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How to choose an estate agent

How to choose an estate agent

Category: Mortgages

Updated: 06/01/2017
First Published: 08/07/2015

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

If you're thinking of moving home, one of the most important things you'll have to do is find an estate agent. But that can be easier said than done – estate agents often get a bad rep, be it for the fees they charge or how they go about selling, but there are some good ones out there. Here's how to find them…

  • Ask for recommendations from friends and family. If someone you know has had a good experience with an agent, the odds are stacked in your favour that you'll have a similar one.
  • Keep local. Local estate agents will know the area and will instantly know the kind of price range you're looking at for your property, and they'll be close enough to easily meet prospective buyers, too. Ideally, they'd have sold similar properties to yours and could even have a few on their books – check out their website to see if they've got experience with properties like yours.
  • Check out their past performance. You wouldn't enter into any other financial arrangement without doing your research and thoroughly checking past performance, so don't do it with an estate agent! One of the best things you can do is see whether they sell properties at the asking price – if they typically achieve a price that's way below the initial valuation, it isn't a good sign. Use our search tool to find agents in your area and see how they rate.
  • Don't be swayed by a high valuation. It may be tempting to go for an agent that values your property the highest, but in many cases it'll be too good to be true. It may be a tactic to get you to appoint them only for the price to be nudged down at a later date, and if you pitch too high, you'll lose the initial impact and could ultimately have to sell for less. Do your own research to have an idea of your home's price range, and remember, being realistic is key.
  • Remember that it isn't all about fees. Agents will typically charge between 1% and 3% of the selling price, but don't always be put off if the fee initially seems too much. Ask the agent to justify the higher price – if it's because they'll go the extra mile to sell your home and get the best price, they could still be worth considering (again, this is where research and checking their performance comes in). However, be wary of things like set fees on lower priced properties as it could end up being a high percentage, and don't be afraid to negotiate if the fee seems unreasonable.
  • Think from a buyer's point of view. Check out their high street branch or website. Would you buy a home from them? This is crucial, because if you're not impressed by their presence, other buyers probably won't be either. Look at things like the quality of the photos, the floorplans and whether they go the extra mile with things like video tours – it can all make a difference.
  • Find out how they'll market your property. A good agent will really invest in the marketing side of things to get your property in front of as many buyers as possible, while a poor one will wait for house hunters to come to them. Start by asking what property portals they're listed on and whether they advertise in newspapers or magazines, and find out how good their brochures are. Some will actively ring round potential buyers on their books to incite even more interest – anything they do that's above and beyond will add to their favour. You should also ask what they'd do if your property wasn't getting the interest expected, and gauge their answer accordingly.
  • Create a shortlist and ask them all for a valuation. You should never appoint the first agent you have contact with – instead, speak to several and arrange a valuation with at least three. This will give you a better idea of their selling methods and even their personality, because it's not only important to appoint an agent whom you're impressed by, but also one you trust and can get along with.

Choosing an estate agent can be a daunting experience, but if you get it right, it could make the process of selling your home simpler, easier and (hopefully) more enjoyable – not to mention profitable!

Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.