The first step to choosing an estate agent is to decide on whether you are going to use one or more estate agents to sell your home. While some may ask for sole selling rights, others will be open to you advertising your property through multiple agents.
When researching an estate agent, you will want to consider the services they can provide, costs, marketing plans, and any third-party reviews about the agency.
You may also want to consider choosing an online estate agent over a traditional high street agent to save money.
Search online for estate agents in your area, and compile a list of all the potential estate agents you would feel happy to work with. This list can then be narrowed through further research, which should leave you with a shortlist of no more than three to four estate agents.
Create a shortlist of three or four estate agents that you might consider using. To do this, you should:
1. Ask family and friends for recommendations – Personal recommendations are often one of the best ways to find a good estate agent.
2. Compare agents – Create a list of all the estate agents in your local area and compare how quickly they sell properties, how successful they are and how close they are to achieving the full asking price.
3. Check their window – Look out for any properties that might be similar to yours on the market. If you live in a unique or unusual house, it might be worth getting a national estate agent who specialises in your type of property.
4. Find out which portals they market on – More than 93% of property searches begin online on property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla. Your estate agent will need to advertise on at least one of these. Don’t worry about whether they advertise on their own website, as these will attract less traffic and is not entirely necessary.
5. Look at their pictures – Take a look at their profiles on property portals to see how their photos look. Are they professional?
6. Find out whether they are a member of a professional trade association – This is not vital, but provides validity to their services. Look out for associations such as the National Association for Estate agents and the Guild of Professional Estate Agents.
7. Check membership of an accredited independent ombudsmen service – This is vital, as an ombudsmen will protect you and the estate agent if something goes wrong in the process.
When choosing your estate agents, you should also not feel pressured to use the same estate agent you bought the property from. Enquire about their viewing policies – do they conduct all viewings, or will you be required to conduct the viewings yourself.
You may also want to enquire whether your estate agents are open on weekends. Most estate agents aren’t which could lose out on a lot of custom from people working throughout the week. Quite a few estate agents are open for half a day on Saturday. You should ideally want to create a shortlist of three agents to then provide a valuation for your home.
Using a Traditional Agent
While online estate agents can potentially save you money through fixed rate agency fees, many people still opt for a traditional bricks-and-mortar agent.
Traditional agents will have a physical office you can visit and will take care of every stage of selling the property for you. This type of agent will be more likely to offer viewings as part of their package, as well as liaising with solicitors.
One of the biggest benefits of hiring a traditional estate agent is utilising their local knowledge to value your property and market it to the right people.
Using an Online Estate Agent
Online estate agents are a relatively new player in the property industry, but are fast becoming the go-to option for homeowners to save money.
These types of agents will not have a physical, local office, which saves money for the company, and in turn, the selling homeowner. This can be a pain for making contact if you like talking in person, with online agents opting for phone and email contact.
They usually offer the same marketing services too, except for the obvious estate agent window marketing. Your property will appear on websites like Zoopla, Rightmove and Prime Location. You may have to conduct viewings yourself, but some online agents will even do this for you too.
Estate Agent Costs
Traditional estate agents will usually charge 1%-2.5% +VAT for a sole agency agreement. With added VAT, you should expect to pay around 1.2% to 3% on top of your property value. That means, a house worth £300,000 would cost £3,600 to £9,000 in estate agent fees to sell.
Online estate agents generally choose fixed rate fees over commission, with fees starting around £300. Depending on the online agent, this fee may only cover marketing and liaising, while you will have to conduct viewings yourself.
Getting a Property Valuation
You will want to get a free property valuation from your shortlisted estate agents, as their quoted values may play a role in which estate agent you choose to work with.
A property valuation will involve an estate agent visiting your property and taking a look at the interior and exterior of the property before making a decision on the property’s value. They will also base their valuation on the local markets and demand for your property type.
Online estate agents will generally value your home based on pictures that you have sent in, as well as via local property data.
Be wary of valuations that are at polar ends of what you might expect. Estate agents will often over-value your property in a bid to entice the homeowner to use their services.
Checking the Contract
You will be asked to sign a contract once you have decided on the estate agent you are going to use. Before signing, you should be very wary of certain clauses in the contract. Things to look out for:
• What the agency fees cover – Some agency fees may not even cover the marketing costs, causing you to potentially pay more on top of agency fees. This is quite rare, but something to look out for.
• A “ready, willing and able purchaser” – This term means that you will still have to pay the estate agent even if you have to back out of the deal. You will have to pay the estate agent as soon as you agree on an offer, and not when the house is sold, as most estate agents will offer.
• Long lock-in periods – You may want to choose another estate agent later down the road, so make sure your lock-in period is short and penalty-free. Some agents may charge you for leaving them. The normal lock-in period is 12 weeks, but you should aim for a no-penalty notice period of two weeks.
• “Sole selling rights” – This phrase means that you will have to pay the estate agent, even if it is you that finds the buyer.
How to Change Estate Agents
Check your contract with the estate agent to find out the length of your lock in period. You are free to cancel your contract with an estate agent at any time, but your lock in period will prohibit you from working with another estate agent for a certain amount of time specified in your contract.
This is something to be negotiated before signing the contract. Without negotiations, homeowners may be stuck in a contract with a lock in period of a month, or even longer.
There are a number of things to consider when choosing an estate agent, however with careful planning you will be able to pick the best agent and achieve the best price for your property.