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How To Choose An Estate Agent

Thinking about selling your property? The right estate agent could get you a good price for your home as well as helping the selling process go smoothly. Here’s how you go about getting a top estate agent on board. 

Thinking about selling your property? The right estate agent could get you a good price for your home as well as helping the selling process go smoothly. Here’s how you go about getting a top estate agent on board. 

Written by
Alex Hasty
Insurance comparison and finance expert
7 MAY 2021
5 min read
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What services do estate agents offer?

Before you choose an estate agent, it’s important to know what to expect from one. The services estate agents provide vary from agency to agency, but they can include:

  • Valuing your property: ideally, get valuations from three different estate agents to help you get an idea of a reasonable price for your home. Getting valuations will also give you a chance to see whether you think an agent has the experience and personality needed to sell your property.
  • Marketing your property: an estate agent will arrange for photographs to be taken and possibly a video to be made. They’ll draw up a floorplan and advertise your home in their shop, on their website and on other property websites. They may also provide a ‘for sale’ board, advertise your home in local newspapers and produce a brochure. Big-name estate agents may even advertise in the national press, which means your property has a better chance of being seen by the right people.
  • Arranging viewings: estate agents will do the admin for this, and can show viewers around your home. They might even already have a list of potential buyers that they can show your home to.
  • Arranging the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC): this shows your property’s energy costs and how energy-efficient improvements could be made. You must have an EPC for your home before you begin the process of selling it.
  • Managing negotiations: the estate agent will be in the middle as you negotiate a price with your potential buyer. Be aware that they’re legally obliged to pass all offers on to you – even very cheeky ones.
  • Scrutinising buyers: when a potential buyer makes an offer, it’s part of an agent’s job to check how they intend to pay for your property. This involves asking for what’s called ‘proof of funds’. The agent might check to see that buyers have a mortgage Agreement in Principle, for example.

Every estate agent will tell you they’re the best person to sell your property, but before you choose one, be absolutely clear about what services they will provide for their fee

How do I find an estate agent near me?

  • Ask around
    Talk to your friends in the neighbourhood. It’s likely they’ve had dealings with local estate agents and will be happy to share their experiences and recommend what they think is the best estate agent.
  • Do a neighbourhood recce
    Check out the ‘For Sale’ signs in surrounding streets. Are they all from one estate agent? Keep your eyes open and you’ll soon see which estate agents are most popular in your area.
  • Look at how local agents advertise properties
    Do the pictures look professional? Is their marketing material well-written and informative?

Questions to ask estate agents

Once you’ve narrowed down your search, there are a few things you need to know.

What are the fees?

Estate agent fees vary, but tend to be in the ballpark of 0.75%-3%, plus VAT. It’s always worth negotiating, though. You might just get a discount, particularly if your property’s worth a lot of money.

Another way to nab a discount is to go ‘sole agency’ – that’s where you give an estate agent exclusive rights on selling your property. Remember though, if you choose this option you won’t be able to use another agent while your agreement is in place – even if the sole agency you’ve chosen doesn’t seem to be doing a good job. The other option is to go multi-agency – that is, you sign up with several estate agents and pay the fee to whoever sells your house. The fees will be higher, though.

Also check whether fees are on a ‘no sale, no fee’ basis or whether you have to pay a flat fee upfront.

Do the fees cover everything?

Make sure the fee you’re paying covers every part of the selling process. You don’t want to be landed with any unexpected bills.

What’s their track record?

Have they sold a lot of properties like yours before? If you have a prime property that could attract an out-of-area or an international buyer, do they have the experience and marketing presence necessary to sell it? And how long, on average, does it take them to sell a property?

If you want to find and compare the track record of your local estate agents easily, GetAgent can help you compare estate agents by looking at their previous performance and sales records of millions of homes across the UK.

Do they have the right credentials? 

Estate agents must be members either of the Property Ombudsman Scheme or the Property Redress Scheme, which give you some comeback if you have a dispute. If they’re also members of other professional bodies, like The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), for example, this might give you more confidence in their professionalism. 

What are the terms and conditions?

If you use an estate agent to sell your home you need to sign a legally binding contract – so it’s vital to know what’s in it. One thing to look at is how long you’re tied into the agreement for and whether you can end the contract if you don’t think they’re doing a good job. Read the Ts and Cs carefully and, if there’s something you don’t like, don’t be afraid to question it.

Red flags to look out for

When you’re signing up with an estate agent, here are some things to know:

  • Don’t just chase the money
    When you’re selling a property, it’s tempting to go with whichever estate agent gives you the highest valuation. But this can be a mistake. Less scrupulous estate agents will value your property at the top end just to get your business, then blame the market and make you drop the price when they don’t get a sale. Keep an eye on similar properties in your area so you’ve a strong idea of how much your house is worth.
  • Understand the agreement
    If you sign up to a type of agreement called ‘Ready, willing and able’ you’ll have to pay a fee if someone is demonstrably ready, willing and able to buy your property – even if you don’t exchange contracts. And if the agent has ‘sole selling rights’ they’ll be entitled to a fee even if the buyer was introduced by another agency, or if you found them yourself.
  • Don’t go for the cheapest option, either
    The other temptation is to go with the estate agent who charges the lowest fee. But this can also be an error. The biggest names often charge more than their local rivals, but that’s because they bring their experience and reputation to the table. If an estate agent charges a higher fee but can get you more for your property, ultimately that’s going to be the better deal.
  • Watch out for hidden charges
    Estate-agent fees usually involve added VAT, which is 20%, so no small sum. So when you sign up to an estate agent, make sure you ask if their quoted fee includes VAT.
  • Watch out for upselling
    Your estate agent may try to get you to use their mortgage broker, conveyancer, or some other service, but remember, you’re under no obligation to use them.

Should I use an online estate agent?

Online estate agents tend to charge a lower rate – often a flat fee rather than a percentage. There’s an argument that, these days, buyers tend to find homes through property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla, making the traditional estate agent less relevant.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. You’ll need to compare what different types of estate agent are offering and make sure the one you choose provides the services you want, whether they have a physical premises or not. A good estate agent can be worth the extra fee.

Do I need an estate agent at all?

Some sellers are deciding to go it alone and not use an estate agent at all. Obviously, this will save you money on fees, and there are websites that will let you advertise your home for free. But will you reach as wide an audience as you might with a traditional estate agent? Selling your home yourself could be a false economy if you end up accepting a lower price for it.

There are other downsides too. Selling your home is hard work: you’ll have to do all your own marketing, arrange viewings, check out buyers and get an EPC for your home.

You’ll also have to handle negotiations over price alone, which may be difficult if you’re very emotionally attached to your home. Weigh up the pros and cons carefully before you make your decision.

The content written in this article is for information purposes only and should not be taken as financial advice. If you require support on the products discussed here, please speak to your bank/lender or seek the advice of an independent professional financial advisor. We also have more information on our Customer Support Hub.

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Alex Hasty - Insurance comparison and finance expert

At Compare the Market, Alex has had roles as Commercial Associate Director, Director of Trading and Director of Growth. He’s currently responsible for the development and execution of Comparethemarket’s longer-term strategic options, ensuring the right breadth of products and services that meet customer needs.

Learn more about Alex

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