Well, knock me over with a ultra-light polystyrene “for sale” board!
Wouldn’t you know it?: Estate Agents are not all are the same.
Back in the day, you knew where to find Estate Agents. All you needed to do was visit your High Street and chose as, conveniently, most were sited next to each other.
Nowadays, choice abounds and Agents even turn up in adverts and some are colour-coded for ease of recognition.
With some much choice how do you know how to choose the best Estate for you?
Well, we’re here to help you with your homework and take some of the leg work out of for you. We’ll tell you what to look out for, what questions you should ask and what type of agreement you should go with.
"We’ll tell you what to look out for, what questions you should ask and what type of agreement you should go with."
Welcome to Chapter 3 of our Series, your Conveyancing Questions Answered All in One Place.
1. Ask Around.
Word of mouth recommendation rarely fails.
Ask family friends, colleagues or neighbours about their experiences – you know, been there, done it, got the “I’ve Sold My House” T-Shirt!
Ask what their experiences were like, how they were treated, what level of feedback did they receive, what was the whole experience like and let’s not forget – how successful were they in achieving the asking price for their house?
And in this interconnected world you can ask friends online for social proof - but be careful not to let the whole world know you’re selling your house. We’ll talk about online property fraud and how to protect yourself and your money later in this series.
2. “Horses for Courses”
As we said before, not all Estate Agents are the same, some will specialise in particular types of property e.g. top of the market, rural market or middle market and first and second-time buyer homes.
Look around for “For Sale” boards in your area and if you see several from one Estate Agency it would be a reasonable assumption to make that they make be “up your street”: literally and metaphorically!
When you’ve made your decision on which Estate Agents to call to arrange an appointment, there are a few questions you should have in readiness to help you make a better choice of Estate Agent.
3. Get Three Valuations
We think 3 valuations (or Market Appraisals, it’s a bit posher) should be enough to get an idea at what price your property should be marketed. If your property is particularly querky or you consider it to be a “one-off” you may need to have more than 3 appraisals.
If you get three valuations you’ll smooth out any anomalies between the top price and lowest price.
Websites such as Zoopla will give you a good indication as well as they use data for houses sold from the Land Registry. Nethouseprices.com provides details of recent house prices for (almost) every property in your street
4. Be Realistic
Getting the price as right as possible at the beginning also avoids your property “sticking” and eventually going “stale or musty”. Not good.
Potential buyers can use the internet to calculate how long a property has been on the market and adjust any offers they may make accordingly.
You may not realise it, but most buyers are already waiting on Estate Agents’ lists of eager buyers.
If you are worried about the right value for your house or merely want to road test your Estate Agent’s valuation, consider going “under the counter” or “off-market” for a couple of weeks or so.
You begin by not permitting a “For Sale” board and postpone listings on websites. You may decide not to have a brochure published but we do not think that is wise. This way you are relying solely on the database of registered buyers with that Estate Agency.
You may be impressed by the number of viewings or unimpressed by the lack of viewings generated.
Be prepared to terminate your Agency Agreement if the buyer’s well is dry – it’s not a good indication for a quick sale.
5. Interrogate Your Estate Agent: Ask the Right Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask searching questions about the Estate Agent’s competence.
Any Estate Agent worth his or her salt will be more than happy to demonstrate their track record.
Simply ask for the Agent to provide details of comparable properties sold in your area.
If there are two of you selling a little game of good cop, bad cop may work if one of you is a bit embarrassed to ask the right searching questions.
Here are a few questions to add to your clip board of questions:
- Ask your Estate Agent how many similar properties have they have sold in the last 6 months and what percentage of the asking price did they achieve.
- A success rate of only say, 85%-90%, may be an indication that their valuations are too “toppy” and should be treated with caution.
- What information have they based their valuation on and what proof do they have.
- Will they accompany all viewings, and in the evenings and at weekends.
- What’s included in their fee; does it include all advertising costs and brochure costs.
- Where will your property be advertised and on what portals such as Rightmove, Zoopla, Primelocation and On The Move.
- Ask your Estate Agent as well for a “priced to sell” valuation as well as what your Estate Agent expects to achieve for a balanced view.
- Ask how often feedback on the marketing of your property will happen? Will you be forgotten id nothing exciting is happening with your house or flat?
- How will your Estate Agent qualify any potential buyers and any chain into which you will be placed.
This is vital.
Sales can fall through after a sale has been agreed. The best Estate Agents will have a very small failure or dropout rate because of their rigour in testing before recommending a Buyer.
"The best Estate Agents will have a very small failure or dropout rate because of their rigour in testing before recommending a Buyer."
In my experience, this is the most important aspect of an Estate Agents role.
