Steps to take in finding your ideal estate agent; seeking personal recommendations, basic research and drawing up a shortlist and assessing their professionalism.
Ensure a smooth sale and the best price using a trusted professional
Many people go about choosing an estate agency with much trepidation since the industry doesn’t enjoy the best reputation. Despite this, there are many efficient companies who do a professional job for their customers and are businesslike and pleasant to deal with – the key of course is finding an agent in this category.
Online or off?
Bearing in mind most estate agents have a website and market properties on them this is the type most people use. An online agency might cost less in fees than a ‘bricks and mortar’ business, but usually won’t have an office you can visit. They’ll often charge to put a property on the market with further fees payable if it sells, plus you’d likely be conducting much of the sale process yourself.
A physical estate agent usually operates on a ‘no sale no fee’ basis and are heavily involved in the whole sale process, not just in finding you a buyer.
Probably the best method of all; if a friend or trusted acquaintance would recommend an agent they’ve dealt with then this speaks volumes.
That said be sure they’re the right agent for your type of property; some agents may be especially good at selling certain types of property, so if yours is a bit out of the ordinary you may need someone a bit more ‘niche’.
Making a shortlist
If you have to choose ‘cold’ then a good starting point is to make a list of agents in your area. You can gather intelligence such as their sale boards on properties – even better if there’s a few similar to yours, and even better still if some of them say ‘sold’.
Agents well represented in certain geographical areas are appealing to vendors for their reach and local knowledge; for example, Balgores estate agents cover Essex and parts of Kent with offices in several key locations in these areas.
How do the agents on your list present themselves? What are their websites like? A trip into town to have a quick look at their ‘shopfront’ may yield some good clues; are they smart and appealing to the eye?
Some will belong to an industry body such as NAEA Propertymark which was formerly the National Association of Estate Agents or the RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors).
A deeper look
If the companies on your shortlist measure up; look into them further by asking yourself if you’d like your property advertised and marketed in the way they go about it; their website and local (or, where applicable, national) advertising will yield useful information. Do they use an online property portal to advertise on?
Does their website tell you much more about them and their services? Any favourable quotes from satisfied customers?
A useful online tool provided by the HomeOwners Alliance can help you judge the performance of your shortlisted agents.
Face to face
Your activities above may have whittled your shortlist down to two or three, so now is the time to visit them with a view to setting up a valuation appointment.
When you call in, how are you treated? Do they come across as professional and helpful? Ask if they have prior experience of marketing properties like yours.
The valuation appointment
When they visit you, again ask yourself if they’re professional, polite and helpful. Do they sound like knowledgeable professionals with a feel for the local market? Is their valuation based on a reasoned assessment of your property and the local market rather than educated guesswork?
Don’t fall into the trap of picking the agent who values your property the highest. Instead ask each to explain how they’ve arrived at their figure with perhaps examples of recent transactions similar to yours. If a certain agent’s valuation is markedly higher than the others ask them why; it could be a ruse to encourage you to instruct the agent only for them to ‘chip’ the valuation (find pretexts to lower the price) once they’ve got your property on their books.
Can they properly help you?
In order to get the best service from an agent, it’s important to tell them everything they need to know so they can help you fully. For example, if you need a quick sale make this clear; alternatively, if you’re not in a particular hurry this could affect the strategy the agent uses to market your property.
If you need to sell quickly, then it may be one of the agents has a ready list of ‘hot’ buyers looking for properties like yours. This may tip the balance in your mind. However, be aware that some agents will exaggerate the number of buyers on their books to encourage you to sign up.
Communications and activities
Ask how they go about marketing properties; do they favour accompanied viewings or rely on you to be in to show people round? How often will they be in touch to inform you of how things are going both before and after a buyer has been found?
The phase between a buyer agreeing a price and the sale completing is of course vital and can be quite stressful, so a professional approach from your prospective agent where they’ll be proactive and keep you informed is very important.
The estate agent charges a percentage of the selling price as their fee; this is usually less if you instruct them as sole agent as opposed to having one or more others also selling your property.
Establish what their fee is and what it includes; for example, is photography included? Would they charge if you wish to take the property off the market?
As with valuations, try not to use fees as the deciding factor. If you particularly like a certain agent but they’re the priciest, then it may be worth paying a bit more for someone you feel the most comfortable dealing with. You may even be able to negotiate a reduction.
Making your decision
The above steps should help you arrive at your ideal choice. If possible, it’s likely better to instruct just one in a sole agency agreement (which usually lasts for a set time) after which you can review the situation.