The tasks involved in the selling up and/or buying of property (or engaging with the rental market) are so innumerable, the thought of them alone can be enough to leave a person feeling drained. That’s why it’s vital to break them down into manageable stages, rather than approaching them as one, big, insurmountable challenge. And few stages are as important as choosing an estate agent, especially if you’re putting your home on the market. After all, you want the best price for your property without going too far and ending up with it loitering on the market indefinitely. And to choose a good estate agent, you also need to know what makes a good estate agent. A company might be remarkably adept at making itself sound competent or even exceptional, but then fall down when it comes to actually making good on such claims.
What Exactly Is A Good Estate Agent?
A responsibility as considerable as selling a house cannot be entrusted to the first company you come across. You need to know you can trust them; that they’ll do their level best, give good advice, maintain communication and come through for you. And a good estate agent for one person might not be ideal for someone else, so it’s important to choose one that has successfully handled houses similar to yours and in the same geographical area. You want to know that they have local expertise and insight into the right kinds of buyers. Ideally, as soon as your property is on their books, they already have specific buyers in mind because they’ll remember people who lost out on similar properties and will be able to contact them immediately.
It’s also important to know that your estate agent is going to do more than just put property photos online and then sit back and wait. That could be a medium-sized or boutique agency who don’t have so many properties to look after they can’t find the time to do any of them justice. You could take the time to sit down and talk to any potential agency, as if you were covertly “interviewing” them. Or you could pose as a potential buyer and see if they do a good job of presenting properties in their best light. Either way, you’ll be able to get a sense of their expertise, local knowledge, commitment to the work and willingness to go that bit further than the competition.
An Estate Agent Shortlist
When you’re getting close to working out your final list of potential estate agents, you could weed some of them out by asking yourself why you’re choosing them. For example, if there’s an agency you’re considering because their charges and commission fees are lower than all the others, that, on its own, is not a good enough reason to use them. You might also encounter an agency that flatters you by giving your property a considerably higher valuation than the others. Again, in and of itself that’s not a reason to choose them. Once you’ve slimmed down your hit list, then you can move on to the process of calling or meeting them, to gauge their competence, skill, enthusiasm and knowledge. Aim to have a minimum of three on your final list and get valuations from them all. You then have to grapple with the choice of placing your property with all of them or just one. Their are advantages and disadvantages to both choices. Go with the former, and it brings in some healthy competition, with the possibility that each agency will want to win out over the others. But in all likelihood you’ll be charged a larger fee. Or appoint a single agency, meaning lower fees but possibly less prominence for your property on the market. An exclusive relationship with a sole agent is usually arranged for a fixed amount of time; for example, three months. Sometimes the deal means that if you sell within that time-frame, you pay that agent a commission fee even if you found your buyer independently. In between these two options, there’s the third one: appointing two or three agencies as joint sole agents. In this setup, the agencies will work together, possibly agreeing to share the commission.
Estate Agent Charges
It’s important to know at least a little about estate agent charges, so you can work out of where the ones your choosing sit within the market and whether you think their charges are fair and just. Across the UK, the average 2023 estate agent charge is 1.42 per cent (including VAT) but the actual range of charges goes from 0.9 per cent to 3.6 per cent. In London, you can expect the charge to be above the national average. Some estate agents will come in at the higher end, anticipating being negotiated downwards by you. But what exactly should you expect to get in exchange for that fee? The following: valuation; a professional written description of your home; detailed floor plan illustrations; professional photograph of your property; erection of For Sale signs; access to potential buyers, whom the agent will contact; adding your property to various internet portals, such as Zoopla, Rightmove, On The Market; arranging and overseeing viewings; negotiating the final sale price with your buyer.
What About Online Agents?
Going with a bricks-and-mortar estate agent does, of course, mean that your property will be promoted online, but what about if the agency themselves is online? Purplebricks, Strike, Yopa, Doorsteps – there’s no shortage of online agencies, some of whom operate with a fixed charge which you settle up-front. Some will be prepared to list your home with no charge – you only pay them for ‘extras’, whether that’s photography or more prominent positioning. Online agents account for only 5 per cent of sales in the UK, with Purplebricks taking the lion’s share. Market research suggests that they’re best to opt for if your home is at the less expensive end of the market; they don’t have a great record with the other sections of the market. Consider them if your home is valued at less than £1 million.