How best to conduct a viewing

Michael Clark shares his 35 years of experience on how to make the most of showing off your property


When I am out on a market appraisal, having completed my inspection of the property and returned to sit down with my potential client, with a nice cup of coffee and, at this time of year, possibly even a warmed mince pie, one of the subjects that is always much discussed is how best to conduct viewings.


The first question that people almost always ask is, should the agent show people around or is it better if the owners themselves do it.  Often I hear people say “well you’re the expert, so I think its best left to you”.  The truth is that, when showing somebody around a property, you are not really trying to sell it, rather making the experience as pleasant and informative as possible, in order to show the property off in its true light.  The estate agent’s role is two-fold:  first to attract people to come to look at the property, and this is through the marketing material such as photographs, website description, brochures, etc; once someone is interested,  the second part is to achieve the best possible sale price for the vendor.  The part which neither agent nor vendor can do is to tell people whether they want to buy the property, once they have seen it.


Therefore, one must decide, is the property going to be shown off in its best light by the owners showing people around, or the agent?  Sadly, there is no right or wrong answer here.  My own opinion is that, in many instances, the owners are best, for two reasons.  Firstly, however hard an agent like myself tries, every five minutes a question comes up that I am unable to answer.  In a nutshell “what is it like to live here?”  Secondly, as I stand expanding the virtues of the property itself and the area, I can see in people’s eyes the thought “bloomin’ old agent, he would say that, wouldn’t he”, whereas the owners themselves can come across as more genuine in telling the viewers how easy it is to get to the motorway, or how excellent the local primary school is, etc..


Nevertheless, I would temper the above by saying that, if you are not comfortable accompanying viewings yourself, or simply hate doing it, this will come across and you should, in that instance, ask the agent to do it for you.  A good compromise that we like to follow is that we carry out the first viewings, but a cup of tea of coffee with the owner afterwards often throws up a discussion that can help the negotiation move forward.


If the agent is conducting viewings, it is essential that the person doing it is both familiar with the property itself and also knows the area well.  Often, the most important “added value” that someone accompanying a viewing can provide is information about the local area.  Viewers can see the property itself and will decide whether or not they like it for themselves, but, if they are not local, what they may be unfamiliar with is the various attractions and advantages of the local area. It is vital that these are pointed out during the first viewing.


As an illustration of the point, I do recall a rather embarrassing incident many years ago, when I worked for another national agent, out of this area.  At short notice I was asked to accompany a viewing of a very substantial country house that I had never visited myself.  The viewer was a wealthy Middle Eastern gentleman who was to arrive by helicopter at an allotted time. Realising that I needed to do my homework first, I went to the property early in order to look around the house before said gentleman arrived.  Having inspected the outside first, before I had no chance to go into the house, there was the helicopter coming in to land on the front lawn.  I had no choice but to bluff. Striding into the reception hall, I began to feel quite self-satisfied that I had got away with it, as we marched confidently through the drawing room, into the sitting room and on into the grand dining room.  There I saw a door in the corner of the room, with an elaborate architrave and guessed that this would be the entrance into another fine reception room.  As I opened the door towards myself, allowing my customer to look through first, I saw him looking puzzled.  As I waited for the impact, he simply levelled a suspicious stare at me; “this is a cupboard, Mr Clark”.


One of the more important pieces of advice I have for people accompanying viewings is, try not to talk too much.  Whilst, of course, you must be friendly and helpful, every time you are talking the viewer is concentrating on you, rather than the property.  There is no need to state the obvious, but again, try to work out the things that they may not know which might attract them to the property.  My own technique is to tell people, as soon as they arrive, that I am going to show them around the house and the grounds reasonably quickly and then, if they wish, they are free to wander about again on their own and that there is no rush at that point.  By this method they know what’s coming and don’t think that they are being rushed in the first instance, as they realise they will have the opportunity to have a second tour and talk amongst themselves. 


Once a viewing has been conducted we usually deliberately leave following it up for about 48 hours as people need a little time to reflect before giving their decision and also I think, psychologically, it is helpful if they ring us, rather than the other way round, which indicates genuine interest.  Then we feed back the response to our clients, even if it is not all positive, so they can build up a picture for themselves of how people are reacting to their property.