements are essential. Attention to detail is needed, given the high level of office-based work involving documentation.
A commercial awareness is required as this is a competitive profession. As well as being self-motivated enough to survive in a commission-based role in a competitive environment, they need to show integrity, as they are working in a field bound with regulation.
Is it Worth It?
Most estate agents, whether involved in sales, lettings or property management, work for private estate agencies, whether single branch, a few branches or multi-branch companies. Larger agencies usually have specialist divisions, whether commercial or rural, corporate or residential.
During property sale slowdowns, jobs are obviously fewer and harder to come by. During a recession, there are more vacancies in residential lettings than any other area. During upturns in the market, vacancies in sales increase.
Estate agency salaries are usually structured like sales salaries, comprising a basic salary and an OTE (On-Target Earning) commission based on sales. Staff are given targets to reach. Starting salaries for trainees are usually £10,000-£20,000 OTE, rising to £25,000-£55,000 plus OTE for experienced staff.
While some agencies are undoubtedly more sales driven than others, others are more concerned with their reputation. Not all are fiercely competitive environments to work in.
Training for the Estate Agent Jobs
Personality and your approach to work are more important for trainee jobs than specific qualifications. However, some experience or education will clearly help. One distance learning opportunity is for a Diploma in Property Management accredited by the National Association of Estate Agents (www.naea.co.uk).
Apprenticeships are also available in estate agency, under the title (in England) of Property Services. These are usually NVQs, with training divided between the workplace and lecture room.
For employment with estate agents that have a high Internet presence, strong Internet skills will help. Training in CMS (content management systems), creating virtual tours and digital photography will make applicants more attractive.
Many smaller agencies advertise locally for people with the right kind of qualifications, who also have a good local knowledge. This means it may be worth making direct approaches to local agencies. Another option is to check local recruitment agencies, as many estate agencies use them.
Some of the larger firms have graduate trainee schemes. Some prefer property-related degrees, although plenty of others don't.
For would-be property managers, degrees can be in estate management, building surveying or construction management.
Some firms only recruit graduates who have done a property-related degree but this isn't always the case. Many firms only expect to see property related degrees for senior management positions. Business or management studies are considered valuable.
Once in post, property managers may be encouraged to gain accreditation with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).