Selling your house: Choosing an Estate Agent

Here at H&D towers, we’ve decided to move house again, after 2 wonderful years living by the sea, we’re going inland again back to mid-Kent. Now we’ve lived in 4 houses in 10 years so we’re somewhere between amateur and experts at the moving game, but there are still some difficult decisions to take when selling your house, not least which estate agency to market with.

Firstly be aware of the estate agents in your area. Check on property websites such as Right Move, Globrix, and Zoopla – see which agents are active in your area, and more importantly take a look at the type of properties they are marketing. Personally I think it’s advisable to pick an agent who has a number of properties in a similar style, financial bracket, or area, as they will most likely have a list of suitable buyers who are looking for something similar to you own house.

Next, have a drive around – look for the sold boards. Who is actually selling houses? This is an important point as it’s no good just going with an estate agent who seems to be collecting unsold houses. You should also beware of the twisted adage ‘seller beware’; some estate agents have a habit of leaving their sold boards up for longer than normal, in order to give the impression of having sold more houses. It has also been known that estate agents put sold boards up outside empty houses, their own houses, or friends and family – again in order to give the impression of having sold a higher volume of houses. This is very rare though – I’d hate to give estate agents a bad name!

Thirdly – look for where the estate agents are physically located. Who’s going to get a higher footfall of walk-ins? A lot of estate agents will sell themselves to you on the basis of their window displays, the ability to market your house in the window of their estate agency. I believe the truth is that very few houses are sold this way – property websites such as Right Move now make up the lion’s share of leads, but it’s still worth noting which estate agents are easy for potential buyers to get to, to register, and be given that golden sheet of paper with their ideal house on.

Now you should have your shortlist of potential estate agents. I would suggest at least 3. We tried 6 when selling our first house and that was too many – the process of meeting them all and trying to get our heads around their different fee structures was exhausting!

Call them, ask for an appointment to value your house and to talk through the selling process. They’ll make you an appointment with one of the branch managers who will visit your house, at your convenience. They like to meet the house owners at the same time, so it’s important that if the house is jointly owned that you are both there. It’s also quite handy if you have screaming and distracting children that they aren’t there… so if you can arrange some babysitting for the little angels then do.

The estate agents will want to look around the house, take measurements in all the rooms, and to understand why you want to move. They will then sit down with you and talk through their process of selling houses; their approach, their strengths, and lastly, their fees.

Estate agents fees vary agent to agent and will differ in different areas but will likely include a sales commission, a fee for producing the floor plans and photos, and an energy performance certificate (EPC).

We met with three local agents, and their sales commission fees ranged from 1% to 2.5% – a range which makes quite a difference when you add it all up. The fees will be PLUS VAT, so make sure you add that on as well.

Most estate agents now employ professional photographers to come and take stunning photos that will creatively make your house look enormous and will involve the photographer standing on a stool to get the coving-eye view and climbing the tree in the corner of the garden. With a bit of luck you can arrange this for the following week – on a sunny day.

Tell the estate agents that you’ll make a decision as soon as you can, but that you need a bit of time to consider the different options. Don’t base your decision on the person you liked the most – they won’t be actively selling your house, the other members of the estate agency will be. The branch manager is there to manage the agency and to present the offers to you, so it’s important that you get on, but if you are in a hurry to shift that house, then go with the agency that you think has the best sales team.

Terms of the contracts will vary, and the number of weeks you are signed up for can be negotiated. You may also find that the estate agents will negotiate on fees if they want the business enough.

Good luck selling your house, and keep an eye out for the rest of the Home and Decorating selling houses series.

photo credit: BA123 via flickr

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