10 Questions I Should Ask an Estate Agent Before I Sell

Having decided to sell your property, before committing to one estate agent, it is well worth establishing that your chosen estate agent is the right one for you. It is true that to do your homework thoroughly could take a little time, but bearing in mind that you will be paying the estate agency thousands of pounds in fees, you need to check that they really are effective, good at selling your type of property and- where money is concerned – that they are not charging over the odds.

The following ten pointers will indicate whether your chosen estate agent is the right one for you.

1) Does the Estate Agency Have a Good Presence Locally?

If you open your local newspapers and check the property section, does the estate agency command a good position in the paper with a decent sized advert? Is the advertisement properly branded and eye-catching? Are there adequate photographs and descriptions of the various properties it is handling? Would you feel that your property is in good hands?

Take a drive around your locality looking at the different sale boards, does your chosen agency feature? Look on the Rightmove website too and check that the agency advertises there too.

2) Does the Estate Agency's Window Look the Dynamic?

It is well worth taking an evening stroll and seeing which of your local estate agencies puts effort into their window display. After all, many prospective buyers – especially older ones – still prefer to get a feel of the local market from the window displays. Are the photographs of the properties eye-catching and is the information both helpful and adequate to tempt?

3) How Good Is the Agency's Website?

This is an extremely important indicator as 10% of all prospective buyers make their initial searches for property online for a number of reasons. The first is that they can look at properties for sale at a time to suit them, they can look at properties in different areas from the comfort of their home and they can discount properties from the photographs and information online – without wasting time visiting the property.

It is therefore essential that the estate agency you have in mind understands the importance of a good website and displays excellent information about each property it is handling. Try out the website for yourself. Is the site easy to navigate? Are there plenty of quality photographs and a really good description for each property?

Very importantly, does the estate agency offer floor plans and 360º tours as part of the information? Both of these features are becoming increasingly popular with prospective buyers as it enables them to accurately make 'virtual viewings' of a number of properties in one evening, from the comfort of their home and with a glass of wine in their hand!

4) Do Friends and Colleagues Recommend Your Chosen Estate Agency?

Nothing is better than personal recommendation, so if you know someone who has recently moved, why not ask them about their experience and whether they were pleased with all aspects of how the sale was handled by their estate agency? If you have friends who have lived in the area for some years, who would they suggest is the best estate agency?

5) How Professional Are Its Members of Staff?

It is well worth telephoning the estate agency so test how professionally your call is answered and handled. A few days after you have telephoned, pop into the office in person – again just to test how you are treated as it is very important that staff members are polite and approachable as you do not want anyone interested in your property to be deterred or to give up waiting to be seen.

6) Does the Agency Handle Your Type of Property?

In conversation with the member of staff, it should become clear very quickly that they know the area well and where your property is located. They should be able to easily recall similar properties that they have recently sold – and if they are really good, quote the prices they sold for too and how long it took to get a buyer!

It is well worth getting valuations from a few different agencies for your property because whilst a higher value may sound good, in reality it can be a negative because if the property is overpriced it will not sell speedily and just 'stick' on the market.

7) Who in the Estate Agency Would Be Handling the House Sale?

It is essential that your property will be handled by an experienced member of staff with whom you can communicate easily and who always responds to emails and missed calls promptly.

When he/she visits your property, you will be able to tell whether they have plenty of knowledge about the area and its amenities and that they are interested in the property and will be able to sell it well. It is important to ask whether they will conduct all viewings or whether you will be needed for some too. Can they give you plenty of warning if they have a viewing arranged?

8) What Fee Will They Charge?

It is well worth comparing the charges made by a couple of different companies. Sole agency is usually 1- 2% with an eight week tie-in time, whereas the charge for multi agency are usually 1.5- 2.5% - because your property will receive much more exposure online and in the press.

House sellers need to know exactly what fees they will be charged by the estate agency – before they sign up to anything. If the property is worth £600,000, the average commission charged to a seller is £30,000 (2%). It is important to check whether the commission charged includes VAT or not. Sellers with more valuable properties, particularly like the idea of being able to negotiate the level of commission in advance and this is well worth discussing during your initial visit with your favoured estate agency.

It is very important at this stage to check if there are any other charges that will be made. These will include footage for virtual tours of the property, dressing the property for the photographic shoot – if a professional third party is used. If you have a higher value property and decide that you would like a brochure published, this is often at an extra cost to you.

You will be required to have a current Energy Performance Certificate which can be arrange by your agent. Check first whether you have a current certificate as they are valid for ten years and how much your agency will charge you to organise one - as this could prove to be cheaper to arrange yourself!

9) What Type of Contract Are They Offering?

It is important to fully understand the type of contract you are being offered. An agency offering you 'sole selling rights' is offering you a contract that ensures that it can be the only one to secure a sale - you will still be charged commission if you find a buyer yourself!

Sole agency means just that, your chosen estate agency will be the only one handling the sale. The good news is that even if you find a buyer for your property yourself, you will not be charged commission by the estate agency. However, the point to check carefully is the tie-in -period, which can be anything between 4 - 20 weeks, with 12 weeks being the most usual.

Check too, whether there is a 14 day notice period, should you decide not to renew the tie-in-period. If there is be very careful. If you decide at the end of the tie-in-period to go with another agent, make sure that the notice period has elapsed because should the new estate agency sell your property in the 14 day notice period – both agencies will charge you commission.

Now is the time to carefully read through the Terms and Conditions of your chosen agency and if there are any points that are unclear, do not hesitate to query them.

10) Is the Estate Agency a Member of Propertymark?

Propertymark was launched in 2017 to raise the standards to the highest level possible within the industry. Estate agencies, letting agencies and auctioneers can voluntarily join Propertymark to help raise standards and also to assure consumers that they are offering an excellent service.

Estate agents who have joined the scheme display the distinctive 'Propertymark Protected' logo which ensures maximum protection for their clients as they must comply with the Propertymark Code of Practice which many aspects such as having professional indemnity insurance and a complaints service.

Interestingly, if you are having difficulties selling your property and decide to sell it by auction rather than through an estate agency, there are a number of auctioneers who are members of Propertymark too.

If you find that you are happy that your chosen estate agency will handle the sale of your property professionally and well, you can arrange to sign the contract as soon as possible, get your house on the market and start house hunting yourself.

Article kindly provided by property expert, Chris Stevens.

Posted on in Selling

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