Clever questions to ask when choosing an estate agent to sell your home
Be a savvy home seller this year and get answers to these questions before you sign on the dotted line...
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1. How much will you charge?
Estate agents usually charge a percentage fee, which can be anywhere between 0.75% and 3.5% of the agreed selling price for your home depending on the type of contract you choose. You should aim to get a fee that is 1% + VAT for a sole agency contract. So get ready to haggle. Check out our advice guide: How much should I pay the estate agent? for more
2. Are there any other costs?
Then ask if there are any other charges. Does it include a For Sale Board? Additional fees for 360 degree photos? Floorplans? All these marketing costs should be included in the % fee.
It’s at this point all good agents mention the EPC if they haven’t already. Legally, you have to at least applied to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) conducted before putting your house on the market. They last for 10 years so your old one may still be valid. Otherwise, ask the agent how much they can provide one for. It is often cheaper to arrange one yourself. See our guide: Is an EPC important for selling my home?
3. How will you market my home?
This is where high street agents should earn their commission and reel off lots of local knowledge and experience. You can compare the performance of local estate agents in your area using our estateagent4me tool – their success rate, how long they take to sell properties like yours and their likelihood of achieving the asking price.
You will of course also expect them to say they advertise with Rightmove and Zoopla – knowing full well most people find properties online, not by trudging up and down high streets looking at agents’ window displays.
Things got a bit confusing for homesellers and buyers with the introduction of a new property portal OnTheMarket. So, you need to ask agents the following detailed questions:
i) Are you an OnTheMarket member?
If they are, they will only be able to list your home on one of the other two leading portals – either Rightmove OR Zoopla – thus potentially halving the marketing exposure of your property.
ii) Which portal will my home be advertised on and when?
It will be interesting to hear the reasons your agent gives for going with Rightmove or Zoopla, and whether you agree. Agents advertising your home with OnTheMarket will probably put it on the site – which receives only 7 million visitors – for a minimum of 24 hours first before putting it onto Rightmove or Zoopla. So be aware you will be missing out on the larger market of people searching on Rightmove (127 million visitors a month) and Zoopla (50million a month). Therefore it is worth also asking…
iii) can I negotiate a reduced % fee for the delay in my property appearing on Rightmove or Zoopla
It’s worth a try.
iv) If your main concern is optimising exposure of your home to as many potential buyers as possible from the first minute of advertising, then find an agent who is not with OTM and still using Rightmove AND Zoopla (Foxtons, Connells, Countrywide and others).
Alternatively consider online agents who can advertise on both Rightmove and Zoopla. OnTheMarket has banned online agents joining their portal.
v) If you’re planning on going on holiday while you’re property is on the market it’s important to be aware of new rules surrounding a practice known as portal juggling. This is when agents re-list homes that have been on the market for a while to make them look new and bump them up the search rankings. Rules are now in place which prevent a property from being relisted within 14 weeks of its original posting. If you were planning on taking your property down while on holiday or over Christmas holidays, for example, you’ll need to bear this in mind.
4. What type of contract do you use?
There are different types of contract and each has its benefits and draw backs, so make sure you know what they are and choose carefully
- Sole selling rights – If your contract gives the agent “sole selling rights” then think carefully before signing. The estate agent in the contract is the only one allowed to sell your home during the period stipulated. And you will have to pay that estate agent, even if you find your own buyer.
- Ready, willing and able purchaser – Do not accept this! It means you have to pay the agent for finding a buyer, even if you decide not to sell.
- Multi agency – You can use as many agents as you like and only pay commission to the one who sells your property. The more agents you get working for you, the more potential buyers you will reach, and potentially the higher the offers you will get – but you will pay higher fees. Using this approach depends on what type of property you have and on the state of the market.
- Sole agency – This is the same as sole selling but if you find your own buyer, you won’t have to pay anything to the estate agent. If the the contract is open-ended, the agent might be able to claim commission, even years after the contract is over (see below).
5. Does your contract include a tie-in period?
Lots of estate agents, even the big high street brands, include a tie-in period. But if you end up not getting on with them or become unhappy with their service you will want to terminate the contract. Make sure your contract gives you the flexibility to terminate without incurring a penalty (the term you are looking for is “no withdrawal fee”), and go elsewhere if you’re unhappy with your agent. Check the tie-in period and negotiate this as well. These vary dramatically between agents but you should not need to be locked in for more than 4-6 weeks (including your notice period). We’ll say it again, check your contract. See our advice on what to watch for in estate agent contracts
6. Will I have any future liability if I take my home off the market and sell with another agent at a later date?
Imagine you were with Agent A, on a sole agency contract. You were unhappy with their service so terminated the arrangement, served your two weeks notice and were off. You sign up with another estate agent – Agent B – and three months later, the sale of your property goes through. You pay Agent B the commission you owe them for selling your home only to be approached by Agent A asking for a percentage as well because they argue the purchaser was originally “introduced” by them. This could happen months, or even years after you left the original contract.
So read your contract carefully and understand what continuing liability you might be signing up to beyond the term of your contract. Fight any suggestion that you should pay two finders’ fees.
Join the HomeOwners Alliance and let us cast an independent eye over your contract before you sign. You can also access our Home Helpline, Ask an Expert Service, Legal Advice Line and conveyancing discount. Click here to find out more
7. What happens if we disagree on something?
What you’re looking for here is some charm, and a recognition that you are paying the agents’ fee. We hear too often of consumers being bullied by their agents to accept a sale price or buyer they fundamentally aren’t comfortable with – but the agent wants the house sold, to the buyer they have earmarked and the commission in their pockets. So make sure there is mutual respect from the beginning.
If things did go wrong and you found you needed to resolve a dispute with your estate agent we have a guide to help you. At this stage it is worth checking they are a member of one of the grievance bodies who can pursue your claims should things go really wrong. All agents must be a member of either: The Property Ombudsman, the Ombudsman Services Property and as of 2014 the Property Redress Scheme. However, their powers are limited so don’t make the mistake of taking it as a stamp of approval.
Estate agents’ fees aren’t the only major cost when selling, there’s also legal fees. Fear not, we have that covered as well with our great conveyancing quotes tool and members’ discount – click here to get a quote now