There are weeks between acceptance of the offer to exchange of contracts (we deal with the Conveyancing process later in this series) and so much can go wrong through neglect or inactivity.
Conveyancers working closely with your chosen Estate Agent can ensure that your sale completes and you don’t become a failed statistic.
An active “sales progression” team smoothing over the bumps and ensuring no undue delays once a sale has been agreed is a huge benefit.
Something, in my opinion, the online Agents sorely lack.
6. Negotiate Your Estate Agents Fees
Estate Agents fees are negotiable, but remember you are dealing with (or should be dealing with) an expert negotiator, so it won’t be easy.
If your Estate Agent drops their fees too quickly, consider how well he or she would be able to convince a Buyer that your property was correctly priced.
"If your Estate Agent drops their fees too quickly, consider how well he or she would be able to convince a Buyer that your property was correctly priced."
7. Traditional Estate Agents v Online Estate Agents
Most of what we have outlined you will find from the traditional or High Street Estate Agents.
Online Agents, those without physical premises, have become more prevalent over the last few years. Online Estate Agents use as their unique selling points that they do not charge commission. But a word of advice: nor do the traditional Estate Agents when they don’t sell your property.
The online Agents don’t charge a commission but do charge a fee just for listing your property.
You may have seen a colour coordinated online Estate Agency advertising heavily at the moment. They are said to be enjoying a purple patch with the Stock Market at least.
Another online agency that has been going for a little while longer is TV personality Sarah Beeny’s Tepilo
Personally, I would never use an online Agency. As a Conveyancing Solicitor, I know that when problems or delays occur I want to be dealing with an experienced Estate Agent who can get to the nub of the problem quickly and deal with it as necessary.
I suppose it does depend on the type of property and the local market conditions and again an example of “horses for courses”.
I fully expect (there is already some experimentation) that traditional Estate Agents will offer a hybrid service involving “bundled” services so you can decide what suits you best when you come to sell your home.
For the moment, think about it this way:
Why pay a fee when your Estate Agent doesn’t sell your property? Or why do Online Agents not refund their fee when they fail to sell your property?
8. Beware Estate Agent Tricks
Some Agents may try to bamboozle you or pander to any vanity you may possess. They will strive to be the Agent who gives the highest valuation to gain the instruction to sell your property.
Be wary, also, of so-called “experts” employed as self-employed consultants by the new raft of online Estate Agents. You never know they might have been driving a taxi the day before and then visit you to tell you how much your home is worth
The theory goes that so long as they’ve tied you up with a long contractual Estate Agency agreement that if it doesn’t sell reasonably quickly – well what’s not to like?.
They’ll have your property long enough that you will eventually drop your price to a more market accurate price.
9. What type of Estate Agency Agreement?
Next, the nitty gritty of the type of Estate Agency Agreement. There are commonly three types of agreement available.
Sole Agency Agreement:
This is the most common and works for both parties best. You get total commitment from your Estate Agent, the fees will be the lowest and you only pay the one fee if a sale is agreed and completed
Joint Agency Agreement:
This can work well if you have a property, which would benefit, from both local exposure and national exposure. The downside will be a higher fee as the Estate Agents split the fee
The most expensive (as only one Estate Agent will get paid) and tends to be the marketing of last resort. And, it does bring with it a hint of desperation.
As Conveyancing Solicitors we ought to give some advice (general advice you understand - speak to your own Conveyancing Solicitor for specific advice - we’re only trying to help) about the Estate Agency Commission Agreement. You should resist too long an agreement.
6 to 8 weeks should be enough for you to gauge how good your Estate Agent is. You can always extend the period by one or two weeks’ notice but importantly you remain in control.
The average time to sell a property is as long as the piece of string in your pocket. You may be lucky and have more than one buyer banging on your door (by appointment obviously) to view. General statistics will show that it takes some 10 weeks with 8 to 10 viewers depending on the type of market conditions at the time to agree a sale.
An agency period of 12 weeks should suffice (that’s 10 weeks and 2 weeks’ notice)
Also be wary of a Sole Selling Agreement which differs from a Sole Agency in that a fee is payable however the sale is achieved e.g. even if a Buyer had not been introduced by the Estate Agent.
10. Ask Your Conveyancer
Not perhaps an obvious one but remember your Conveyancing Solicitor will have had dealings with all the local Estate Agents.
Your Conveyancing Solicitor will also be able to give you an indication of what fees you should agree (after all some Estate Agents are very good at telling people what your Solicitor should be charging you).
And no, your Conveyancing solicitor won’t charge for his time and advice.
We hope you find our tips and hints helpful.
You’ll find that if you are well prepared before you choose the best Estate Agent for you the outcome will be a lot more satisfactory.