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How to choose an estate agent

How to choose an estate agent

Category: Mortgages

Updated: 31/08/2016
First Published: 31/08/2016

We look at practical ways to shortlist, negotiate with and manage estate agents.

1. Ask for recommendations

This may seem an obvious place to start, but ask friends, family members and colleagues who have recently moved which estate agents they used and what they thought of them.

Also look in your local area at the "for sale" and "sold" signs; it's a useful indicator of the agents that work well in your area.

2. Check industry credentials

Estate agents now have to be members of The Property Ombudsman or The Surveyors Ombudsman Scheme.

Many estate agents will also be members of trade bodies. Membership means that they have to comply with a code of conduct, which may indicate a higher level of professionalism and diligence. Trade bodies to look out for are:

  • Guild of Professional Estate Agents (GPEA)
  • National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA)
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

You should be able to research this without having to set foot in an estate agent's branch. Members of these schemes will be shouting about it on their websites.

3. Go undercover

Visit your shortlisted estate agents as a potential buyer looking for a property like your home. Pay attention to how they behave and ask yourself two questions:

  • Would you be happy if the property being described was yours?
  • Would you buy a property from them?

4. Invite at least three agents to value your property

Shortlist your agents, but don't shorten too much. Try to get at least three to come and value your property.

When your property is valued it's important not to be too impressed by the agent that values your property the highest – this could be a ploy to win your business.

Ideally, you need an agent who is going to be honest and fair, not one who is going to overvalue your property and then fail to get a buyer at that price.

5. Ask these questions:

  • How much does the agent charge for sole agency and what is the tie-in period? Sole agency is where one agent has the exclusive right to sell your property for a set period. If your property is sold by another agent in this time you will still have to pay the sole agent their fee, as well as the agent who actually sold it. As a rule, fees for sole agency can range between 1% and 2% of the sale price, with a tie-in period of up to eight weeks.
  • How much does the agent charge for multi-agency? A multi-agency arrangement means several agents will have your property on their books, with the successful agency being granted the fee. Generally speaking, this fee will be in the region of 1.5% to 2.5% of the sale price.
  • How long has the agent been established and what is their experience? A well-established agent that has experience selling properties in the immediate vicinity of your home is preferable.
  • How will your property be advertised? Will it appear in the local paper? On a property website such as Rightmove? Is the agency able to show examples of how they advertise properties?
  • Who will look after viewings? Will the estate agent be present at all viewings? Check as to whether they will be available during evenings and weekends.

6. Decide between sole and multi-agency, then haggle

Sole agency is cheaper, but the net isn't cast as wide and there may be less chance of a quick sale. Multi-agency costs more, but means that your property will get more exposure, which increases the prospect of a quick sale.

You may decide to start out with a sole agency, moving to multi-agency at the end of the tie-in period. Or you may decide to jump straight in with multi-agency.

Whichever you choose, now is the time to haggle. If one agent is more expensive than the others, see if you can get their price down.

7. Read the terms and conditions of the agreement

Make sure you're happy with all the small print before signing anything. Don't be afraid to question things you don't understand or don't agree with.

8. Review your agent's performance

After a few weeks for multi-agency, or towards the end of the tie-in period for sole agency, evaluate your estate agent's performance.

  • How many viewings have you had? Who from? How did they go?
  • Has the agent been marketing the property and working as hard as you expect?

Also ask for feedback from the agent. If you've not had viewings, or have had viewings but no offers, the agent can give insight. It could be you're priced too high, or that there's an area of the property that could be spruced up to encourage a sale.

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Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.

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