How to Get the Most Out of an Estate Agent

In this blog post we discuss how to get the most out of using an estate agent. Read on for our tips and advice

If you do use an estate agent

Deciding to put your home on the market is the first in a series of important decisions. The second is whether to sell through an estate agent or go it alone.

The big advantage of using an agent is that most of the work of marketing your property - advertising, negotiating with would-be buyers, evaluating the merits of different offers, and so on - is taken off your hands.

Such services naturally cost money. Estate agents generally charge a commission of between 1 and 3 per cent of the selling price, depending on the type of agreement you have with them. This can add up to a tidy sum, even on an average property.

During a period when you will have many other calls on your wallet, you may want to avoid such expenditure by opting for the DIY approach -

Only you can weigh up which route is best for you. Whichever you choose, our Top 10 Tips for Selling Your Home can help smooth the way.

Choosing an estate agent

Even if you opt to use an agent, you should still invest some time in research. Knowledge is power, and you will be in a stronger position to evaluate different agents if you are familiar with the local property market.

Get valuations from three different firms. These should be provided free if you are considering instructing them. Choose companies who belong to a professional body, such as the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), whose members are bound by a code of conduct. Personal recommendation, or your own past experience, can also be useful.

If you have already found a home to buy through a particular agent, there is something to be said for instructing him to sell your property; he will have more to lose if he does not make the sale.

Don't be dazzled

It can be tempting simply to go with the agent who thinks he can secure the highest price for you, but resist; valuation is an art, not a science, and he may be mistaken. Your best time for selling is when your property is newly on the market. If it is overpriced, you risk it lingering unsold, which reduces its impact. If you then lower the price, potential buyers may think there's a problem and be put off even coming to view it.

Rather than going on the valuation alone, ask each agent exactly how they would go about marketing your property. Would it appear on the internet, maximising exposure? Take a look at their advertisements in the local or national press, and study the quality of the details (also known as particulars) they produce. How good is their photography? Do they have experience of selling your type of property? On what basis do they charge, and what is included?

See how creative their ideas are. If your home is in demand and you want a quick exchange of contracts, they may suggest setting a deadline for sealed bids. You may get a faster sale and a higher price this way.

... and don't forget the fundamentals

How quickly do they answer the phone and reply to emails, and how approachable are their staff? This will affect not only you but also potential buyers. Ask to meet the person who will be dealing with your home. How energetic and enthusiastic are they?

In these days of online house-hunting, opening hours are not as crucial as they once were, but bear in mind that many buyers still do the rounds of the estate agents.

**The agency agreement
Once you have decided whom to instruct, you must decide on what basis to instruct them. Ensure that the arrangement, and the fee, are confirmed in writing, and always read the small print before signing anything. Negotiate on the fee if you can.

**Sole agency
With this arrangement, you instruct just one agent. This is cheaper than a multiple agency agreement, and your agent may work harder for you. However, avoid giving an agent ‘sole selling rights', whereby he can charge commission even if you find a buyer privately.

While a sole agency agreement is in place, do not instruct another agent, or you may find yourself having to pay commission to both.

**Multiple agency
There is nothing to prevent you from signing up with more than one agent, but this will be more expensive than a sole agency agreement. Instructing at least three agents, including a smaller, independent one and a representative of one of the larger chains, should maximise your opportunities. To encourage them to work hard for you, agree to review the arrangement every few weeks.

Some people begin on a sole agency basis and move to multiple agency after a time, to widen the net.

With thanks to BuyAssociation.