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By Phil Spencer

Founder, Move iQ


Phil Spencer advises agents: Save A Sale, Restore A Reputation!

There may well have been times in recent weeks when any agent would have been forgiven for wanting a break - the workload has been exhausting, as it has been for everyone in the property transaction business.

However the one break agents want to avoid, whatever the state of the market, is when a vendor turns around and withdraws their property. 

It’s a blow to the agent who will have spent time and money marketing it and handling viewings, and don’t forget it will be a blow of sorts to the seller too. After all, we’ve been saying for months how hot the market has become, yet for whatever reason their property has not sold. 


Yet there may be ways of turning this defeat into a victory. It’s not guaranteed, but maybe - just maybe - an agent can turn it around by changing approach. Critically, the starting point for all this is to be conciliatory and find out why it’s happening.

It’s important to take a withdrawal on the chin - at the very least, you don’t want negative word of mouth to circulate about how in the busiest market for years an agent and vendor couldn’t seal the deal. But even if you disagree with the reason for the withdrawal, it’s key to discover the thought processes of the seller.  

You may already have your suspicions about why a property has not sold. It is over-priced by an inflexible seller? Has it been poorly presented for reasons outside your control? Or is there a fundamental problem that’s surfaced at survey?

Whatever YOU think the reason behind the withdrawal, it’s vital to allow the vendor to say their piece. They may feel the marketing has been weak, the photos uninspiring or the communications lacking. Might they have a point? At the very least, you should use their concerns as a peg for a fight back - can you do something even at this late stage to address their concern and restore their confidence? 

Using the information from the vendor you can put forward new strategies, embracing ideas of your own and addressing the reasons for withdrawal. Of course you will have thought of at least some of these, but here’s a checklist to consider.

  • Images and Movement. It’s highly likely you’ve already suggested new photographs to refresh the details on your own website and the portals, but how about a virtual tour or a fly-through? These are not revolutionary ideas but I was struck by a story recently on Estate Agent Today suggesting that only four per cent of properties listed on Rightmove and Zoopla included virtual tours - just at the time this sort of technology has come into its own.

  • Staging The Property: This is a normal tactic for agents and sellers at the high end of the market, where if a property is empty or has less-than-inspiring fixtures and fittings, a so-called ‘house doctor’ is given a small budget to temporarily hire just the right furniture to make the property Instagram-perfect. I know from first hand experience viewing thousands of homes that a well-presented property is more appealing than an empty one. 

  • Broader Marketing: Would local advertising be important? While around 95 per cent of property searches start online, some sellers want to see their home ‘bigged up’ in print - a handsome local ad for a few hundred pounds could be a way of securing commission worth 10 or 20 times that amount, plus recommendations from a happy vendor.  

  • A Change of Viewing: Covid restrictions do not yet allow ‘old style’ mass open viewings but arranging several viewings at half-hourly intervals one morning - with prospective buyers personally invited by the agent - could engender a buzz and competitive bidding. 

  • More Technology? It may well be that the price point of the property, or your own busy-ness at the time of the original instruction, meant you had not explained what tools you have in your agency armoury. Whether it’s a drone, listing on all four portals now dominating the industry, or offering the vendor a digital dashboard on which to track a sale, now is the time to wheel them out!

  • Price Change: This demands maximum persuasion and is not suitable for every vendor, but why not take a counter-intuitive approach? In today’s market buyers expect to be surprised at high asking prices - so try an unexpectedly lower price in anticipation of competitive bids above and beyond that asking figure. The vendor can reject all the offers if they fail to meet a threshold, but may be surprised if rival buyers ultimately offer an acceptable sum.

  • An Alternative To Private Treaty Sales: Some agencies now have links with digital auctions, collectively called the Modern Method of Auction. Rightmove and Zoopla both offer this, as do some agency trade groups, but it’s all still in its infancy. Most vendors probably associate auctions with smoke-filled rooms and houses with flaws selling for below-market prices so you’ll need to be persuasive. MMA claims to be a success with the main online platform selling over 3,250 homes this way in 2020. Controversially, MMA fees are charged to the buyer, so this may be an option which some sellers warm to. 

Can any or all of these guarantee you can rescue the withdrawal? Of course not. There are no guarantees.

With Covid looking like a long-running aspect of our lives, many people will be reconsidering their future, and some withdrawals will be because life-plans have changed: you can do little or nothing about that.

But if the autumn turns out to be less busy than this summer, going the extra mile now to resuscitate almost-lost business may prove invaluable. 

And as a bonus, think of the word of mouth praise from the vendor you bring back on board: “I’d almost jumped ship but then the agent did this...”

*Phil Spencer is a presenter, author, businessman and property investor. Phil’s consumer advice platform Move iQ, is a website, YouTube channel and podcast. Each preserve and reflect the same impartiality that consumers trust and base their property moving plans. Coming soon: Move iQ Pro, Phil’s resource to support the property community. Stay tuned ready for launch!

  • Andrew Stanton PROPTECH-PR A Consultancy for Proptech Founders

    Actually Phil, it is usually perceived indifference, that cuts the tie between agent and vendor. And it amazes me that no proptech genius has written some software to overcome this PI problem. A vendor might get 20 calls from an agent booking viewings plus giving feedback, but when is there a call to monitor how things are going, a call to allow both sides to sum up how it is working out? Although PI causes the rift, many agents also feel that to continue with a non selling vendor is something akin to a toxic relationship, better to move on.

  • Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    Better to ensure that your stock IS committed to a sale in the first instance and then ask them to get involved with preparation for the transaction to proceed. Build a working relationship.

    Unfortunately, more agents are sadly looking for tech to solve some issues, when actually, getting back to the basics of customer service on the phone and actually talking to clients is what is required.
    Building relationships, taking some time to get to know your clients. So much feedback can be received from a friendly chat of an evening.

    This was my job. Not a Neg or a valuer. I could get an overview of service delivery and client expectations being exceeded or fallen short of.

    Don't wait for the vendor to have let a grievance fester for so long that they call out of the blue to withdraw, that's insane. It should never get to that stage.

    Static stock levels are at a low so this is not unmanageable. Agents should be able to clearly identify which vendors need a hug and which ones will be happy.


    Great post, no matter how clever 'proptech' can get, it can never replace the human touch. Property is unequivocally a people business, use some proptech sure but never lose focus humans have the best skill set for agency.


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