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No Thrill In The Chase

I have recently moved house and all through the sale process I found I was doing all the chasing - chasing estate agents and solicitors - and getting them to talk to each other. Considering this is a service I am paying for, could you tell me if this is usual, or have I just been unlucky?

Mel McKay

Birmingham

Technically, the service that estate agents charge for is introducing a purchaser to a vendor. They're not obliged to take responsibility for the conclusion of the sale.

Having said that, you have undoubtedly been unlucky. Clearly it makes good business sense for an agent to be closely involved with a sale - after all, they will receive their commission much quicker if they are.

You can expect any reputable estate agency to adhere to minimum service standards. These will cover both marketing the property, where you can expect to be kept informed at least once a fortnight, and monitoring and pursuing the progress of each sale. After you have accepted an offer and assuming your move takes around 13 weeks - the UK average - you should expect to hear from your agent once a week at the very least.

Your solicitor will act upon the sale following your instructions, and therefore will not be as proactively involved in the sale as the agent. You should still expect him or her to contact you, particularly before contracts are exchanged and as the sale nears completion.

MUM'S THE WORD

My mother is 76 and lives in a fairly large, three bed chalet bungalow. Although the house and large garden are far too big for her to maintain, she is reluctant to move into something smaller in case she loses her "status". Could you supply me with some arguments which I can use to persuade her to move?

Mr O Maris

Pimlico, London

As a rule, members of older generations move less frequently than their younger counterparts and if your mother has been in her current property for a number of years, she may feel an emotional attachment to the house and understandably will be very reluctant to move. In her mind, moving will represent more than a simple property sale. She may feel that by moving, she will no longer be a part of the local community. She will also be used to her spacious surroundings and may not want to move to a smaller property.

This is not to say that she would not benefit by moving. If she downsized in the immediate area, she would undoubtedly release some of the capital currently tied up in the property. A smaller property would be easier to maintain and cheaper and more efficient to heat.

If she stays at the current property and does not maintain it, of course, there is a danger that the value of the bungalow will drop through neglect.

One final word on "status". If she sells the property and invests all the money in a smaller property in a more expensive area, she will effectively be maintaining her status. It might be the ideal opportunity for her to move to a different type of property, perhaps to a warden assisted property where she could enjoy the benefits of greater security.

BOARD STUPID

I have had my property valued and been offered a reduced agency fee if I have a "For Sale" board outside. I presume that this is standard practice, but is it really necessary in the current market?

Mrs H Fothergill

Vale of Glamorgan

In the current market, with plenty of purchasers after properties, a sale board is probably not absolutely necessary.

However, ask most estate agents and they will tell you that having a board outside your home is imperative.

If you have taken the decision to go to the marketplace, it shows that you are serious and it gives you maximum exposure. Your property is advertised 24 hours a day, and the board will certainly generate enquiries. Importantly, the board will be noticed by people who live in the area, from where a purchaser is most likely to emerge.

The agent will use other forms of marketing such as a window display at the office and advertisements in the local press. However, these alone are not guaranteed to reach every interested party. The addition of the board will help you reach the maximum number of people.

If you have a violent objection to a board, you obviously do not have to have one. If the agent still insists on charging a higher rate, shop around. This is a fiercely competitive market and in most areas, there is a shortage of properties to be sold. Use this to your advantage.

Answers were supplied by a panel of experts at Woolwich Property Services and Ekins, the group's surveying services subsidiary. The panel is headed by Alan Oliver, managing director of Woolwich Property Services, and will answer published queries on buying and selling, valuations, surveys, and market factors such as price trends.

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