Home seller secretly films 11 estate agent valuation appointments

Property website BestAgent has shared with the press an undercover video designed to demonstrate that the best individual agents, and not brands, get the highest price for their clients.

This documentary, filmed by Charlie Lamdin, an amateur filmmaker, shows his colleague, Samantha, receiving varying valuations for her three-bedroom semi-detached house near Taunton in Somerset, from a number of different estate agents.

According to a spokesperson for BestAgent, the ‘experiment’ was designed to prove what many of us already know – “there are always a few [agents] who are better than the rest”.

The film set out to identify the best way to identify the best agents by meeting several agents in person.

In this film, the vendor, Samantha, telephones all 18 of her local agents, 11 of whom accept her invitation to attend the property to meet her, give their opinion of what the property is worth. They are almost all wrong, with one agent even saying that that she will never achieve the price she did, as they pitched their services.

She whittles the shortlist down from 11 to three based on the two days of meetings, and finally picks one.

The film goes on to show the whole story of the sale, and eventually reveals the successful agent, who was from an estate agency brand that Samantha said she would “never have called”.

Charlie Lamdin
Charlie Lamdin

“We made this film to demonstrate that picking three agents at random is always a bad idea, and is the main reason why most people have such a terrible experience selling their home” explained Lamdin.

He continued: “The end result of this experiment is that Sam now has life-changing opportunities. It also shows that most agents, even the nice ones, don’t fully understand that their job is not just to sell a home, but to achieve the highest possible price for it, in a short period of time.

“Only three of the eleven agents who attended actually demonstrated an understanding of their job and had a credible proposal on how to achieve the highest price. The other eight, while almost all very nice people, had nothing to differentiate their approach. Unfortunately, this is the reason why agents have a reputation for ‘just chucking it on the internet and waiting for enquiries’.

“Many agents do nothing more than exactly that, and somehow scrape a living doing it, while underselling their client’s properties, if they sell them at all.”

Samantha, the owner of the property, said: “It just goes to show that the whole debate on what kind of agent to use, corporate v independent, online v high street, one-man band v team, is irrelevant and a red-herring. None of these are considerations, it just boils down to finding the individual person, the human being, who knows how to deliver.”


She added: “It also shows that taking local For Sale boards and online reviews into account is a distraction. You just need to find that person you click with, who demonstrates a real understanding of what you want, why you want it, and knows how to get it for you.

“I found all the brochures, presentations and marketing materials deadly dull and unhelpful. Charlie told me to only focus on the person, are they listening to me, do they understand what I want and do I trust them to get it. He said just disregard everything else.”

Based on its experience, BestAgent argues that the quality of service is usually down to the individual estate agent, rather than the estate agency brand.

A spokesperson said: “So far there is absolutely no correlation between corporate or independent, online or high street, solo operators or companies in terms of who is being selected. It boils down to the calibre of the individual agent, regardless of where they work.”



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  1. RussellQ

    Some will criticise this initiative because it’s a secret filming and carried out without ‘permission’. Get over that for a second and then realise that without these insights into how estate agency really operates, there’s no benchmark for improvement.

    Great move Charlie, well done for opening up the debate. And yes, best agency is always going to be about the individual, not a sign above a branch office door.

    1. MrGilbert

      Yet only last week, you were banging on about ‘silent’ CEO’s. My point then and it is now (as you have admitted), the general public are more interested in the individual who is carrying out the valuation.

  2. Chris Watkin

    Great insight here from the point of view of the houseseller – with things every agent can learn from

  3. vype200871

    Fair play to Sam and nice for the owner to show at the end who she works for so she can no doubt use this for her own benefit and get more business that she obviously deserves.  I can resonate with both the seller and the agent as i myself pride myself on winning business not because i sell the most in my town or have the best branding but i win a lot of my valuations best on trust, honesty, experience, a clear and transparent strategy and the one to one service i provide. I agree with the guy in the video if Sam knew she was 1 of 11 valuing then that itself is a massive moral boost when receiving the call to be the one chosen. I also evidence all my open house sales and show the client what the guide price was, the amount of viewings on the open house and then the eventual sale agreed price, which these days is almost always over the guide price if you execute the plan correctly.  I show the client what i have achieved and not how much better i am than other agents or show the Rightmove competitor analysis charts. The owner filmed herself not the agents directly from what i can see from the video and could have easily chosen the wrong agent after seeing 11 agents.  I wonder where Sam was in the order of who came out and when as we are all told to try and be the last in on every training course we have sat in for many years. I thought it was a great video and a great experiment and goes to show if you have a clear plan of attack and truly want to get the best for your client then this is the result you then achieve.   I know a lot of agents try to convince a seller they can sell their house to the 1st person who comes or have this magical buyer and try and get a one of viewing to just get another sale so they can move up the Rightmove rankings but this is clearly not doing what is best for your client.  Sam did not try and convince the seller to take the offer from the cash buyer for an easier sale and in the end the seller sold for much more and was obviously very happy with the end result.    

