Top tips for choosing the right estate agent

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Easter typically marks the start of the property silly season, when buyers and sellers often go a bit crazy and dreams are crushed or, hopefully, made real.homeins-img

But if you’re looking to put your home on the market, how should you choose an estate agent? They’re all pretty much the same, so it shouldn’t matter much, right? Well, yes and no.

Estate agency has become much more competitive over the last couple of decades, and you can now throw in a good number of non-traditional, internet-savvy agents to consider too.

It’s not all about cost (although nearly!)

How much you’re charged in fees is, of course, one of the most crucial aspects. But if an agent over-values your home, has terribly slimy, untrustworthy sales people and is renowned for missing out on potential buyers, it’s probably not worth using them, however low their fee.

However, no matter how good an agent is, if it wants to charge you 3% instead of a more standard rate of typically 1.5%, you should almost certainly go with someone else.

Here are some crucial tips for selecting the right agent:

Fees

Don’t just blindly sign an agreement with any old estate agent; you could end up paying thousands more in fees. Once you’ve spoken to a number of agents, you’ll have an idea of what’s generally charged and can haggle (always, always haggle!).

As already mentioned, however, it shouldn’t only be about price, although this is very important.

Recommendations

Ask around family and friends to see who got good service from whom and at what price. If an agency has a reputation for fly-by-night sales people, you’ll probably hear about it.

Valuations

Don’t just go for the highest valuation. Some agents will simply add at least 10% to what they think is the true value just to get your business. Then you could be stuck with a home that won’t sell, growing stale, and making buyers suspicious when you do eventually cut the price or move to another agent. Ask an agent to explain their reasoning (they should provide examples of sold prices for similar properties and also you can check online).

Good agents follow up

Go round to the agency and speak to the sales team and office manager and see if you trust them. A good team will follow up on viewings by calling and chasing potential buyers. Sometimes buyers can be interested in several properties and you might miss out if another agent acting for another seller is the most persuasive and attentive.

Website presentation

How your property will look to potential buyers online is very important. If an agency doesn’t show floorplans and takes terrible photos and writes poor descriptions, it won’t help your cause as a seller.

Marketing your property

The most crucial aspect of an agency marketing your home is if it’s going to appear on the key property portals of Rightmove and Zoopla. If the agent doesn’t pay for this, then walk away!

Read the small print

Make sure you know how long you’re tying yourself into using an agency for (you won’t be allowed to use another agent before this time period has expired). You might want 6 weeks instead of the typical 3 months, and most agents won’t quibble if you do. It’s probably not cost effective, or sensible, to use the agents in-house solicitor, if they have one.

Never agree to pay an agent a fee just for getting buyers into your house; only agree that they get paid on completion.

Selling through non-traditional methods

There are a good number of quality ‘online-only’ sellers these days, from Sarah Beeny’s Tepilo to Purplebricks. Any many are hardly ‘online-only’ these days, offering agents who take photos, make valuations, write up descriptions and conduct viewings; pretty much everything a traditional agent does, but with (usually) lower costs.

Pricing method

Pricing methods are fairly crucial. What are the agent’s methods? Will they go for a ‘guide price’, ‘offers over’? Do they conduct open days on first weekends? And if so, will that be individual bookings or just letting lots of people wander round your home? Would they suggest holding out for full asking, or should you be prepared to compromise on price?

This will certainly depend on how hot the market is around you, or not, and the type of buyer your home might attract (younger, older, families, singles etc.).

The value of your home and insurance

How much you can get for your property on the market has no bearing on how much it costs to insure it.

A pokey one bed flat in central London might be worth £500,000, while your 3-bed semi-detached property might be worth half that, but it’s highly likely your home will cost more to insure.

What matters is how much it would cost to re-build your home from scratch. And, of course, generally a 3-bed house will cost more than a small flat.

Don’t forget to take into account solicitors and architects fees too when trying to work out how much the maximum sum insured should be.

Policy Expert

As an online insurance broker, Policy Expert help our customers to compare insurance products and find a policy that’s right for them. Customer care is at the heart of everything we do and we have a dedicated customer service team on hand by phone, email, twitter and instant chat. For more information speak to one of our experts on 0330 0600 600 or email ask@policyexpert.co.uk

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Policy Expert.