Wednesday, 28 November 2018

How to Choose an Estate Agent

For most people moving home can be quite a stressful event. When you already own your own home you will invariably need to sell it in order to be able to purchase another one. Most of us will decide to use an estate agent, although there is no obligation to do so, generally, it makes finding a buyer more convenient. The estate agent should also be trying to obtain the best price for you as well as making sure that the buyer will proceed to completion.

Every town in Britain seems to have a large number of estate agents, so this raises the question; How to Choose an Estate Agent?"

Firstly, you need to think about the type of property you own. If it is a little outside the normal such as a country mansion, chocolate box cottage in a rural retreat or a small holding you would be better with an agent that specialises in such properties. For properties that are in neglect and require lots of renovation, an estate agent that has a regular auction could well achieve better results for you.

In the main, most of us will have a property type and situated in a location that 99% of estate agents will market and will, therefore, have a larger number of estate agents to choose from. Here are some things to consider and how to test the estate agent for yourself to see if they are the right one for you to market your home.

Reputation and Recommendation

As with many businesses, their reputation is key. Talk to people you know and ask them about their knowledge of the estate agents in your area and if they or their friends have used them. Find out what they were like to both sell with and to buy from. Did they try to get people to pay more or were they quick to get the price reduced? Did they accompany viewings, feedback on viewings and keep vendors clearly informed? It's good to speak to as many people as possible as well as check online for any reviews.

How Do They Market Properties?

Check out the estate agents website. Is it up to date with an easy way to search for properties being sold? Do they also advertise on the major portals such as Rightmove and Primelocation? Is there office in a good position with up to date window displays that are actually trying to sell homes rather than plastered with 'sold' ones to try and get more vendors to sell with them? If they are more interested in taking on property rather than selling then beware. It could be that they are really good at selling and need more homes but it may also be the other way around that they can't attract vendors or properties are taken off them and given to someone else to sell.

Visit the Estate Agents

When you visit the estate agents office check out how you are greeted. Are they welcoming and attentive? Initially, go to buy and not to ask them to sell your home. They will soon ask you if you have a property to sell and will pitch their service to you. If they concentrate on selling you their service rather than a property, beware. Also be careful if they are not interested in letting you have property details or view if you're property is not on the market. Many buyers today will go out and view homes before committing to sell. If an agent is not interested in that segment of the market it is hugely detrimental to their vendors.

If you are buying in the same area go and view a few properties that you would be interested in and see how the estate agent handles that. Did they go with you to the viewing? Did they follow up and ask if you would like to make an offer? Offers can be made even if you have not sold your property.

To test the agent out and not waste any vendors time on 'test offers' simply say to the agent that you are thinking of making an offer and see how they react. If an estate agent says that they don't put offers forward as you haven't sold there might see an issue. It could be that a vendor has instructed them not to put such offers forward, but that is very rare.

Personally, I would not offer until I had sold otherwise someone else can come along and top your offer and create a bidding war. However, the test here is not for that reason as a bidding war would be good for the vendor and the agent! It's to test the agent on their willingness to get offers and more money. They might just be too lazy to want to do more than the minimum and offers that can't immediately proceed might not be to their liking.

The Contract

When you decide to sell your property the fee, of course, is an important consideration along with the length of the agreement you sign. Estate agents prefer to be the only one trying to sell your property and this is a sole agency contract. If you were to sell the property yourself, for example to a friend, you will still be liable for the fee even if the estate agent has nothing to do with the sale. If you believe there is someone you know that is likely to buy your home but has not yet been able to make an offer, make sure that you have a contract that allows you to sell to that person without paying the agent unless you are prepared to pay them for nothing.

Check carefully how much the agent is charging and if there will be any additional fees, for example, newspaper advertising. A sole agency fee should be lower than multiple agencies. Of course, as with everything in life, if you pay less you might not be getting a better deal.

Check carefully how long you will be committed to the agent because if you switch agents during this period you could be liable to 2 fees when the property sells. You will really need to read the small print carefully before you sign. This can take quite a while, therefore, if an estate agent is trying to get you to sign in a hurry be prepared to walk away.

When the time comes for you to find an estate agent to sell your home I wish you well and hope that you have found this blog post helpful. Your comments are always appreciated, so do feel free to leave one in the box below.


  1. Excellent article. I think expectation management is also crucial. At the end of the day Estate Agents are running a business, so their priority is getting a quick sale, particularly in the current political/economic climate (
    The key question for any seller is what’s the property worth. This isn’t the same as the price the property will be listed for by the Agent, as they will expect some negotiation and its important the seller appreciates this fact. Obviously, if a full price offer is made, everyone’s happy, but this cannot be guaranteed because everyone wants a bargain.
    The Agent is providing a professional services, based on years of experience. Establishing a realistic market price sets the tone, but if the sale drags and the price needs to be revisited, its important the seller understands why the price may need to be lowered and what impact this is realistically going to have on the final sale. For example, a reduction of 5% on the listed price could result in an actual reduction of 10% when a negotiated sale price is agreed.
    There is always the fear that Agents will say anything to the seller to get to list a property and then say anything to the buyer in order to achieve a quick sale. On smaller properties in particular, where the actual value of their fee will only be reduced marginally by a reduction in the sale price, a quick sale minimises the risk to the Agent of the costs associated with facilitating multiple viewings, amending marketing materials and ultimately the fear that the property will be re-listed with an another agent.
    As with everything in life trust and communication are so important. Managing expectations means an honest conversation about what the housing market is doing and what this means in terms of the value parameters, top and bottom, a seller should expect. How many viewings and over what period of time, should be expected. Time wasters are inevitable, but what would a realistic offer look like and how quickly is one likely to be made. If difficult decisions need to happen, then the seller needs to understand how these conservations will come about. Providing good quality regular feedback, contextualised by the Agents professional experience and judgement, will help both the Agent and the Seller understand why an original valuation may need to be revisited. There should be no nasty surprises.