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.
Estate agents are required to be members of The Property Ombudsman Scheme which allows for complaints against them to be independently investigated.
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:
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Don’t leave the mortgage search until the last minute. You’ll ideally want to know what your options are well in advance of actually finding your ideal home, as that way, you’ll know if you’ve got the finances to back up the purchase. Alongside finding the right estate agent, make sure to compare mortgages thoroughly, as the right deal could help keep your repayments as low as possible. Use our mortgage calculator to find out how much your repayments might be.
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.