How should I choose an estate agent?

You put your house on the market, but the estate agent is the one who actually sells it. Choosing the right agent is a critical decision – it can make the difference between getting a really good price, and not selling your house at all.

But how do you tell the difference between good agents and bad ones? Remember: the agent works for you.

As the seller, you choose the estate agent, and the agent works for you. But the decision to accept an offer remains with you. As the seller, you are usually in a strong position with estate agents – unless they have properties to sell on their books, they won’t make any commission.

Choosing a sole or multiple agent
You have to decide whether you are going for one, two or more agents.

Select a shortlist of estate agents:

  • 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, how close they come to achieving asking price and how successful they are. Our free, impartial tool is constantly updated and gives instant results for the estate agents in your area.
  • If yours is a particularly unusual or expensive property, you might want to choose a estate agent who specialises in homes like yours
  • Make sure the agent has experience of selling property like yours – and the best way to do that is to check there are properties similar to yours in the window.
  • The “sold” boards outside properties are good indicators of which agents are doing well
  • A good agent will invest in marketing to ensure they get the best price, while a poor one will just wait for customers to come to them
  • What is their viewing policy – check they will accompany potential buyers when you are out. Do they phone and send around potential buyers straight away?

Find out how good they are

  • How quickly do they sell homes on their books? What’s their track record with achieving asking price? How likely are they to sell a home?
  • After they value your property ask them to explain their reasoning.
  • Do they have any estate agency or sales qualifications?
  • Are they members of a professional trade association, such as the National Association of Estate Agents, or the Guild of Professional Estate Agents?
  • Are they members of an accredited independent ombudsman service?
  • Can more than one person in the office talk enthusiastically and with knowledge about your property?
  • What would they do if your property was not selling as well as expected? What do you think about their answer?
  • 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.

How will they market your property?

  • Assuming they will advertise on the internet, which portals are they using? Their own website is not worth worrying about. It is the big property portals you want to be listed on.
  • If your main concern is optimising exposure of your home to as many potential buyers as possible then find an agent who is not with OTM and still using Rightmove AND Zoopla (Foxtons, Connells, Countrywide and others).
  • Will they use newspapers? Which ones? Find out what local newspapers there are and if they will feature your property in them. 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?

Don’t be fooled by the valuations they give
Agents know that one of the main reasons people pick them is the valuation they give. They take two general approaches:

  • Some agents give deliberately optimistic valuations, to make you think you can get a higher price with them, and then try and talk you down after you have chosen them.
  • Some agents insist they are giving a realistic price, and tell you not to be fooled by falsely high valuations.
  • Do your research on how to value your home. The agent will come armed with evidence of local sold prices to support their valuation. While you should take their advice, it is you and not the agent who decides what price to put the property on at.

Final thoughts when choosing an estate agent
Do you get on with them and trust them? 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!

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