You made the decision to put your house on the market, perhaps you have even spotted a dream property. Now comes the tricky part of choosing which estate agent to sell through. Bricks and mortar used to be the only way. One would head down to the high street and choose a local estate agent based on word of mouth or simply use the only one in the area. The internet has changed the market massively in the last three to four years and online estate agents have made their mark.
Find out how good they are
As the seller, you are in charge of deciding who you go with. The skill and professionalism of your estate agent might be the difference between a good sale and no sale at all. Often people do not realise how important a good agent is until there is a problem, which could be weeks down the line when something is flagged up in the chain. Word of mouth is crucial here; talk to neighbours and friends who have recently dealt with an agent and get their feedback. Social media also plays a huge part in recommendations; take a look online or ask for a recommendation on the page for your local area. It goes without saying that if an agent is good at their job, or has let their clients down in the past, it will quickly come to light when you ask online.
Should you choose based on cost?
Estate agents will normally charge you a percentage (plus VAT) of the price at which you sell your home. It can be tempting to select your agent based on the lowest cost and this is how online agents are starting to take their share of the market.
Think about the person who is going to be managing your sale. Are they invested in helping it go through? If you have decided to negotiate the fee right down, perhaps they will prioritise other, more lucrative house sales over yours? Do they know exactly how long the chain is (often a chain of seven houses is not uncommon)? A long and complicated chain can be a nightmare for a vendor and without good communication, frustrations arise and sales fall through. The cost of the sale could therefore end up being more than simply the percentage you went for.
Which type of agent is the best?
There are pros and cons to the different types of agents. The bigger agents have more people power and can get good footfall through the door but often we see clients getting lost in the system further down the line and feeling pressured to use their solicitors. Online agents will sometimes ask for money up front, with less to pay upon sale. This can work well for clients with a straightforward sale but when things get tricky, we hear clients complain that no-one spotted issues at the beginning and they could have been saved the headache.
In our experience, the best results are usually achieved with owner-managed agents who are invested in you as a client, really know the local market well, and rely mainly on word of mouth to find their customers.
Do agents get paid referral fees?
Yes, they do. They will often be paid a referral fee by the solicitors they recommend to their clients. We are different in that respect. We decided from the outset that we would not accept referral fees, we’d rather be recommended because we give the best advice. Our firm has never been paid a referral fee. We pride ourselves on our good reputation and this helps us to remain impartial and offer the best possible advice to our clients.
The Final Decision
When you’ve weighed all this up, you might get down to a choice of two agents who look the same on paper. Often the best way to make the final decision will be based on gut feel. You have to be able to get on with the agent on a personal level as, ultimately, they will be representing you, and you might end up spending a lot of time on the phone with them!
We’d love to hear which local agents you have worked with and think have done a great job. Let us know in the comments below.