Six Questions You Should Ask an Estate Agent
Whether you are buying or selling, moving house can be a stressful time and it is highly important that you find the right estate agent. Going with your gut instinct about an estate agent can be useful, if you don’t feel comfortable giving an agency your house to sell, then don’t choose them. However, you should not go on gut instinct alone; make sure you ask questions as this can give you helpful insight and information about prospective estate agents. This article talks about six important questions you should ask a potential estate agent if you are buying or selling.
If You Are Buying:
1. Why is the owner selling?
This is a good starter question and the answer should give you some insight into why the owner no longer wants their house. It may be that they have already bought another house, either in the UK or abroad. In these circumstances, the owner may want to sell their house quickly so they can settle in to their new property. You may also want to check what is included in the sale. You don’t want to buy a house only to later find out that the fixtures and fittings were not included.
2. How long has the property been on the market?
If a house has been sat on the property market for more than six months, there may be underlying problems that you may not initially notice. In worst case scenarios there may be structural issues or damp, but in many cases the property may just simply be overpriced. It is possible that if a house has been languishing on the property market the owner may accept an amount that is lower than their asking price.
3. How did you decide on an asking price?
An estate agent should be able to provide a good justification for the asking price that they have decided upon. You can decide whether or not you agree with this evaluation. Check the asking prices for other nearby houses that are for sale as this can give you a good idea of the average for the area.
4. What offers have the owners had so far?
In the majority of cases an estate agent will tell you if there have been other offers made but will not tell you how much they were. This can give you an idea of the popularity of the property and whether you need to make a more rapid decision. You may also want to ask what the seller’s minimum price is, as a negotiable minimum price could save you a great deal of money.
5. Are there any important future plans for the area?
This is a question that you can answer by doing your own research about the area, but it can also be useful to ask the estate agent for their opinion. You may not want to move to an area only to find that a local train or bus service is shutting down or that a local supermarket is planning on relocating.
6. Is the property listed?
It is important to know whether a property is listed as this can affect what you are able to change about the house. Equally if a property is in a conservation area there may be other restrictions over what you can do. It would be disappointing to buy what you thought would be a ‘fixer-upper’ property only to discover that it was a listed building.
If You Are Selling:
1. How much do you charge?
This is a crucial question for anyone using an estate agent to sell their house. Many people do not realise that you can negotiate over this figure which can save you some money. However, you should not haggle too hard as the fee is representative of the quality of service and how much effort the estate agent will put in. A higher price should usually, but not necessarily, mean a better quality of service. Most estate agents will charge between 1 and 3 per cent of the sale price.
2. How can I contact you?
During the house selling process you will want to be able to contact you estate agent easily and to get a quick response. Having a hard-to-reach estate agent can add unnecessary stress to the process. You can judge for yourself how contactable an estate agent is by asking questions and making enquiries before the house-selling process has begun.
3. How will my property be marketed?
Houses are no longer just advertised with a picture in the office window and an advert in the local paper. An estate agent should be up to date on the ways the internet can be used to market and promote a house. You could also find out whether they use websites like RightMove and PrimeLocation.
4. How will you present my property?
House-buying can be extremely influenced by first impressions. Make sure to ask the estate agent how they plan to present the house. Have a look at other properties they have for sale on their website – are the pictures high quality?
5. How long, on average, does a property take to sell?
With this question you are looking for a good middle ground. If properties take, on average, a long time to sell, the estate agent may either not be doing enough or the property might be overpriced. If their properties fly off the shelves it may be an indicator that they are underselling.
6. Are you a member of any regulatory schemes?
Unfortunately, in the UK it is not compulsory for an estate agent to belong to a regulatory scheme. However, there are several organisations that the majority of good-quality estate agents will belong to, such as the National Association of Estate Agents and the Ombudsman of Estate Agents. These organisations have a code of practice and membership is a sign of a reputable and higher-quality service.