Selling a property can be an exciting part of a new chapter in life. However, it can also be a stressful and expensive process, and often something which will only be undertaken a handful of times across a lifetime.
As one of the UK’s largest independent Estate Agents, the process of selling a property is something we deal with every day. So, to help you through this process we’ve put together a guide explaining the most important questions to ask a prospective estate agent before entering into a contract with them.
1. What are your fees, and are there any other costs?
Estate agents will often charge you a fee as a percentage of the sale price of the property. Note that fees are quoted with and without VAT but you will be advised how much the fee will be if the property is sold at the asking price. For a sole agency contract (see more below), a fee will often be lower than for a multi agency, which can be between 2-3%. Fixed fees are offered as standard by some agents so you know what you are going to pay from the start, but these fees will be the same even if you end up selling for less.
Some estate agents offer their services for a fixed upfront fee, and this is particularly common with online/hybrid estate agents. Upfront fees can work out cheaper but remember these fees are paid before you have sold and you don’t get your money back if the agent doesn’t sell your property. You may end up having to pay two agents if the first one can’t find you the buyer you need and you decide you need help from another agent.
You should also find out what other costs may not be included in the fee. Generally, marketing costs should be included, but it’s worth checking you won’t have to pay extra for things like viewings to be undertaken by the estate agent, a For Sale board, professional photos and floorplans, or video.
You also need to have an Energy Performance Certificate before you put your property on the market, if yours is no longer valid (they last 10 years) your estate agent can normally arrange this for you.
2. When are your fees due?
It’s important to find out when estate agent fees are due to be paid, to avoid any costs coming at unexpected times. Online/hybrid agent fees are usually paid upfront, or committed to via a finance agreement, but this means you have to pay a fee whether your property sells or not. If you’re paying a fee as a commission, this will normally be paid once the property has been sold.
3. What type of contracts do you offer?
There are several types of contacts you can enter into with an estate agent when selling your property. The typical ones are:
- Sole Selling Rights – This type of contract means the estate agent is the only one allowed to sell your property during the period stipulated. If you know someone who may buy your property before you instruct your agent it is important that you get them excluded from the terms of this contract.
- Sole Agency – This means that while the agent is the only agent with the right to sell your property, you can also look to find a buyer yourself. Remember that it must be someone who found out about your property outside any marketing the agent has done e.g. a family friend
- Joint Agency – This means you can ask agents, often two, to work together to look to find a buyer. The fee will be shared between them either 50/50 or with the agent finding the successful buyer getting a slightly larger proportion. Fees for this type of contract are often higher than Sole agencies.
- Multi-Agency – This type of contract means you can use as many agents as you like and pay commission to the one who sells your property. Fees with this type of contract are typically higher, but you also need to consider that the estate agents are in direct competition with each other to find the successful buyer, and faster than the other agents. This means their obligation to provide ‘best advice’ on the buyers is reduced and it will be up to you to decide if you should accept an offer or wait to find someone better.
4. Am I tied into a contract for a particular amount of time?
Estate agent contracts typically include a marketing period. This is the period that the estate agent commits to spending money marketing your property and you commit to working with them to find the right buyer for you. A shorter contract means the estate agent is motivated to act quickly to agree on a sale to an early enquiry. A longer commitment from the agent is often important if you are looking to achieve a record price but make sure regular reviews of the marketing strategy are part of the contract. However, if you decide to stop marketing your property before you have found a buyer and the contract end date remember you may be liable to reimburse some of the estate agents costs given their lost opportunity to sell your property.
5. Have you recently sold any other properties in the area?
Before choosing an estate agent, you’ll want to make sure they know the local market well and are active in the area. It could be an advantage to use an agent who has recently sold similar properties to yours in your area, because they may already have a list of potential buyers who would be interested in yours.
You can also ask what other properties the agent has for sale in the same price bracket as yours, as this will allow you to gauge how similar properties are selling.
Look for agents who have a broad approach to marketing platforms. Visibility of your property across multiple channels and portals will mean a buyer, whichever route they have taken for their search, will see your property and be able to make an enquiry.
6. How much is my property worth?
It’s wise to ensure your estate agent is using comparable data to give you a guide on the price you should market your property for. There are several factors that will influence the price of your home, such as its size, condition and location, as well as the current market conditions. Buyers will compare your property with what else is available to decide if it is the best they can get. The price you market for is ultimately your decision and you should decide the figure based on how quickly you need to move and so how quickly you need to secure a buyer. If you have no deadlines you can certainly consider marketing at an optimistic price as the perfect buyer will always be tempted to pay a premium for their perfect home. If you need to move very quickly then the price must reflect this fact to ensure you get a high volume of enquiries quickly and a buyer who is able to move quickly can be identified.
