Choosing an estate agent: questions to ask
The right estate agent can make a huge difference when selling your home. They can help you sell it quickly, at the right price, and with a minimum amount of stress.
It’s worth speaking to several estate agents to find which one is best for you and your circumstances. But what should you ask them? To find out, we spoke to Tony Felici, a director at Kelvin Francis, an estate agency with offices in Cardiff and London.
Here are some of the key questions you should ask estate agents before choosing which one to work with:
The agent should outline their fees, including VAT, clearly laying out what’s covered, and if there will be any additional costs.
They’ll also help you understand what other expenses are involved in buying and selling property, such as solicitor’s fees, taxes, surveys and removal costs.
When discussing fees, find out what costs you might incur if you to decide to take your house off the market. For example, in this instance, some firms might charge for the cost of having marketed your property – the likes of taking photos of your home.
Find out which property portals your home will be listed on. The biggest include Rightmove, Zoopla, and On The Market.
“You would need to be on at least two to have the coverage you’d expect”, says Tony, although he adds that a good agent can use their local knowledge and network of contacts to sell a property. They may also benefit from having offices and contacts elsewhere in the UK.
Also find out how they’d advise preparing the property to look it’s best. Do they advise changes to make your home more desirable? Will they provide services such as virtual tours? Do they produce floor plans?
To help find the right buyer, ensure you work with an agent who knows the local market well. This can really help - they may even already have a list of potential buyers who would be interested in your home.
All estate agents must belong to an ombudsman scheme so any complaints about them can be dealt with quickly and easily.
As well as finding out whether they’re a member of the Property Ombudsman, also ask whether they’re a member of any professional organisations, such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) or Guild of Property Professionals.
“If the estate agent belongs to at least one of these, it means they will follow a code of practice with guidelines for membership”, explains Tony, who is a fellow of RICS himself.
Tony explains that a qualified estate agent, for example a RICS member, might be able to provide a different viewpoint or solution to any issues raised in the buyer’s survey.
A good estate agent won’t just find you a buyer, but will also continue to help ensure the smooth sale of your property. They may have a dedicated ‘sales progression manager’, whose job it is to do exactly that – progress your sale until you hand over the keys.
“A lot of agents feel that once they’ve found a buyer, then that’s it”, says Tony. But, he adds, “in reality that is the beginning because there are a sequence of events that have to take place up until the exchange of contracts”.
Lots of estate agents include a tie in period, often up to 12 weeks, making it difficult to change your mind if you no longer want to sell your property with them.
But it’s worth trying to find an agent who provides as much flexibility as possible. After all, you want to be able to walk away if needed.
“You, as the vendor, should be in control of the sale”, says Tony, who advises against getting locked into a long contract.
You may expect that the agent who comes to value your home will be the same individual who handles the sale, including showing your house to prospective buyers. But it doesn’t always work this way.
Tony says: “From my experience, vendors don’t like different people from the agents showing people around their property. It helps to have continuity.”
Find out what additional services and help the agent can provide. They may, for example, be able to help you find a new house to buy in the local area.
They may also have a network of local contacts, such as surveyors, conveyancing solicitors, and mortgage advisers that they can recommend to you to help with your move.
Asking these questions can help you identify the best agent for the job, and sell your home as quickly and painlessly as possible.