Moving home is said to be one of the most stressful things we do in life. Choosing a good estate agent can make a huge difference to the whole process – so what should you look for when choosing an estate agent to sell your home?
This guide is written by Southgate Estates Director, Jonathan Newall. Prior to setting up Southgate Estates, Jonathan worked as a chartered engineer. It was his personal experience of buying and selling houses that inspired Jonathan to set up a truly different estate agency, where customers are always treated honestly and fairly.
If you would like any further advice or have any questions, please feel free to give Jonathan a call.
What does a good agent look like?
A good estate agent can should be working for you (you are their client), and should support you throughout the whole process from booking a valuation through to completion (when the keys are handed over to your buyer). Their knowledge, skill, attitude and experience can make a huge difference to how stressful and time-consuming the process is for you.
They should be aiming to achieve the best price for your property, whilst also being realistic and not over-valuing it just to win your business. Their fee should be competitive but may not be the cheapest – sometimes you get what you pay for!!
They should have the skills to market your property professionally and confidently, so take time to look at their marketing material as this will attract potential buyers to view your home. Their skilled sales negotiators should be available to act on your behalf to achieve a sale and they should have experienced staff who can progress you sale through to completion.
It is important that your agent communicates with you in a timely way and is easily contactable during office hours – good communication can be a vital part of reducing the stress involved in selling your home. They should be willing to listen to you and be able to advise you appropriately and honestly. It is crucial that you feel you can trust them to sell your home.
Take time to do your research – it will save you time in the long run
Create A Shortlist:
Aim to ask just a few agents to visit your home to value it (3 is a good average)
It’s useful to find out about a number of local agents and then narrow it down to just a few to ask in to value your home. Getting valuations from three agents will usually give you a good idea of the value of your home and the services on offer. Consider asking family and friends for recommendations, and those they would not recommend, finding out why in each case can be helpful. Have a look at online property sites to see which agents are in your area (e.g. Right move, OntheMarket). Take a look at their listings and consider how professional their photos look and how clear and accurate their information is. Also look at the agents own website to see how professional and user friendly it is. Look at the reviews on their website or other sites (e.g. allagents.co.uk / Facebook) You may want to visit a few local offices and ask about a property, note how friendly, knowledgable and helpful they are – how would you feel about them selling your home for you?
Book Your Valuations:
Call or email each the agents on your shortlist, arrange a time for them to visit your home so they can value it and you can meet them. Use this call / email as part of your decision making. How quickly did they respond to you? how polite and friendly were they? Did they sound interested in you and your property? How easy was it to book an appointment? Did they confirm the appointment in writing for you (by email or post)?
Questions To Ask / Consider At Your Valuation:
Things to consider include the agents professionalism, the price (value) they give your home, their services (inc. marketing and after-sales service) and their contract.
Are they on time, smart, professional and friendly
Do they take time to look around? do they seem interested in your home?
Are they willing to listen to you and answer your questions?
How well do they know your local area (schools, transport etc)?
Have they done their research (i.e. gave they looked at comparable properties that have sold / on the market in your area)?
What price are they suggesting for your home? What is their evidence for this?
What percentage of properties do they reduce in price before they achieve a sale (i.e. are they over-valuing to win business)?
Their Services (inc. marketing and after-sales)
Do they explain their services and fees clearly? (fees are usually a percentage of the final sale price)
What is included in their fee and what is extra? Have they included VAT?
What do they charge for EPC’s (Energy Performance Certificates), how are these arranged?
What is the quality of their marketing materials like – ask to see them (website, brochures etc)? Where do they advertise?
Do they accompany all viewings or are you expected to do all / some of them?
How will they let you know about viewings or give you feedback?
What level of viewings would they expect? What is their evidence?
Do their staff have sales targets to meet or do they work as a team?
Once a sale is agreed, how will they help to progress your sale? Do they have dedicated and experienced staff to do this?
How do they liaise with third parties (solicitors, surveyors etc)? Do they get any payment / kickbacks from recommending people?
Can you see a copy of the contract, is it easy to understand? Do they leave a copy?
What sort of contract is it? (see terminology below)
Make sure you READ AND UNDERSTAND THE CONTRACT (it is a legally binding document)
Do they have a tie-in period? How long is it? How easy is it to leave if you want to and are there any charges if you leave early?
What happens if you find a buyer privately yourself?
Is there a ‘cooling off’ period once you have signed the contract?
Is there a complaints procedure? Has a customer ever complained to the Ombudsman?
Which professional bodies are they registered with (Property Ombudsman, National Association of Estate Agents etc.)
What happens next? Will they contact you or wait for you to contact them?
Don’t be pressured into signing up there and then. Take time to consider and compare what each agent is offering before making your decision.
Read the contract carefully. Check what sort of contract is being offered before you sign anything. Common terms are:
Sole Agency: The agency is the only one who can sell your home during the agreed period, but if you find your own buyer, you won’t have to pay the estate agent anything.
Sole Selling Rights: Think carefully before signing this type of contract. The agency is the only one allowed to sell your home during the agreed period BUT you WILL have to pay the estate agent, even if you find your own buyer privately.
Ready, Willing and Able Purchaser: Think VERY carefully before signing this. You have to pay the agent for finding a buyer, even if you decide not to sell in the end.
Joint / Multi-agency: You can use more than one agent and only pay commission to the one who sells your property. You may get more viewings and potentially more offers, but you will pay higher fees and it looks as if you are desperate to sell.
Fixed Cost: Generally and up-front, non-refundable charge. This may be cheaper than the above options but often offers a reduced level of service. Check carefully to see what is / isn’t included in the fee.
Decide Which Agent To Go With:
Having met the agents, found out about their services and had their valuations, you need to choose who you want to use to sell your home. Here are a few suggestions that may help you to make the decision:
Write a list of strengths and weaknesses for each agent
Rate your relationship with each agent e.g.
Did you develop a good rapport with them?
Were they approachable, professional and honest?
Would you trust them to show others around your home?
Compare the valuations (remember that the highest valuation isn’t always the most realistic). Have they confirmed their valuation in writing to you?
Compare the fees and the service you get for each one, (a good after-sales service can be crucial in seeing your sale through to completion).
If you have further questions or want more clarification, contact the agent – they should be very happy to answer your queries.
Accurate valuation advice can be key to selling your home for the best price and in the right timescale. If you are asking too much, it will inevitably lead to no viewings or offers and the property will become stale before you know it. Of course, advertising too cheaply can often result in achieving a low sale price. The asking price needs to be right from the onset.
At Southgate Estates, we promise to always give honest and well researched advice. We spend time with our clients explaining how we have arrived at our valuation and make genuine recommendations on how to best market every home.
We offer free valuations and never use hard sales techniques to push clients into signing up on the day.
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