  4. Kyri Kyriacou

    Its a breathe of fresh air to hear Sarahs’ comments and reiterate what some of us have known all along.

    Boards, marketing material, brochures are boring and irrelevant.

    The brand is also irrelevant.

    The only thing that is relevant is the quality, passion and skills of the individual agent.

    However, in some cases the person that wins the instruction may have no further involvement and that’s when it’s starts going down hill.

    For me, this article proves that the self employed models have nailed it and are the way forward.

    One agent all the way from valuation to completion is always going to give the client the service they deserve.

  5. Bosky

    MORI might have something to say about reliance on a sample of one person to establish a conclusion!

  6. Westmids1

    Is it only me that feels that the agent that went out and said they think she could get a maximum of £300k was somewhat unlucky to lose the instruction to the agent who suggested £275k? Offers over, generate interest – all good but the valuation was almost 10% below what was achievable – albeit she provided a great service.

  7. surrey1

    How do you under sell a fully marketed property in this market???

  8. Rob Hailstone

    Very interesting, and I will try to get as many conveyancers as I can to watch the video.
    Also, telling when Charlie said, after offer and acceptance: “This is where the hard work begins, getting it over the line.” Sam’s deal went through relatively smoothly and quickly, but as we all know not all do. Sellers should instruct a conveyancer upon marketing, so that the marketing period (in this case only two weeks) can be used to get a sellers pack ready. This course of action now ties in with new property listing rules due to commence at the end of May.
    Loved the clever, Dark Side of the Moon poster in the background.

  9. Gangsta Agent

    what a load of b o l l o….. nothing more than self advertising and of course the RQ gets in on the act, failed estate agent

    1. MrGilbert

      RQ is the Billy Bright (Football Factory) of Estate Agency

  10. Gordon H

    Whilst the sellers interests are obviously a priority, the way a prospective buyer is handled is also of paramount importance. Every buyer is a future seller.
    My own experience of selling in 2021 and subsequently engaging with agents over the past 14 months as a prospective buyer has been absolutely disheartening.
    On trying to establish a relationship with an agent to buy a home,I have been treated with utter contempt, referred to Rightmove, and never contacted by agents despite being on a supposed hotlist. Of the 20 or so agents that I have interacted with, perhaps 2 would get my business for a sale. Today’s market looks to have engendered a complacency amongst the industry as buyers are plentiful and agents don’t have to try too hard to sell .

    Perhaps another useful exercise would be to film the process from a prospective buyers perspective. Without this, the industry may be missing a trick

  11. mauricekilbride

    A very interesting video and alot of takeaways from it, although I am not entirely comfortable with the secret filming, although I think it was handled ok and noone other than the successful agent was identified.

    There are also a few things I take issue with, however I have a lot of respect for Charlie and his team and the message they are trying to get across. Firstly whilst it made great TV, I don’t know many potential sellers who have the time or inclination to have eleven appraisal appointments. However, that said it was interesting to hear how Sam chose her agent, although one or two mentioned a similar price and I am pretty certain in the current climate, a number of the agents could probably have achieved a similar price! however, the video showed why it is important for agents to demonstrate not only their local knowledge of price and comparables, but to listen to the sellers motivation and be able to demonstrate their strategy to achieving the price, which the woman who got the instruction did perhaps better than some of the others. interestingly, Charlie and Sam were against a sales technique that Stephen Brown is big on – the one off viewing- which shows there are differing opinions on approaches. The narrator also said at one point that cash buyers don’t usually have surveys, which I don’t believe is true, although that was an aside from the main point of the video. The most important point I took from it and is very true, virtually any agent can sell a property at the moment and achieve a good price, but the individual managing the sale and good communication are the real skill.

    Interesting and worth any agent watching but hardly ground breaking or revolutionary.

  12. Woodentop

    Really hasn’t told us anything new. Some are good and some are bad and for a whole host of reasons. How many times have I said, it is not the brand that sells but the individual members of staff who can make or break a business and is not just estate agency, think conveyancers, financial services and then move into the high street outlets.  
    Professionalism is an attitude. Take short cuts, don’t know what your doing or even worse try it on and you will fail and drag everyone down associated with you. The one that does the homework, takes time to listen to their clients needs, importantly concerns and address’s them with genuine empathy, puts the hours in ……….. is a success.  
    A market appraisal cannot be done correctly in less than half an hour to an hour. A 5 minute yes, yes and that’s its value is what you wanted to do!
    Dump the “offers over” syndrome, you have no faith in your valuation or confidence you can sell at the correc t valuation. This has been misused for years now, but not that long ago was unheard of. Horrendous attitude, it shows you are more interested in what you want (or capable of), not your client.

  13. Property Ear

    I am a Taunton estate agent who received the email inviting my firm to participate in this exercise.
    The entire approach appeared to us as being a ‘put up job’ and we declined to attend.
    Although we welcome the practice of ‘secret shoppers’ putting us to the test, I am pleased we opted out, especially as we take a dim view of the underhand secret filming that took place.

