How to Mystery Shop your Estate Agent

How to mystery shop your Estate Agent blogpost by AshdownJones estate agents in the Lakes and Dales

The other day, in the AshdownJones’ studio, the phone rang and I answered it.

The caller was a lady called Angela, enquiring about a house we had for sale. Now, 99% of estate agents would have simply taken Angela’s name and address, possibly her phone number and email, and popped the brochure in the post to her. And that would be the end of the call.

We know this, because we’ve tested other agents, hundreds of times.  More on that later.

So why isn’t this enough? Surely all Angela wanted was the brochure, after all?

Some buyers do call and ask for a property brochure, and want nothing more.

But Angela wasn’t one of them. I asked a few questions about her situation, and it all came out. How her father lived in Ambleside, so she wanted to be closer to him. How she was sick of the rat race in Surrey, commuting every day. How she wanted a better life for her children, and herself. We talked about private schools, yoga classes, and the best kind of dog to get for family walks. We discussed dog-friendly pubs, book clubs and freelance working. And of course, we talked about the property she had asked about, and many others besides.

In total, Angela and I chatted for over half an hour.

When she did view the house she’d originally asked about, it turned out not to be suitable, and she went on to buy a house through a different estate agent.

We were happy for her. Finding her perfect home was the best outcome for everyone.

So why do estate agents try to rush people off the phone when they call about a property? We know they’re busy, but surely their most important job is to sell homes?

Our mystery shop checklist

I’ve been training estate agents for fourteen years now and in that time, I’ve conducted hundreds of ‘mystery shops’. In these, I simply call the agent and ask for a brochure on a particular property. I then note their responses. Here’s what I’m looking for:

Do they take my phone number and/or email?

Basic, I know, but most fail to do even this.

Do they ask about my buying position?

It’s important for an estate agent to know if the potential buyer has their home on the market, whether it has an offer, or if they are a cash purchase.

Do they make any comments about the property I’ve enquired about?

Positive comments about the property are important at this early stage. Usually the buyer will be asking for a brochure because they are considering booking a viewing. If they are travelling from out of the area, as Angela was, their time may be limited, and so any comments made at this opportunity could be the deciding factor in whether the buyer views or not.

Do they ask me any questions about my property search?

If they don’t ask me what I’m looking for in my next home, how can they advise me on this or any other property? Not all properties are on Rightmove, so it’s important to understand a buyer’s needs so they can match the buyer to their properties.

Do they offer to book a viewing?

Whilst they have the buyer on the phone, they have the best opportunity of encouraging them to book a viewing. Otherwise, the buyer may be tempted to simply drive past the property, and make their decision about its suitability without ever setting foot across the doorstep. For some properties, that would mean the buyer misses out on some stunning features, views or other attributes.

All these questions take time. Not all buyers want to take the time, and that’s fine. But some do, and they are the ones we don’t want to cut short. If they want to talk for half an hour, an hour, or more, we’ll be glad to accommodate them, and listen to their questions and thoughts.

“Let’s call ten top estate agents and see what they’re like”

Recently in the AshdownJones’ studio, we decided to try an exercise. We would compile a list of ten of the best well-known premium estate agents in the UK, and call them all to ask for a brochure.

Phil and I were not surprised by the results, but our assistant, Rebecca, was appalled.  Here are some of the highlights (lowlights?):

[Automated message:] “If you are a mortgage lender, a surveyor or an estate agent, please press 1….”

[Enquiring about a property at £6 million:]“I’m not sure if we have a brochure for that property.”

[Enquiring about a country estate at £3.5 million:]“What kind of property is it?”

Me: “A house?”

Them: “Residential or commercial?”

[A very well-known national brand:] “Do you have access to the internet? All our properties are on Rightmove.”


Not one of the ten agents we called asked about our buying position, commented on the house we were asking about, or offered to arrange a viewing.

When the brochures arrived, none of them even contained a note or written compliment slip.

Of the ten, only three asked for a phone number or an email address. None of these has called or emailed to follow up.

If your home is for sale, or you are considering which agent to use, try this: call (or get someone else to, in your earshot), and simply ask for a brochure of your property, or of another one.   Then make a note of these points, awarding them say 10 points for each.

1.Do they take my phone number and/or email?

2.Do they ask about my buying position?

3.Do they make any comments about the property I’ve enquired about?

4.Do they ask me any questions about my property search?

5.Do they offer to book a viewing?

6.When the brochure arrives, was it timely?

7.Are the name and address on the envelope correct?

8.Is there a compliment slip or card attached, with a hand-written note?

What people remember

We love the Maya Angelou quote:

“People will forget what you said; they will forget what you did; but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Buying and selling a home is a very emotional journey, full of ups and downs. Our mission is to make the whole experience as enjoyable as it’s possible to be. Because how you’ll feel about that journey once you reach your destination and you are handed the keys to your new home, is a reflection on how close we have come to fulfilling that mission.

If you’re happy, we’re happy.

Why not test us?

Put us to the test, by calling about any of our properties? We’d love to think we’ll pass this test with flying colours, but let’s see! Call on 015394 88811 or our Rightmove number, 01539 304056.

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