Choosing an estate agent to sell your house
Before you start thinking about getting valuations for your home, it is worth doing research to make sure you select the most appropriate estate agent to sell your property.
You should think about contacting around three estate agents. To help choose the appropriate agents, there are a number of questions you need to ask to give you the best chance of selling your home quickly at the best possible price.
Have they been successful in selling similar properties to yours?
There is no point instructing an estate agent that only sells large country homes if you have an urban flat. Whether you're selling a house, flat, cottage, bungalow or studio apartment, it's worth looking for estate agents that have a good track record of selling similar properties to yours in your area. Are they currently advertising similar properties to yours? If so, they are likely to have a bank of buyers on their books looking for properties like yours. Have a look at estate agent websites or you can check on Primelocation.com to see what properties for sale are on the books of individual agents. Drive around the area, too, and look for estate agents with plenty of 'for sale' boards dotted around, as this indicates strength of presence in the local area.
Do they advertise properties on a major property website like PrimeLocation?
This may not seem like an obvious question to ask, but in today's market, it should be a mandatory requirement for any property seller. Millions of people visit the big property websites every month and with nearly 90 per cent of buyers starting their property search on the internet, your property can't afford to be missing. You may want to use a property website to find an estate agent in your area. That way, you can guarantee their presence online and check what properties they are currently selling.
Are they regulated?
You should check if any estate agent you select is signed up to the National Association of Estate Agents, the Guild of Professional Estate Agents or the Ombudsman for Estate Agents. Members of each organisation voluntarily sign up to a code of practice and are generally taken more seriously than those who are not.
Do they come recommended?
As with most services, a firm recommendation from a family member or friend can be helpful. It does not always mean that their experience will necessarily be replicated in yours, but it should be an indication of the professionalism and performance of an estate agents.
Do they present properties to a high quality?
Check the details of properties they are currently selling. Are the pictures of a good quality? Are properties presented as attractively as possible? Are the descriptions accurate? Do you have confidence that the agents will present your property in the best possible light?
Fees and costs
Estate agents will usually charge between 1 per cent and 3 per cent of the final sale value of the property as commission. In some cases, you can haggle to get the fee down, but this may end up being a false economy. Remember, your estate agent works on a commission and you want them to be motivated to sell your property fast. By haggling too low, you may be taking away much of the incentive the estate agent needs to focus on your sale. Agree a fee that provides a fair deal for both parties. One tactic could be to pay the full fee if the agent achieves the full asking price and a sliding scale downwards if a lower price is achieved.
Can you work well with the estate agents?
Go with your gut instinct. If you trust them and think you could work well together, then consider instructing them. If you have any doubts, avoid getting into a relationship with them, as it will only create problems further down the line. Remember, you will need to work together and feel you can trust each other.
Once you've instructed an estate agent, you will need to sign a contract detailing the agreement between you. Make sure that you read all of the small print in the contract, so you know what you are signing up to. This is particularly important when thinking about the length of the agreement. You may want to insist on a flexible arrangement, whereby you can review the relationship from month to month. This allows you to switch estate agents if your current one is underperforming, otherwise you may have to instruct another estate agent simultaneously, with more fees to pay as a result.
If you have been working with just one estate agent to sell your house, this is called a 'sole agency' arrangement. When you agree to a sole agency arrangement with an estate agent, the contract will usually indicate how long this period will last. At the end of this period you can, if you wish, instruct one or more additional estate agents.
If you do instruct one or more additional estate agents before the period of sole agency has come to an end, you are breaking the contract with the original estate agent. This means that if the new estate agent finds a buyer for the house, you have to pay commission not only to the new estate agent but also to the agent with whom you had the original sole agency agreement. If the original agent finds a buyer, the amount of commission that the seller would have to pay to the new estate agent would depend on the type of agreement you have with them.
In some cases, you may be able to negotiate changing the sole agency agreement to a joint sole agency agreement with the original estate agency.
The strategy of engaging multiple agents is often only for those who are under serious pressure to sell their property fast, as commission fees tend to be higher than with a 'sole' agent.