How to find the best estate agent
Choosing an estate agent is important – but how do you separate the good agents from the bad? Our expert guide will help you find the best estate agent
Remember: the agent works for you
When you sell property, it’s vital that you find the best estate agent for you. It’s wise to keep in mind that high street estate agents work for commission, which means that you’re in a strong position – if they don’t sell your property, they don’t get paid. That’s why shopping around for the best estate agent to sell your house is so important.
Choosing sole or multiple estate agents
The first decision you have to make is how many estate agents you should use. Home sellers usually select just one estate agent. This can be simpler to manage and is usually cheaper as agents will charge more for multiple agency arrangements. Using one estate agent also avoids the risk of the seller paying double commission (see possible traps below).
Select a shortlist of estate agents
When it comes to choosing the best estate agent, it helps if you can shortlist your options to three. Use the list below to help you draw up a shortlist, then invite the handful of estate agents round to do a valuation. In drawing up a shortlist you should:
- Ask family, friends and neighbours – it’s always good to have a personal recommendation
- Compare local estate agents based on the facts: how quickly they sell property, how close they come to achieving the asking price and how successful they are. Our free, impartial EstateAgent4Me tool gives you this data instantly for the estate agents in your area.
- Make sure the estate agent has experience of selling property like yours.
- Look at the properties that the agent sells on Zoopla and Rightmove. Are the pictures well taken, and the descriptions clear and relevant?
- Do not feel pressured to hire the estate agent you bought your house from. Obviously, if you were impressed by how they sold your house to you, you might decide to go with them again in which case, add them to your shortlist.
- What is their viewing policy? Check they will accompany potential buyers when you are out, or all the time if you want them to take the lead.
- Find out about their standard terms & conditions, particularly their standard commission rate and typical tie in period
Find out how good they are
Invite your shortlisted estate agents to your home to discuss their offer and conduct a valuation. This is a good opportunity for you to ask them some further questions to help find the best estate agent to sell your home, such as:
- How quickly do they sell homes? What’s their track record with achieving the asking price?
- What is their reasoning behind the value they’re proposing to market your property at?
- Are they members of an accredited independent ombudsman service? They must be either a member of the Property Ombudsman or the Property Redress Scheme
- Will details of your property be shared with their colleagues? It’s good if more than one person in the office can talk enthusiastically and with knowledge about your property
- What would they do if your property was not selling as quickly or at the price you expected?
- Are they open at weekends? A surprising number of agents only work during the week, and perhaps do half day on Saturday, which means they are less accessible to potential buyers
Beware estate agent valuations
Estate agents know that one of the main reasons people pick them is the valuation they give. They take two general approaches:
- Some estate agents give deliberately optimistic valuations, to win your business and make you think you can get a higher price with them, only to reduce the price a few weeks later following a lack of viewings.
- Other estate agents insist they are giving a realistic price, and tell you not to be fooled by falsely high valuations
You will need to try to establish the best price that meets your objectives. The agent should come armed with evidence of local sold prices to support their valuation, but check on our find an estate agent tool for objective data.
Make sure you use something like our free instant home valuation tool for a rough guide to what your home should be worth.
It’s always advisable to take the advice of the estate agent, but ultimately it’s worth noting that it is you and not the agent who decides what price to put the property on at.
How much do estate agents cost?
In terms of fees, overwhelmingly, estate agents charge a percentage fee, which can be anywhere between 0.75% and 3.0%+VAT of the agreed selling price for your home depending on the type of contract you opt for with your estate agent. See How many estate agents should I use?
You should negotiate with the estate agent on the fee and aim to get a fee that is 1% + VAT on the agreed sale price for a sole agency contract.
For higher value properties – such as over £500,000 – agents are often prepared to accept even lower fees, and perhaps go below 1% + VAT.
Fees should be advertised inclusive of VAT. But check with your estate agent.
You may be able to get your shortlisted agents to compete on cost, but make sure you understand all about estate agents fees before you make a decision.
Property marketing strategy
In choosing the best estate agent, it’s important to establish how they plan to market your property. You need to understand what their plans are, and be comfortable with their approach. You should ask them:
- Which portals are they are using? You want your home listed on the big property portals namely Zoopla, Rightmove and Primelocation, as well as the relatively new OnTheMarket
- Will they use premium listings on Rightmove or any other features (e.g. virtual video tours) to showcase your home? And will this come at an additional charge to you?
- Will they advertise your property in local newspapers? Which ones? If you are selling a more expensive property, will it feature in any national newspapers or magazines?
- Will your property feature in their window? For how long?
Traps to watch out for in the estate agent contract
When you hire an estate agent, you will be bound by their terms and conditions, so it’s important to understand what to watch out for with estate agents’ contracts. Some of the biggest things to be careful of include:
- Will you have to pay extra for marketing and other costs, such as taking professional photos and putting up For Sale boards? These basics should be included in the commission fee
- Do they insist on “sole selling rights”? If so, it means that even if you find a buyer yourself, you still have to pay the agent their fee. If you do give away sole selling rights to an agent, it must only be for a very limited period.
- Are you paying commission when they sell the property, or if they find a “ready, willing and able purchaser”? The latter would mean you still have to pay the agent a fee even if the sale falls through because you have had to pull out – such as if you lost your job. You should only use an agent who expects a fee as a result of exchange of contracts.
- Does the agreement have a time limit? This allows you to change agent if you are not happy. A normal period is 12 weeks, but can be as little as four. Agents might not like it, but try to get a no-penalties notice period of two weeks.
What about online estate agents?
Online estate agents are much cheaper than conventional high street estate agents. But you pay this cheaper a fixed fee upfront and they vary in terms of what packages and prices they offer.
Fees for online estate agents vary, but can start as little as a £300 flat rate fee paid upfront. Other pricing plans vary, and most offer payment on completion – but that often costs more. If you want an estate agent to do things like conduct viewings, you are likely to pay extra, so many people choose to do the viewings themselves.
Online estate agents all have essentially the same marketing approach, which is to advertise your house online on websites like Zoopla, Rightmove, Primelocation. Some will also use national newspapers.
If you do want to use an online estate agent, get some local estate agents to value your home first to get the best idea of where to pitch the asking price.
Can I sell my home myself?
You don’t have to hire an estate agent, it is possible you can sell your home yourself. This has become even easier as more and more websites pop-up allowing you to list your home and market it to potential buyers. It’s worth noting that these websites won’t be allowed to market your house on the big property portals like Rightmove, so exposure to potential buyers will be limited.
If you can sell you home for the right price this way, you will save a lot of money. But beware that not getting the best price for your home can be much more costly than paying an agent. £5,000 off a £200,000 home may not seem like much but will completely erase any savings from not using an agent.
It’s also important to understand that you can’t list yourself directly on Zoopla, Rightmove and OntheMarket. They don’t take private listings, so you will need an estate agent, whether online or high street, if you want to maximise exposure of your home to possible buyers. See our guide Should I sell my home myself for more information.
Choosing the best estate agent to sell your house
In summary then….
- Make sure you shop around for the best estate agent near you – compare their latest performance data using our free EstateAgent4Me tool.
- Make sure you get along with your estate agent, and that you trust them. They will be the first point of contact for any potential buyers, so you need to make sure that they will represent you and your property well.
- Remember to read the contract carefully and check your sole agency tie in period and required notice period. If you don’t understand something, ask. If you are not happy in any way do not sign the contract.