With Chancellors, you can get an instant, online valuation which provides an estimate of what your property could be worth purely based on data and is a good first step to take. Once you are getting closer to putting your property on the market, you can arrange a Client Visit where an agent will come to your property, or undertake a video appointment, to assess the property’s condition, the local area and the current prices of other similar properties, with a view to giving recommendations on marketing strategies and an initial marketing price.
7. Is now a good time to sell?
The important thing to consider is your own motivations when deciding if the time is right to market your property. An estate agent will look to maximise any market place and ensure you secure the best person available at that time. It may be tempting to look to time your arrival to the market but you must consider that others will do the same. A typically busy time of year will mean lots of sellers come to the market and as such your competition for the best buyer will be greater. Whatever point in the economic cycle you come to the market remember that your purchase should tie into your sale. If times are tougher then this should be reflected in your purchase price, even if it is reflected in your sale price.
8. How quickly do you sell properties like mine?
You can gauge the performance of an estate agent by asking for information on their success rate of selling properties like yours, but don’t be obsessed with speed. It is an important factor but you should also look to identify the agent that spends the time and energy to get the best prices in the area as well. However, neither will be a factor if your area is one that the agent is expanding into. Most important is that you believe their marketing package and local team is the best available to support identifying the best motivated buyer.
9. Is my property ready to sell, and how can I best dress it for marketing?
Getting your estate agent’s opinion on the condition of your property and how to get it ready for sale is important, as it is likely to have an impact on the number and value of offers you receive.
A good estate will give advice on how to attract more interest in your property, and to make it look as appealing as possible once buyers are viewing your home. This could involve redecorating in a more neutral colour scheme, completing any odd DIY jobs, and generally decluttering.
10. How important is online?
Nowadays, having your property listed online is essential, as this is where the vast majority of people looking to buy start their search. This includes portal websites such as Rightmove, Zoopla and On The Market, so you should ensure that your estate agent is able to get your property listed on all these sites as well as their own, social media and Google. Cutting corners in this area will just mean certain buyers may be missed, so reducing the competition for your property.
A good estate agent will also be able to leverage their local knowledge and importantly their existing database of applicants and extensive offline marketing tools to create a thorough marketing plan for your property, both online and offline. It is rare for a buyer to purchase the first property they enquire about so this estate agent action to focus the minds of buyers on your property is often vital to the sales process. Good agents will put a lot of time, energy and resource into communicating with buyers about properties rather than waiting for the buyers to make the enquiries themselves.
11. Who will conduct viewings?
Buyers may view a property multiple times before putting in an offer, especially if they plan to make it a home for themselves. A high street estate agent will most likely want to conduct viewings themselves. This allows them to speak to the buyer at length about your property and although they will use your knowledge about the property as part of this process there will be things that buyers will be happier to discuss with the estate agent than you the seller. This can prove vital to the negotiation process. Agree with the estate agent when you are able to allow viewings at your property and the estate agent will ideally look to book their appointments in clusters, or via an open house, for your convenience, and to ensure buyers realise there is competition for your property!
Most online estate agents will expect you to conduct all viewings yourself as standard for their basic product offering but may offer hosted viewing as an optional paid for extra.
12. Can you recommend surveyors, solicitors, removal firms, and do you get commission for doing this?
This shouldn’t be a deal breaker when choosing an estate agent, but it can be useful if your agent can recommend other specialist businesses to help you with your move. This could be surveyors, conveyancing solicitors, financial advisors and removal companies to help with your onward purchase. Using businesses that your estate agent has a good relationship with may mean that things progress more quickly or smoothly than with others as if there are bumps in the road the estate agent is better placed to influence the process between parties.
Your estate agent will often receive commission from any introductions they make and these will be disclosed to you as part of the process. Remember if you do decide to use any of these other companies then you will be entering into a completely separate contract for their services, that is not part of your estate agency contract, so ensure you are happy with the product being offered in its own right.
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Correct at time of publication (12th June 2020). The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the individual contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chancellors Group of Estate Agents Ltd or its subsidiaries. References to legislation, best practice and other matters with legal implications such as fees, rules and processes are included for information and editorial purposes only and are not authoritative, nor should they be interpreted as advice. When in doubt you should only take advice from an industry professional or solicitor where appropriate. E&OE.