    1. Woodentop

      It was a put up job and also demonstrates the mind set of the people before they started. Some of the language used in their perception of agents is worrying. Some will say if you do the job right, nothing to worry about. However the agenda and course it takes is already set up to trap and we all know how an agenda can be manipulated when the purpose is biased from the off. I agree with you, wise to stay away.

    2. Gangsta Agent

      good spot.

      This seems like another two-bit industry disruptor having 15 minutes of fame, we’ve seen them come and we’ll see them go and then we’ll see them come back with another revolutionary idea that will last 15 minutes. In the meantime the rest of us will get on doing the job we know we do very well.




  14. Bryan Mansell

    Thanks for sharing Charlie, very interesting. Number one choice of the seller was based on ‘Trust’ not FEE, which agents should always consider, sellers don’t choose on fee unless they have no other choice. The only point I want to make is I am not sure I agree that the age of the Sole Agency period is dead. After all, the agent is the one who takes all the risk with high marketing costs upfront, this seller said ‘I probably would have pulled out’ at one point in the video, so the agent, as good as she was, would have been left with huge wasted time and costs. I agree the days of 12-16 weeks agreements are over, but a 4-6 week agreement that pauses during a live sale should be ok.

    1. Woodentop

      You points proves that if roles were reversed would they go to work, not expecting to be paid but  more than happy for agents to! Sole agency with a % commission is to protect the agent with a chance to recover their overheads and put their heads on the block with no sale = no fee. Fixed fee’s gives no incentive to get the best price or arguably put any effort in.

      1. janbyerss

        A SA agreement stops the vendor moving if the service they receive is s++te.

        That is all iti s for.

        1. AgencyInsider

          Sorry janbyers, that comment shows just how little you know or understand about estate agency business.

        2. Woodentop

          No it doesn’t. A tied in contract does and that is only within the contracted term …. which one can leave if the agent fails to provide the service they agreed, as its a breach of contract and case law has proven this. I wonder how many property developers work for nothing?

  15. contentforestateagents

    While I am not certain that secret filming should have taken place, I actually really enjoyed watching this! I guess this will be quite an eye-opener for some agents. It proves that estate agency is a ‘people business’. Personality, trust, passion and skill should be projected forefront.

    1. Gangsta Agent

      whilst a brand can go along way to getting you through he door, estate agency has always been about the people, hasn’t it?

      1. Woodentop

        Nailed it.

  16. Head_Shepherd#2

    I am delighted for Amy Dodd at EweMove Taunton. She’s an experienced agent and chose to build her own business with EweMove as her customer service ethos aligned with that of the EweMove brand.  Being able to manage the whole process from start to finish is not something most agency models support, but being able to do so clearly makes a big difference as this film shows. Something we’ve been honing and developing since 2013.

    I agree with all the comments above that the individual makes the most difference to any agency service, but when the platform you operate from is designed around the customer and all the technology we have supports our franchisee agents in focussing their time on the customer, the two combined make a huge difference to the customer experience and commercial outcomes our vendors and landlords enjoy.



    1. John Murray

      Amy did brilliantly – the vendor hated the branding. Is your role not also to develop branding that customers love and enhance the franchisees chances of winning the listing, rather than winning it despite the branding?
      eWe made no reference to this in your praising of Amy.

  17. Flocking South

    An interesting watch and congratulations to the successful agent. We try to live by similar principles and its great to see her approach winning trust and delivering great results.


    1. John Murray

      How can you give a thumbs down to this comment – numpty!

      1. AndSotheStoryBegan

        Just because one vendor didn’t like the branding, that’s no reason to switch it. One might argue that if the agents don’t like the brand, they shouldn’t be part of it!

        You also seem to imply that vendors should dictate the identity of a brand. When brands shape themselves into what others want to hear, the result is a politician in a cheap suit with over-whitened teeth that calculates relationships in ROI. Trying to please everybody with a warm pulse.

        Your view of estate agency is burdened with legacy thinking and confirmation bias that is no longer relevant in this day and age. It’s time to bring your thinking up to date.

  18. Head_Shepherd#2

    Fair question John.  EweMove branding was designed to stand out.  It certainly does that – a marmite brand perhaps?  But it does do the job.  Since 2018 when TwentyEA last did the analysis for us, we’ve actually grown our market share in areas where we operate and overall across the whole UK market too, which shows the strength of the brand. One thing is for sure, to try and attract everyone, means you essentially appeal to no one.

    In my time as a EweMove agent I have sold houses for vendors who have explicitly told me they don’t like the brand, but they see the power it does and have chosen to benefit from it rather than dismiss it.  Vision indeed.

    In the main, customers love it and we’re aiming to appeal to (most of) them first and foremost.

  19. conoco9

    I think this is great! Keep the corporate BS valuations down!


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