If you’re selling your home and want to be certain your estate agent will do the best possible job for you, make sure you do plenty of research before signing up.

Buying and selling houses is still very much a ‘people’ business. This means that, if possible, you should arrange face-to-face meetings with at least three different estate agencies so you can get a feel for the way each operates and the people who work there. After all, they will be showing potential buyers around your property, so if you don’t warm to them, the chances are buyers won’t either.

Here, we explain how to go about choosing an estate agent, so that hopefully the process of selling your home goes as painlessly as possible. If you’re not sure whether you need an estate agent, find out more in our guide Do I need an estate agent to sell my property?


Don’t base your decision solely on their property valuation

You should be able to rely on your estate agent’s expertise to help you market your property at the right price. The problem is that some estate agents routinely overvalue properties just to get the business and then end up advising their clients to reduce the price within a matter of weeks.

If you’re not sure whether to go for an agent offering a high valuation, do your research. It’s fairly easy to find out what similar properties have sold for. Look online at property portals, such as Rightmove, Zoopla, and compare the asking prices with the Land Registry (or Registers of Scotland) sale prices. Although these won’t provide a direct comparison because the Land Registry websites record the sale prices from several months ago, they will still give you an idea of what properties are actually going for.

Be aware that buyers are much better informed these days. They can quickly and easily compare prices of neighbouring properties and see exactly what they’re getting for their money as soon as the details are online, so they may decide not to view a property which they believe is over-valued.

You don’t have to sell your property at the price you market it at and some estate agents suggest that the price is a ‘guide price’ in the details. If you have several buyers offering the asking price within a short space of time that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve priced it too low – it just means that you have a choice of buyers to go with. In the current market where some buyers are struggling to get a mortgage, being able to take your pick of buyers could be the difference between the sale going ahead and falling through.

…or the fees they charge

An estate agent’s fee is usually a percentage of the selling price of the property. This will typically be somewhere between 0.75% and 3%.
Never accept the first fee they give you, as many agents are prepared to negotiate, and if you’re not happy with the amount they are charging, you should be prepared to walk away.

Estate agent fees tend to be highest in London, where the property market is often extremely competitive and property prices are highest. If you are selling a particularly cheap property or selling through an online estate agent, you may be charged a fixed fee instead.

Estate agents do not always include Value Added Tax (VAT) in the fee that they give you upfront, so make sure you factor this in when working out the overall cost. Some also don’t include the cost of photography, so again, it’s worth checking if this is covered by the fee you’re paying, or whether it will be an additional cost.

Most high-street estate agents will have a “no sale, no fee” policy, meaning you will not be charged if they don’t sell your home. This policy is less common with online estate agents, who tend to charge fixed rates upfront, although some of these do offer money back guarantees if you don’t receive a near-asking price offer within a certain period of time.

Check how long you’re tied in for

Most estate agents will insist on a “tie in period”. What this means in simple terms is that for a certain amount of time – usually at least six to eight weeks – you’ll be “tied” to the particular agent you’ve signed up with, which means that you have to let them market your property until this time is up.

Their terms and conditions may include a “sole agency lock-in”, which gives them the exclusive rights to market your home and means that you cannot go to another agency until the period is over. Make sure you understand exactly what you’re committing to and read your contract carefully before signing on the dotted line.

Where to find an estate agent

Personal recommendation is usually the best way to find a good estate agent to see your home but if you don’t have one, it’s often sensible to check online reviews at Trustpilot to see whether previous customers have been satisfied with the service they’ve received.

Choosing an estate agent with strong local knowledge can be an advantage. Often they will have a clearer idea of the current market where you are and what buyers are looking for than a chain which doesn’t have a local branch particularly near you.

Keep an eye out for ‘sold’ signs nearby. An agent who has sold properties in your area may still have buyers on their books who lost out and who might be interested in buying your home instead.

Make sure any estate agent you are considering signing up with belongs to Propertymark (formerly the National Association of Estate Agents). This is the professional body representing estate agents, with 10,000 members. Agents who belong to Propertymark have to abide by a code of conduct.

Since October 2008, all estate agents have had to belong to The Property Ombudsman redress scheme that has been approved by the Office of Fair Trading. It also covers lettings agents and property management companies.

If you’re thinking of putting a property up for sale, you can see which agents will do the best job of selling your home, based on past performance, using the GetAgent.co.uk website.

Getting the best from your agent

There are several ways to ensure you and your estate agent have a good working relationship.

  • Be open and honest about your own situation, for example, if you’re trying to buy as well as sell and you’re in a lengthy chain, you should let your estate agent know so that they can manage any potential buyer’s expectations. It helps if surprises are kept to a minimum.
  • Be prepared to compromise. It’s a good idea to have an idea of how much you’d like to sell your property for, but it’s important to be realistic.
  • Give the estate agent feedback. If you’ve only had a couple of viewings and your property has been on the market for several weeks, let your estate agent know that you’re disappointed and ask them what they are doing to boost the number of prospective buyers.
  • The first days of marketing count. With many buyers searching online or getting new property details via their smartphones, you can reach the market very quickly. If you’ve not had any buyers through your door after a fortnight, you should assume you may have got the price wrong – unless you’re in an area where the market is very slow.
  • Sometimes it can be a fine line between keeping in touch with an estate agent and hassling them when they don’t have any news. How much contact you have with the estate agent may depend on what’s happening in the housing market at the time.
  • Don’t assume reducing the price if it doesn’t sell quickly will always work. After a property has been on the market for a certain time, buyers may not be tempted by a cut in price. If you reduce the price, they might think there’s something wrong with it or that an issue has been flagged by a survey. If your estate agent advises reducing the price, you have every right to ask them why they got the pricing wrong initially.

Rest Less Money is on Instagram. Check out our account and give us a follow @rest_less_uk_money for all the latest Money News, updated daily.