Selling your home can be a stressful time, but make sure to do the groundwork.
Making sure to ask estate agents the right questions before signing up to their services is vital when you’re selling your home.
It will mean you’ll avoid any nasty surprises, such as unexpected fees or lengthy tie-in periods, and give you confidence that you’ll be able to sell as quickly as possible and for the best possible price.
Here are questions that every home seller should ask the agent:
What are your fees?
Typically, you’ll find estate agents charge a percentage of the sale price and they should state whether fees include or exclude VAT.
For example, if you sell a property for £300,000, the fee may be 1% plus VAT, amounting to £3,600 (1.2%), including VAT. But you may find that percentage fees are far greater than this, depending on the agent, and can be as much or more than 2.5%.
Check this is the only fee payable to the agent and that you won’t face paying this unless they sell the property for you.
What about other costs?
Will you pay for a ‘For Sale’ board, for example, or professional photographs and floorplans?
Remember that you’ll need an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before putting your house on the market.
These are valid for 10 years and you should ask the agent how much this costs, or decide to arrange one yourself.
What kind of contract do you use?
Estate agents offer several different types of contract and it’s important to be aware of which you’re signing up to.
Sole selling rights – This is a fairly rigid form of contract, meaning that the particular estate agent you’re signing up to is the only one allowed to sell your home during the contract period. Even if you find your own buyer, you’ll have to pay the agency fees.
Sole agency – If you find your own buyer, you don’t fork out anything to the agent. But if you decide this agent is not working out and turn to another who then sells the property, you are still tied into paying the first agent.
Multiple agency – These contracts allow you to market the property with several agents, but typically demand a higher fee. This was traditionally as a result of you having more exposure to potential buyers.
Now with most buyers using a website such as Zoopla, the higher fee reflects the risk that Agent B might sell the property, so Agent A’s marketing goes unrewarded.
What’s your tie-in period?
An agent’s contract will often include a tie-in period, depending on the type of agreement you’re entering into.
Typically, this spans around 12 weeks, with a 14-day notice period. If another agent sells the house during this time, you’ll have to stump up fees to two sets of agents.
Tie-in periods can vary dramatically between agents, from four weeks to 20, in some cases.
How will you market my property?
The most important thing is to check that the agent is listed on Zoopla. With most wannabe homebuyers checking the site, it’s the first place to get eyes on your property.
You also want to make sure the estate agent’s descriptions are honest and help point out the great features of the properties they are selling.
The photographs are even more important. Prospective buyers are drawn in visually, so having high quality pictures is a must. Ask to see specific examples, or search online yourself for a better idea.
For those reducing numbers not searching online, check how the agent will market the property in its local branches and local press.
Again, ask for specific examples and think whether these would appeal to you if you were a buyer.
How long do you take to sell properties like mine?
There are a number of factors that can affect the time it takes to sell a property, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any insight.
Ask for past examples of sales of similar properties, and predictions of how long the agent think it will take to sell your property. After all, a good agent will understand the trends in the local market.
Also, seek out friends who have used their services and can provide some insight into the level of service.
It’s also worth looking at Zoopla's AgentFinder tool that will show you the average listing time for properties for every agent, in addition to the average asking prices and the number of properties on their books.
What redress scheme are you a member of?
If things go wrong, you should be able to pursue a complaint with a particular professional body.
You might also be interested in...
- What is an estate agent’s tie-in period, and does it vary?
- Step-by-step guide to selling a home
- How to give your sales process a new lease of life
- What can I do to boost my borrowing power?
Can you add any other questions to ask estate agents? Let us know in the comments, below...