How to get the best out of your estate agent
If you are looking to sell your property it is likely that you will use an estate agent as over 80% of sellers do. So you can either choose the cheapest agent, put your feet up and wait for your property to sell, and maybe be disappointed. Or you can follow my tips to make sure you have the best chance of making a sale.
Choosing an estate agent
It is vitallty important that you choose an agent with the following criteria.
- Sells plenty of houses in your area - Jump in your car and drive around the area in which you live, making a note of the number of each estate agent's boards. Break these numbers down between 'For Sale' and 'Sold', as it's one thing getting properties on their books to sell but another thing for an estate agent to actually make a sale. However, be aware that not all properties carry a board so also check the property portals for houses for sale to help you in making your decision.
- Has a good website and features on the main property portals - More and more buyers these days start their search on the internet, so it's important that your estate agent has not only developed his own site but also features on property portals such as Rightmove, Findaproperty and Fish4homes. Also, the agents own site needs to be easy to navigate and updated at least daily.
- Has a prominent and modern office - First impressions count so your agent must promote its brand professionally through its branch location and appearance.
- Has a good reputation - When you've got a short list of agents do some market research by knocking on the doors of people using them and find out their experience. This may seem a bit rude at first, but this feedback will be valuable in making your final decision. There are also a number estate agency review websites springing up where customers post their experiences, however, the number of reviews are low so they may not provide a balanced view.
Estate agents contract
- Sole or multi-agency - Many people think that if you go multi-agency (instructing more than one agent) it will produce a competitive environment, with agents racing to sell your property so that they can claim the commission. In my experience the opposite happens, estate agents are reluctant to spend too much time and money on marketing your property only for another agent to beat them to the punch and claim the commission. Also, multi-agency fees are around twice the level of sole agency fees, so my advice is go sole agency every time and then make them work for their money.
- Fee - The estate agency market is very competitive and agents will undercut each other on fees to gain your instruction. Beware, cheapest is not always best as many low fee agents will not be able to fulfill the criteria listed in the previous section. Your agent must firstly fulfill the criteria and then you can compare fees across qualifying agents. Don't be afraid to negotiate the fee, as all estate agents have some flexibility especially if you are able to sign the paperwork there and then.
- Length of contract - Many agents will try to tie you in to a lengthy contract, up to 13 weeks in some cases. My advice is that a contract of 6-8 weeks is enough, as you will want to ditch them if they are not working their socks off to sell your property. Also, be aware that some agents contracts are automatically renewed for a further period if you do not advise them that you wish to cancel, read the small print!
- Marketing price - It's vital that you set the marketing price for your property at the right level to attract buyers. Many agents will suggest a higher price just to gain the instruction and then work on you over a number of weeks to bring it down to the right level. Any estate agent who suggests a marketing price should be able support this with details of similar properties he has sold at that price. If they can't then they have probably inflated the price to gain the instruction.
- Property details - Once you've have decided which estate agent you are going to use they will produce a set of property details for you to approve. It's important that you go through these details with a fine tooth comb to make sure nothing has been left out, and the property is described in a way that would attract buyers.
- Photographs - It's a simple fact that photographs sell houses, so don't leave it to the agent to decide which photos they are going to use. Make sure you approve every photo and if you don't like some, or all of them, then make him take them again. Estate agents are a lot of things, but good photographers they are not (ok, some are). Wheelie bins, parked cars and weekly rubbish waiting for collection, will not add to the beauty of your property. Also you need to agree with your agent the order of your photos appearing on their website or any property portal. The first photo should not be a shot of your downstairs loo!
- Marketing strategy - You will need to decide a marketing strategy with your agent, which will include how many times your property will be advertised in the local paper, which portals it will appear on and how long your property will be displayed in their branch window.
You will want to be updated on the progress of your sale regularly, so agree these timescales when you instruct your estate agent. You will need to be updated on every viewing and every offer but also on what efforts the agent is making to sell your property. I would set these updates for every week to ten days and monitor them closely. If your agent misses an update get on the phone and chase them up. If you don't keep pushing your agent they may well think your are not in a hurry to sell and relax. Keep pushing them so they focus on selling your property. When you get a viewing ring them 48 hours later to get the viewer's feedback as this may help in your marketing strategy. The key here is never relax and never stop pushing your estate agent, remember they may well have over 100 properties on their books so your property needs to stand out, even if it means that they run for cover every time they see you!
Progressing the sale
Hopefully, you eventually sell your property and then have the nail biting task of nurturing this sale through to completion. Approximately 30% of all sales fall through so you need to make sure that your sale is not a casualty, and if your estate agent thought you were pushy before, they 'ain't seen nothing yet'. You need to agree with your agent how regularly they are going to update you and, again, monitor this closely. The two key things you need to focus on are - survey completed and mortgage offer issued - once these are ok then you are on your way. If your buyer has a property to sell you will need to keep a close eye on the progress and don't be afraid to re-market your property if this is dragging on.
Selling your property is never easy, but instructing an estate agent and just sitting back is not a good option. Your property is your most expensive possession so putting a bit of time and effort into monitor your estate agent will pays dividends. Good Luck!
Looking for a financial adviser near you?
Do you need financial advice? An independent financial adviser can show you how to make the most of your money.
Simply find your nearest qualified and regulated adviser using the UK’s largest adviser search.