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How to turn a property withdrawal into a sale

Losing a property – especially to a competitor – is every agent's nightmare. Andrew Parker shares his tips on how estate agents can save a painful withdrawal conversation.

Andrew Parker, Managing Director and Auctioneer, SDL Property Auctions

Withdrawal into a sale conversation

Andrew Parker

One of the most frustrating conversations an estate agent can have with a seller is when they are considering a property withdrawal from the market; even more so when they move to a rival agent.

Demand for property may be at its highest for 10 years, according to Rightmove, but withdrawals can and do occur even in the most buoyant of markets.

Even last November, when the market was thriving in the wake of months of uncertainty and boosted by the stamp duty holiday, property withdrawals were rife. According to the latest data from Briefyourmarket.com, during the week ending November 6, 15,059 properties were withdrawn – and a further 7,000 fell through.

Estate agents face withdrawal conversations every day and when this happens, it feels like their work has been for nothing; the time spent photographing and marketing the property, arranging viewings and building up a relationship with the seller. In addition, their reputation risks being dented by the ‘failure‘ to sell a property – even if they’ve worked hard to get results.

Property withdrawal conversations can be influenced by various factors. They may be the result of disruption elsewhere in the chain causing the seller to lose heart and give up. When prices are rising, downsizing sellers may decide to withdraw their property to allow time for values to increase before trying again. Personal circumstances such as death, divorce or job loss can also cause a halt to property plans.

Life changes aside, broadly speaking there are two main reasons:

  • Time on the market

If a property has been on the market for some time with little interest or no offers, this often prompts the seller to consider withdrawing the property. They may decide a move to a rival estate agent will provide a fresh approach.

An estate agent faced with this situation may feel their only option is to suggest a lower asking price, which almost certainly will happen if the seller switches agents.

  • Fall-through disappointment

Sellers and buyers alike are deeply frustrated when a party pulls away from the sale, meaning they have to start all over again. This can happen anywhere along a chain… and the longer the chain, the greater the risk. For some sellers, this setback can be enough to make them lose faith in the whole process, prompting them to withdraw.

Fall-throughs can make estate agents feel helpless because even the most proactive sales progression cannot prevent breaks in a chain.

Saving the sale

Both of these situations may sound irretrievable but it is still possible to save the conversation and keep the seller happy, too. From our experience of talking with partner agents and sellers, it’s clear that sellers who start that property withdrawal conversation are often very motivated to sell – it just hasn’t happened yet.

A motivated seller is likely to be open to the suggestion of an auction sale. This has the benefit of providing a fresh approach with a new listing on property portals. And the agent still keeps the sale as we partner with 1,300 estate agents up and down the country to sell private homes by auction, marketing the properties to a nationwide audience.

One major draw for sellers is the fixed timescale, which allows them to feel more in control. With some sales taking as little as 20 working days to complete from the fall of the gavel, and with a fall-through rate of less than 1%, auctions help build the seller’s trust that completion is just around the corner.

There are still many misconceptions surrounding auctions but estate agents can help to dispel these. They can reassure their sellers that auctions are no longer just for investors, landlords and cash buyers and are now popular with private buyers doing so with a mortgage.

Private sellers are discovering the benefits, too, as they can sell through their estate agent without paying any auction fees. This is possible because the buyer pays a non-refundable reservation or deposit fee on the fall of the gavel to secure the sale, giving the seller confidence in the property journey.


The myth of having to slash prices to sell by auction is also being shattered; in the past year, many people sold their properties for more than they had been asking on the open market.

But the priceless benefit is the boost to the estate agent’s reputation. Instead of being the agent who ‘failed’ to sell a client’s property, they become the innovative agent who offered a proactive solution and got great results.

Andrew Parker is Managing Director and Auctioneer at SDL Property Auctions.

April 23, 2021

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