Finding the right estate agent
Remember the TV advert with the glum guy who sat with his head in his hands?
The soothing voice-over went something like: " Headache? Tense, nervous headache?"
He nodded and pushed out his bottom lip like he was about to cry. "What you need," said the oh-so-soft voice, "is our leading brand over-the-counter pain remedy."
We never did discover what caused the man's tense, nervous, nightly dose of misery - but it's a fair bet he'd just put the phone down on his estate agent.
Headaches come with the territory when you move home.
Surveys regularly say moving ranks below only bereavement and divorce in the list of things that stress us out.
If you're selling your house you want to employ an estate agent who will solve your problems, not add to them.
But how do you find the right man or woman for the job?
Carl Smith, Estate Agency Manager for The Nottingham Estate Agency, knows what qualities make a great agent because he insists on them in his staff.
Here are Carl's top 10 tips for finding a diligent, efficient, property professional who won't let you down.
1. "Mystery shop" your preferred agents. Visit their branches posing as a customer looking for a home. If the staff can barely be bothered to look up from their phones, sigh and are generally unhelpful you know that's the poor level of service your potential buyers are likely to receive.
2. Walk their talk. See how many boards an agent has outside homes in your area and see how many have "sold" signs attached. That will give you a real indication of how good they are.
3. Speak to different agents. Form an impression of them. Are they on time when they visit your property? If they've been delayed, do they ring to apologise and let you know? If an agent is unreliable from the outset they are probably best avoided.
4. Don't be afraid to ask an agent questions. Find out how well they know the local area. Shops, amenities and schools are things buyers are likely to ask about. If the agent can't help, it won't nail your sale.
5. Don't be swayed by an agent who gives a sky-high valuation of your home. We all want the best possible asking price, but some agents will over-value a property just to get it on their books. When your home's not had a viewing for two months they'll say you need to be "realistic". Get several valuations, look at similar properties, and be pragmatic.
6. Do you like the man or woman who's pitching to sell your home? You don't have to be best buddies, but you do need to respect and trust them. If they wind you up on day one, you'll hate them by day 20.
7. Location, location, location isn't just an adage that applies to properties - it's an important criteria for judging an estate agency too. Look for an agent with a decent high street and online presence. It will help to put your home in the public eye.
8. Look at the small print in contracts. Are there any clauses which lock you in with a particular agent if you decide you're unhappy with them and want to take your business elsewhere?
9. Make sure your agent is a member of the National Association of Estate Agents
(NAEA). If you get into a dispute or want to complain about an affiliated agent, the NAEA - and the Property Ombudsman - can help.
10. Look at other properties the agent has on their books. If the agent specialises in multi-million-pound country manors it's unlikely they'll make selling your two-bedroom terrace a high priority. Buyers looking for a two-bedroom terrace are also less likely to pay them a visit.