How to choose the best estate agent – 11 questions to help you decide
Selling your home is one of the biggest financial transactions you’re ever likely to make, and it could be an emotional time for you. So you need to be sure that the agent you choose can not only get you the right buyer and the best price, but also understand your situation and be able to guide you confidently through the process.
Perhaps you’re selling the family home where you’ve raised your children, and you’re now ready to downsize. It could be that you’ve outgrown your first home, and it’s time to take the next exciting step up the ladder. Or maybe it’s a buy to let or inherited home that you simply don’t want or need to keep.
Whatever your reason for deciding to sell, lots of agents will be keen to get your business. And with so many out there – local and national, high street and online – all with different strengths and core markets, how do you know which is going to be the best fit for you and your home?
Well, it’s not an exact science, but if you’re clear on your own plans, know the key things to look for and ask the right questions, you should be able to narrow it down to a top two or three.
And with that, here are our 11 questions to help you decide.
Before you speak to an agent:
1. What are your plans? This is often how estate agents will start a discussion, so make sure you’re clear on why you’re selling and what kind of timescale you’re working towards. If you’re going to be buying something else, write a list of your needs and wants. The agents you speak to about selling will also be keen to show you what great homes they have on their books, and you’ll get a feel for how they deal with prospective buyers.
Checking out agents online:
2.How good is their website? Is it professional looking, can you navigate it easily and has it got all the main information you want to know? Are you impressed by the look of their listings?
3. Are they a member of a professional body? Agents who are members are bound to work at the highest professional standards and adhere to a strict code of conduct. This isn’t to say that agents who aren’t a member don’t work to the same level, it’s just good to know and allows you to make an informed decision – it’s always good to get the full picture before you make your choice.
4. Are their homes listed on the best portals? There are plenty of sales websites out there which have a far wider reach than an agents site alone. The more popular sites an agent lists your home on, the more prospective buyers will be reached. There are several popular portals agents can use, ask them which ones they use, and why.
When the agent comes to your home for a valuation / when you speak to them directly:
5. What’s the market like at the moment? This gives you an idea of how many viewings you’re likely to have and how long it might take to sell. You’ll also get a feel for how knowledgeable the agent is.
6. What similar homes have you sold recently? That will confirm to you what kind of sale price is possible. And if the agent has sold several properties like yours in the last month or so, that shows the market is buoyant and they’re doing a pretty good job.
7. How much would you market our home for? You’ll probably already have your own idea from looking online, so compare that with what the agent says, and see how confident they are when they give you their valuation. They’ll usually state a range and then recommend an initial market price based on your own timescale and situation. If that’s different to what you thought, don’t be afraid to ask more questions and discuss it further.
8. Do you have any potential buyers in mind? Of course they’re going to say yes! So follow it up by asking what those buyers have looked at recently and what their feedback has been. That will show you how engaged the agent is with buyers and how good they are at communicating.
9. What are your fees? Most agents do an all-in fee, but some will charge extra for things like glossy brochures, so make sure you’re clear on all the costs. And remember that a good agent will give you value for money, so don’t be tempted to go for the cheapest – you tend to get what you pay for!
10. What happens if I’m not happy with your service? As long as you’ve chosen your agent carefully, you shouldn’t have any real issues, but it’s always a good idea to check:
- What’s the minimum contract period, and how much notice do you need to give?
- If you find a buyer yourself, do you still have to pay the agent a fee?
- Who’s the right person to speak to if there’s a problem?
Once you’ve found two or three agents that you’re sure can do the job, based on all the above, it’s time to turn to the bonus question: Which agent feels right?
When you’ve got queries, which of them are you most confident will be there with the answer? Putting it simply, who do you like best? Due diligence plus gut feeling is a tried and tested formula that works for so much in life, and in this case, it should give you the best selling partner and a successful sale.