What to Ask When Choosing an Estate Agent

The right estate agent can make the difference between getting the best price for your home and not selling it at all!

Your home is often your most valuable asset, so when you decide to finally sell it, it’s important to know it’s in good hands. While it’s you who puts the house on the market, it is the estate agent that actually sells it.

Getting a good estate agent on board is a really important decision and it can make the difference between getting the best price for your home and not selling it at all! 

Of course, you don’t have to use an estate agent to sell your home, you could do it yourself if you prefer. This is becoming an ever more popular choice thanks to the wealth of new online listing websites that keep coming to market, but beware; these site are often not allowed to market across the big property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla, so you could well be missing out on a large proportion of the home buyer market if you do this.

If you have decided to let an estate agent do the work for you, here are some key considerations to help you choose the right one. 

Online or High Street?


First up, you need to choose between the traditional High Street estate agents or their newer counter parts, the online estate agents.

Generally speaking the online estate agents are cheaper than traditional ones, although prices do vary considerably so it is important to shop around. There is also huge variation in the quality of service these online estate agents offer as well, so be mindful that the cheaper may well not mean better.

A key benefit of High Street estate agents is their local knowledge of your area, and this can play a big part in getting the best value for your home and securing a sale. Online estate agents can sometimes lack this local knowledge, so this is something to bear in mind.

Depending on the online agent you use, you may also be expected to conduct viewings yourself, so you need to decide whether you can do this task justice, like traditional high street estate agents are renowned for. 
 

How much will they charge?


Buying and selling homes can be an expensive business, so cost is always going to be a factor when choosing your estate agent, whether it’s an online or a high street one.

According to the Home Owners Alliance, High street estate agents typically charge anywhere between 1 and 3% of the final sale price of your home. This is excluding VAT so remember to add that in to your final calculations as well.
Online estate agents charge anything from a £300 flat rate often to be paid up front, to more complicated price structures which offset the amount you pay up front, against the amount you then need to pay on completion,
The key message here, is do your homework and shop around, and if you can, try and get estate agents to compete on fees. 

Are there any other costs involved?


Once you have a price from your estate agents, be sure you check what this includes. You don’t want to get stung further into the home selling process with a bill for a sale board!
Other items to check are included in their fees are:
  • 360 degree photos
  • Floor plans
  • Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) – legally you need to have, at the very least, applied for an EPC before putting your house on the market. Sometimes your existing EPC may valid, so you should check this in case you need a new one. Often arranging this yourself is cheaper than your estate agent proving it on your behalf.

How will they market my home?


To reach the widest potential market you can, you are looking for an estate agent that markets your home across the widest range of marketing channels possible. Depending on the type of estate agent you choose, this could include any or all of the following:
  • Placing a sale board on your property
  • Featuring your property in their shop/office (High Street only)
  • Displaying your property on their own website
  • Using Zoopla and Rightmove
  • Taking advantage of On The Market.com (OTM)
  • Using social media channels
  • Placing your property ad in local newspapers
  • Featuring your property in their email communications
As well as determining which methods they will use to market your home, try and establish which channels they will use when and how often. This will help you determine how much exposure you are likely to be receiving. 
 

What type of contract do they use?


Not all estate agents use the same kind of contract and there a key differences between these contracts that you need to be aware of before signing anything. Again according to the Home Owners Alliance, there are 4 major contract types estate agents use.

The Sole Selling Rights Contract
In this scenario the estate agent named in the contract in the only one allowed to sell your home during the stipulated period and therefore you will need to pay the estate agent, even if you find your own buyer.

The Ready, Willing and Able Purchaser Contract
This contract type means you have to pay the agent for finding a buyer, even if you then decide not to sell. This contract type is not advised!

The Multi-agency Contract
This contract means you can use various agents to market your home, and you only need to pay the one who successfully sells your property. This type of contract often incurs higher fees but on the same token it offers great exposure of your home on the property market.

The Sole Agency Contract
This contract type is virtually the same as the sole selling rights contract, except that if you do find your own buyer, then you don’t need to pay the estate agent anything. However, these contracts are open ended, so the estate agent could be able to claim commission at a later date.
 

Does their contract include a tie-in period?


As well as checking the type of contract the estate agent is offering you, be sure to also check whether it includes a tie-in period and if so, how long this period is. Generally speaking you are looking for a contract that will not charge you should you terminate early and if a tie-in period is insisted on, you don’t want anything longer than 8 weeks.
This will allow you flexibility should you either decide not to sell or find yourself in a position where the estate agent is no longer providing a service you are happy with.
 
So to recap:
  • Choose online or high street
  • Check the fees and what’s included
  • Determine the marketing strategy
  • Check the contract!
 
If you would like more advice on choosing an estate agent and selling your home, then we recommend the following websites:

Home Owner Alliance
Which?
Money Facts





 

Publish date: 02/06/2016