Selling Your House - Choosing an Estate Agent
Lots for sale?
Do I Need an Estate Agents?
When it comes to selling your house, estate agents are supposedly the experts, and they rely on you thinking that to get their commission. But are they best placed to sell your house, do you really need them? In most cases, the answer will be yes, but it is worth stopping for a minute just to make sure it really is the right thing to do. If your house is likely to be highly sought after, or you know of potentially interested buyers, then you might want to consider them first. Saving several thousand pounds in commission could in theory save you money and mean a better deal for your buyer. One situation where this might be the case is if you have been renting out the property - it may be worth checking if the tenants are interested in purchasing. Or if an investor with other properties on the street is interested in buying another (this is house someone I knew sold their house).
If you do decide to not go down the estate agents route, be careful that you don't sell your house too cheaply. Get an independent valuation, or several, so that you have a good idea what your house is worth before you sell.
Traditional vs Online Estate Agents
Okay, so you've decided to go with an estate agents, but what type? Not so long ago, there was just the traditional type, with a shop in town, agents to show prospective buyers round the property, and the familiar signs that have been familiar to people for decades. They also charge a hefty fee, usually a percentage (typically 1-5% of the property sale price), but only if and when the property actually sells.
A few years ago, the internet spawned a new breed of estate agent. These come in different flavours but what they have in common is what they don't have: a shop in the local town, adverts in the local paper (usually) and viewers who show potential purchasers round your property. They may come with a sign, but it won't be one of the familiar signs everyone is used to. The advantages that they do have is that they're cheaper - that's about the only reason people choose them over traditional estate agents. They either charge a much cheaper percentage of the sale price, or they charge a monthly/annual/one off fee.
It might be tempting to go with online only estate agents to save money, but it is very likely that the traditional estate agents will more than make up for the extra fees by negotiating a higher sale price, and (particularly in a slow property market) selling your house faster. They will also take care of a lot of the hassle of selling your house - things like organising viewings and showing people round the property, making sure the house is well advertised, and negotiating with potential buyers. If you want to go with an online only agent, you must be prepared to do these things yourself (though some people, particularly if they have plenty of time, might enjoy doing these aspects themselves).
Picking an Estate Agent
When you approach an estate agent with a view to selling your house through them, usually a valuer will from the agents will come round, value your house and then give you the spiel about why you should choose them. They will also tell you what their fees are. It is advisable to get quotes/valuations from several estate agents so that you can compare them. You will immediately have two very tangible factors to compare when deciding who to go with: the suggested selling price, and the agents commission.
You may get very different suggested sale prices from different agents - this isn't necessarily because they all think your house will sell for different amounts, it is more likely that there is an element of strategy being employed by the agents. Some will quote a high price to make you go with them, hoping you will follow the natural instinct of 'they say they can get me more money so I'll go with them', others will be pricing low, hoping you will agree to go with them anyway, then they will get a quick and easy sale (and hence commission). Some of those suggesting a high price may put you under pressure to reduce the price a couple of months down the line, or to accept a low offer, so it isn't necessarily better.
The commission is obviously an important factor, but not as important as you might think. If an estate agency has a low commission but doesn't work hard to sell your house, then it isn't worth it, and in a slow property market you might not manage to sell it at all.
Here are a few factors to help you decide which estate agent to go with:
- How big are they in the local area? This can be judged by how many for sale signs you see out and about, or how many of their properties appear in a search online (on a website like Rightmove in the UK). The more they have, the more customers they are likely to have, hence greater exposure from your house.
- Which estate agents have a good reputation locally, or have the biggest adverts in the local paper?
- How many viewers do they have to show people round properties? The more employees they have that do viewings, the better. If people that ring up to look round a property have to wait several days to look round they might not bother, or find something better in the meantime.
- Are staff on a commission basis or just salaried? Staff on a commission basis are more likely to work harder to sell your house for the best price.
- Are they a local, regional or national firm? Regional or national firms have a bigger reach, and you may get interest in your property from people going into other branches.
- What websites do they list on? In the UK Rightmove.com is essential to get the most people looking, but listing on many sites is an added bonus.
Consider all of these factors, and weigh them up against the fees charged and the price they are suggesting you should put your house up for. At the end of the day though, gut instinct has to play a part - if you get on with the staff, then potential purchasers will too, which can only help you.