How to choose an estate agent

26 June 2020

If you are looking to sell your home, one of the biggest decisions you need to make is who you are going to appoint to attract buyers and steer the sale along.



If you are looking to sell your home, one of the first and potentially most difficult things you’ll need to do is find the best estate agent - who you’ll appoint to attract buyers and steer the sale along. Choosing the right estate agent can help make the process easier and help you sell your home faster, so it’s important you do your research to ensure you pick the right one for you.

Ask for estate agent recommendations

The best place to start when searching for a good estate agent is by asking family and friends who have recently moved who they used, and what they thought.

While there are plenty of well regarded and experienced national estate agents, there are also a huge number of local ones that will have good local knowledge of the area. There are pros and cons to both, so asking your friends and family which estate agents they used can help you decide whether to pick a more well-known estate agent, or one with more of a local focus.

It’s also worth looking out for 'for sale' and 'sold' signs in the area, as this is a useful indicator of which estate agents are favoured – and which ones seem to get results. Also, find out about each firm’s network and expertise.

Check the estate agent’s credentials

Once you’ve drawn up a shortlist, you should check that each of those estate agents are signed up to a redress scheme, such as The Property Ombudsman Service.

Many will also be members of trade bodies – such as the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) or Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) – which means they have to comply with a code of conduct.

You should be able to find details on the agent’s website. If you can’t find any information on the estate agent’s credentials and you’re still interested in them, it may be worth giving them a call just to double-check before proceeding on any dealings with them.

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When choosing an estate agent - pick three

Having done your research, you should get three different estate agents to come to your home to value it.

Do not allow yourself to get seduced by the agent that gives you the highest price, as this could be a ploy to win your business. There are many variables when it comes to selling your house, and each estate agent will arrive at the final house price in a different way. This is why it’s so important to get three different prices from different estate agents as opposed to just one.

Don’t be afraid to ask the estate agents how they arrived at their figure either. A good estate agent should be able to demonstrate how they came to that price using four or five comparables.

Find out how the estate agent will market your home

Ask each agent how they plan on marketing your home. While many traditional estate agents will advertise your property in newspapers and on their own website, you want to ensure your property is also visible on all the major property portals - such as Rightmove or Zoopla.

Also, ask to see some of their brochures to check the quality of the pictures and floor plans, and check that the website is easy to use.

Read our guide to turning viewers into buyers.

What services does the estate agent offer?

Don’t be afraid of asking lots of questions about the service offered. This includes finding out how easy it will be to get hold of your agent, and how often they will update you on their progress.

When it comes to choosing an estate agent, communication is key, so you want to be sure the one you choose will keep you involved and informed at all times. You also need to trust that the estate agent is batting for you, not the buyer.

How much do estate agents charge?

Most estate agency fees are calculated as a percentage of the final selling price, but you will need to decide whether to go for a ‘sole agency’ or a ‘joint agency’.

A sole agency is where one firm has the exclusive right to market your home for a fixed period. Most people start out with this option; the charge is usually between 1.5% and 2%.

The alternative is a 'joint agency' or 'multi-agency' agreement, where you get more than one firm to help you sell. This means your property is likely to get more exposure, but the fee may well be closer to 3%.

Whatever you decide, don’t be afraid to haggle on price. High estate agency fees are one of the many unfortunate costs of selling, and they can dramatically lower how much money you’ll earn from the sale of your home.

It’s important to know that estate agency fees aren’t fixed, so be sure to haggle using any other cheaper fees you have been quoted by rivals in the area.

Estate agent tricks

While the majority of estate agents are honest, sneaky tricks of the trade have led to only 22% of people trusting them, according to a study by research group Ipsos Mori.

While you shouldn’t always assume the worst, you should at least be aware of some common estate agent tactics to look out for.

One common estate agent trick of the trade is to convince you to sign a contract which might tie you to one agent for a prolonged period. You want to be able to switch estate agents if your first choice is failing at getting viewings or offers – or both.

Similarly, don’t be lulled into thinking you have to use the mortgage broker firm the estate agent suggests. Many agents have a link or affiliation with a mortgage broker firm, meaning they will often receive a commission for referring your business.

The deal on offer may be a good one, but you won’t know unless you do your research. Some brokers might do it for less - plus there are fee-free brokers in the UK, such as London & Country.

Feedback is also important, especially when it comes to viewings. The Property Ombudsman cited communication breakdown as one of the top reasons for an increase in complaints. We’ll say it again - communication is key when it comes to finding the best estate agent. Be sure to press staff for feedback from viewings.

Finally, do not sign on the dotted line until you have scoured the small print. Be sure to check how long you are tied in for, and whether you can move elsewhere if you’re not happy.

How good are online estate agents?

You may also have heard of online estate agents. These websites offer similar services to a traditional estate agent, but by choosing a basic service and doing some of the work yourself – such as conducting viewings – you save money.

For example, if you sold a property worth £250,000 using an estate agency charging 1.5% commission plus VAT, you’d pay £4,500. Whereas online estate agents typically charge a flat fee of around £500, regardless of the value of the property.

There are disadvantages though. For example, an online estate agent is unlikely to have the local knowledge of the area if they are solely based online and not in a specific location.

Many people also feel more comfortable selling their home when they can talk to the estate agent face to face, which isn’t possible with an online estate agent.

You’ll also typically need to show viewers around yourself – not ideal if you do not live near the property you are selling. So, while cheaper, you’ll need to weigh these factors up against the extensive savings to be had by going online.

Should I sell my home without an estate agent?

Finally, while sellers have traditionally appointed a high-street agent, there are now big savings to be made by selling your property yourself.

If you go down this route, you will have to do a lot of the legwork yourself. This includes setting the price, marketing the property, arranging viewings, negotiating with potential buyers, and dealing with the process of exchange and completion.

This will require a lot of time and effort, but could save you a fortune in estate agent fees.

Helpfully, there are now a host of sites you can use to help you go it alone, such as Tepilo.com.

As you can see, there is lots to consider when choosing an estate agent. Do your research, take your time, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Selling your home can be daunting, but with the right estate agent, the process becomes a lot easier.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.