How to choose an estate agent - our advice

You have three options when you want to sell your house: 1) You can do it privately ; Private house sales, or For sale by owner, 2) you can use an online estate agent, or 3) you can use a traditional estate agent. Your decision depends on how much control you want over the process and how much you really don’t want to pay estate agents fees. The bottom line, however, is that both online; clicks and mortar and bricks and mortar estate agents make the house selling process so much easier than if you go it alone. However, it’s not always easy to know which estate agent to pick – there are so many around – so we provide some tips on how to choose the agent who will bend over backwards for you.

1. Pick someone you like

This point is first because it’s often underestimated. People look at things like an estate agent’s track record, whether they’re registered with the proper bodies and how much commission they claim – all of which are very important. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using an online or high street estate agent, you’re going to travel an interesting, sometimes frustrating, sometimes arduous road together, and it’s much better to do this when you actually like the person who is acting on your behalf. After all, as Samuel L. Jackson pointed out to John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, personality goes a long way.

2. Look for positive reviews and recommendations

The internet is a great place to look for all those skeletons that people are so desperate to hide. So if anyone has had a truly negative experience with a certain estate agent or estate agency, then you’re bound to find out about it online. Conversely, you’ll also find glowing praise and positive reviews, so look broadly when you’re in the research phase of your search.

There are sites that specialise in estate agents reviews, so you don’t have to hunt high and low for endorsements. AllAgents.co.uk, for example, is a directory and review website that allows you to search for estate agents by name, area or agency. (FYI, Tepilo’s overall customer rating is 97%)

It’s also a good idea to ask friends, family, co-workers and even casual acquaintances for recommendations. Most people have sold a property at some point in their lives and they’ll be able to tell you who helped facilitate or impede the process.

3. Go local?

As a rule, estate agents can be quite territorial, so you won’t find many operating outside of their designated borders. However, some “specialise” in several areas. (This isn’t a problem that exists so much anymore as most of us use the internet to research a new area.)

Note: This does not rule out national online estate agents, as they typically employ locals with expert knowledge in particular areas. So you basically get the best of both worlds – local expertise at a fraction of the cost.

4. Undercover investigations

Go to a couple of open viewings to see estate agents in action. What is their sales manner like, are they presentable, would you trust them with your children? Ok, you don’t have to trust them with your kids, but would you trust them to show your beloved home to its best advantage and get you your selling price? – In our experience, you; the vendor is the best person to sell your home, you know your property not the local agent.

If not, visit the next house.

5. What are you paying and what are you for?

Find out the estate agents’ fees. The exact fee varies per estate agent, so you might be able to find someone with relatively low fees. Some estate agents are also willing to negotiate their commission based on different factors, like whether they’re the sole agent or not. Online estate agents’ fees are much lower (as in thousands of pounds lower) than traditional estate agents, so if saving money is your priority then going online is the route for you.

You also need to find out what services the estate agent offers. Some offer more limited services than others, and some estate agents really go above and beyond for their clients, throwing in odd jobs like grouting the shower or polishing wood floors. This process is easy when you choose an online agent because you choose your package based on the services offered. You can also add some optional extras, so you know exactly what you’re paying for.

In the end, you need to decide if the fees are worth the services provided.

6. Ask for a valuation

Most valuations are free, so this is great way to get to know the different estate agents on your shortlist. You can get a feel for their methods, for their expertise and for their personality. If they make suggestions or pass comments, ask them for further detail, so you can see if they really know what they’re talking about of if they’re winging it. Click here for a free valuation.

7. Check their professional associations

Find out if they belong to professional associations, like the National Association of Estate Agents and the Property Ombudsman or Ombudsman Services Property. In fact, both online and high street estate agents have to belong to either one or the other Ombudsman scheme. Membership doesn’t guarantee quality service, but it does provide you with avenues of redress if things go awry.

8. What marketing methods do they use?

Your house won’t sell if no one knows it’s on the market, so what is the estate agent going to do to draw attention to your property? Will they put up boards and signs, will they advertise the house on various online property portals, will they advertise in the newspaper? How are they going to get interested feet through your door?

If you’re using an online estate agent it’s particularly important to find out whether premium listing on major property portals in the UK can be included in the package price. Many basic packages don’t include premium listings, but more comprehensive packages do. The nice thing about marketing with online estate agents is that you have full control over where your house is marketed and you can tailor your package to suit your needs.

9. Find out what’s in the contract

If you choose a traditional agent, go over the contract with a fine-tooth comb before signing. Get a lawyer to help you if necessary. Understand every nuance and every point hidden in the fine print. If you don’t like something, say so and you might be able to come to a different agreement with a traditional estate agent. Online estate agents’ contracts don’t necessarily lend themselves to negotiation as you pick the services yourself. If you’re unhappy with something you simply take it off the list – or add it as an extra.

Remember that if you’re looking to save money and don’t mind doing some of the legwork yourself, you can always consult an online estate agent, like Tepilo. There are different packages available – with optional extras – so you determine exactly how much you’ll pay and exactly what services you’ll get.


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