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Ex-estate agent: 'Low pay and high pressure made me quit the sector'

An anonymous ex-estate agent has revealed how poor pay and high pressure forced them to quit the profession.

The mystery agent said he was a senior sales negotiator for a national brand with more than 100 branches in the south east of England and also worked for an independent in the home counties over a 15 year period.

Speaking to The Times newspaper last week, the unnamed interviewee disclosed how high targets and cold calls took their toll.


The agent said: “You had your targets. Every day you had to make a minimum of 50 cold calls from our database and book at least one property valuation. 

“Anyone who ever called to view a property, or to book a valuation of their home got added to the database. So someone who sold their home ten years ago would still be on the system.”

The agent said if there were 1,000 people in the system, you had to make 250 calls a week and would get sworn at or threatened with lawyers.

High business overheads were blamed for pressure to perform, with the negotiator adding that if the agency gets 1% commission, “you get 5% individually.”

The agent said: “On a £500,000 house, that’s £5,000 for the agency, with £250 for you. Excluding commission, a junior negotiator can earn a salary of £16,000 to £20,000 a year, or up to £26,000 for a senior negotiator. 

“At that agency I had to use my own car and I couldn’t claim back any mileage. 

“You work six days a week, Monday to Saturday. I’m married to a nurse and we have a child. 

“We rent a small house on the outskirts of London, and we just couldn’t make ends meet.”

The agent also said they were uncomfortable with having to refer clients to the agency’s conveyancer and described gazumping as “unethical.”

The interviewee, who isn’t identified as male or female, said: “The three branches in the south east where I worked had about 20 staff — and that year 20 people came and went. 

“Two of them just took their stuff and walked out, without giving their month’s notice. They forfeited their pay. I’ve never seen anything like it."

You can read the full article here (it will be behind a paywall for some). 

Poll: Is estate agency pay too low?


  • icon

    If you back yourself you will sack in the taking the mickey salary

  • icon

    Clearly working for the wrong company then…. Plus if your any good at what you do and have some backbone then you negotiate what you think you are worth…..

  • Michael Day

    One “side” of a story.

    Had to contact the database and create business. - what instead of sitting there waiting for the phone to ring?

    The pay structure referred to (with the exception of the car usage where I’m going to guess that employees aren’t carrying appropriate insurance and the company directors could be liable for corporate manslaughter in a terrible accident scenario)
    Is fairly standard - the employee seemingly had a basic salary, pension, holiday pay, an office to work from and a database to farm.

    The reference to gazumping is a red herring and nothing to do with referring to a preferred conveyancer.

    The company the “whistleblower” worked for isn’t named and may not have managed their team very effectively but is hardly indicative of the entire “sector”

    Guy Hodge FNAEA

    The gazumping avenue was probably pre-written by the reporter before the interview because the public love gazumping stories although the majority fail to understand what it is

    Algarve  Investor

    Could you enlighten us, Guy? I thought it was commonly agreed that it was a pretty awful practice that should be banned. Is that not the case? What benefits does it have? Surely it's a bit unethical, no?

  • Algarve  Investor

    I read the article. I appreciate that there are always two sides to the story, and this one is there to bash estate agents, who very often have an unfair reputation and are an easy punching bag.

    But equally the account given is pretty scathing, and there must at least be some truth to what is written here. Are soul-crushing cold calls really still happening in agency? Are there ridiculous targets to be met each day?

    I think we all knew about the low pay, long hours and lack of necessary qualifications, but some of the above outlined sounds so outdated.

  • icon

    Best of luck to this ex Estate Agent. I'm sure he will make a major success of the rest of his career. The Local Authority would be a good place for this person.

  • Andrew Stanton PROPTECH-PR A Consultancy for Proptech Founders

    In 1990 I had the joy of running a branch during another recession, I had two Negs, one religiously rang his applicants daily, wrote all his notes on his cardboard applicant cards and agreed three sales a week. The other Neg, mostly smoked fags, turned up late and would disappear for hours, sometimes days mostly I think to the pub or local snooker hall, but every Wednesday the end of our sales week he would produce three sales. It taught me then that targets and KPI's are important you need to have a compass for the business, but sales people are 'people' and teams are little or large families, with different characters, some sales people are just great 1:1 with the public and can close opportunities, others enjoy being more robotic.

    I read the Times article and I thought mostly that he was in the wrong job, he will find his way.

  • icon

    We have to be careful not to dismiss some very valid points within this article on the back of perceived laziness / ineptitude of one individual, or indeed dismiss the whole thing as agent bashing.

    Fees in our market are unnecessarily low, and the point is well made that increasing overheads produce pressure on managers etc in order to secure valuations and instructions irrespective of their value to the business. Owners and shareholders believe that "market share" is the panicle of success, in my view this is total nonsense if you're not making any money from that market share, or losing money and staff in pursuit of it.

    "Cold calling" the database is part of the job, and comments above are for the most part right in pointing this out. Sitting and waiting for the phone to ring after popping a listing online is perhaps the most basic level of agency, and more importantly fails to capitalise fully on the inordinate amounts of money agents spend on "lead acquisition" via the portals.

    At the end of the day, some people aren't suited for the role others are, but lets not dismiss the very real issues facing our industry, some of which are highlighted in this article

  • Kristjan Byfield

    We all know there are many agents run on simple metrics/targets- make w calls, book x viewings, get y offers and tie up z deals. It's poor but it does often work. I could never run my agency in this way or work for an agency that did.
    The fact that we still offer similar pay packages to when I started 20+ years ago is shocking. personally I'm an advocate of higher base salaries, a more rounded approach to management, with bonuses based on company performance (for us we look at both company financial targets but also our ESTAS reviews each year as a guide to customer satisfaction).
    It sounds like the employer wasn't right for him and he should have looked elsewhere sooner or explored other career opportunities in other sectors.
    I wouldn't call it damning but knowing this is still common is disappointing if nothing else.

  • Charlie Lamdin

    No one (who’s not an agent) is a greater supporter of what agents do than me. But the level of denial/delusion among most in the industry is staggering. Only the minority of forward thinking, self aware agents are being honest with themselves and adapting and modernising their culture, practices, working methods and strategy in response to the changing environment. This story represents an how an uncomfortably large portion of the industry still operates. The dynamic minority who know how to deliver will never make up for the stale majority who are responsible for the industry’s appalling reputation. The coming market challenges are going to bring a very cathartic cleansing of a lot of old businesses still wedded to their high overhead operations.

  • Samantha Sullivan

    I'm going to take a guess at the vote ending at 80% yes. High Street still out weighs self employed models and yes the pay is ridiculously low. If you are a good agent and know your worth, you should definitely entertain the self employed world. TAUK or Exp.
    I set up on my own, I have a sales manager and never been happier with just the 2 of us.


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