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Selling your house? Six questions to ask an estate agent.

When selecting an Estate Agent, most people are only interested in how much and how little; “How much will I get for my house and how little will you charge me for selling it?” This approach can lead to trouble further down the road, so we have put together a checklist of six questions to ask an estate agent to help you decide who is best placed to sell your property.

How did you arrive at the valuation you have given?

An estate agent should be able to explain their valuation of your property. This should be based upon their experience of recent sales in the area. Better still, benchmarked against properties they have actually sold.
BEWARE – of an agent over-valuing your property to flatter you and make it more likely you will go on the market with them. Extravagant promises over price can result in a property languishing on the market for months and eventually achieving a lower price than if the property had been sensibly priced in the first place. No one wants a potential viewer to think, “That property has been on for a long time, I wonder what’s wrong with it?”
TIP – Have a look around your area for Estate Agents signs that say ‘SOLD’ or ‘SSTC’. Sold Boards are a sign of success. Lots of ‘For Sale’ and few or no Sold Boards could indicate an agent is over-valuing property and these then stick on the market.

If we decide to use you, how long is your contract? How much notice do I need to give to end our agreement?

BEWARE – of Estate Agent ‘Double Trouble’. When an agent has given an overly optimistic valuation just to get you on the market, and then no one views your property. With very few viewings and no offers, you might decide you have had enough and would like to try the services of another estate agent. At this stage, the length of the contract and the amount of time you need to ‘give notice’ matters. Being lumbered with a bad estate agent whilst you wait for a six or twelve week notice period to expire has got to be bad news. A transparent and fair agent will offer a very short notice and contract period, allowing you to change agent if you don’t like them or if they don’t delivery on their promises.

Do you have a high street shop?

Being close to a number of estate agents, I often see people browsing in estate agents’ windows. The window shopper often pops in and then comes out with a number of property details. The convenience of being able to pop in and then a member of staff making a number of viewings shouldn’t be overlooked. Also, as buyers and sellers sometimes run in to problems along the way, having somewhere to go for a face to face meeting can still be important.

What are your opening hours?

As a busy perspective buyer trying to organise lots of viewings, it would be really annoying to call an estate agent on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday and no one is there to answer the phone or arrange a viewing. Maybe you just move on to another property?

TIP When assessing which agent to use, try and understand what you get for your money. There’s a difference between ‘cheap’ and value for money.

Is there someone in the office that solely deals with matters once a sale has been agreed?

Selling your property is only part of the estate agents’ job. The post sale client care is essential to ensure the sale progresses smoothly. Most estate agents will have a dedicated ‘contract chaser’ who keeps in regular contact with the buyer and seller as well as solicitors and mortgage providers. The contract chaser ensures that things progress smoothly and helps to iron out problems along the way. One way for an estate agent to cut their fee is to cut their overheads. Employing less staff can adversely affect the quality of the service you receive and could prolong the time taken to move and may make things more stressful as the process is not proactively managed.

Do you offer accompanied viewings?

Viewers often find the presence of the seller of the property off putting. It’s difficult having an honest discussion with your partner if the seller of the property is present. Also, when you come to sell your property, do you really want to be tied to being at home every time a viewer wants to view? A professional agent will invest in decent viewing representatives who will give viewers the space they need for an honest viewing and free the seller from the burden of having to be at home every time someone wants to view.

We hope you have found this guide useful in helping you chose the right Estate Agent.