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How to Choose an Estate Agent When Selling Your Property

Adele MacGregor

Written by Reviewed by Graham Norwood

12th May 2020 (Last updated on 17th Aug 2021) 11 minute read

When it comes to selling your property, one of the most important steps in the process will be choosing the right estate agent.

The role of an estate agent includes valuing your home and marketing the property. They are also responsible for negotiating offers and keeping the selling process moving. The agent will be representing both you and your home so you will want to make sure you pick an estate agent who you feel will do this best.

Compare My Move has worked with property experts to review all aspects of choosing an estate agent, ensuring our guide is insightful and accurate. We aim to give you everything you need to help you decide who to sell your house with.

This article will cover the following:
  1. Deciding Between a Traditional or Online Agent
  2. Do Your Research
  3. Sole or Multiple Agents?
  4. Create a Shortlist to Value Your Home
  5. Prepare Questions
  6. Read the Contact
  7. Monitor Their Performance
  8. Next Steps of Selling a House

Deciding Between a Traditional or Online Agent

Estate agents have traditionally used bricks-and-mortar shops, advertising a range of homes for sale in their high street windows. In recent years, however, there has been an increase in online estate agents, at a lower cost.

Despite the fact that some online estate agents may have lower fees, high street agents remain a firm favourite among sellers. Being able to offer a personal service is a huge advantage for traditional agents.

Research from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy shows that 83% of sellers sold through a traditional estate agent rather than via an online estate agent. Just 5% sold via an online agent and another 5% sold through auction.

Traditional Estate Agents

High street or “traditional” estate agents usually offer a full service. Many will advertise properties in their shops, local newspapers and on their own websites and on property portals where most buyers being their property searches. They will also handle viewings and deal with offers from buyers. However, their commission fees tend to be more expensive than online agents.

The upside of a traditional local estate agent is the knowledge they will have of the local property market. This local knowledge, especially of previous sales of similar properties in the area, can be crucial when it comes to valuing your home.

A high street agent will undertake basic checks on prospective buyers, filtering out time-wasters. The estate agent will conduct viewings and vet potential buyers. They will also have an office you can visit if you have any queries you wish to discuss in person, which is reassuring to many sellers.

Online Estate Agents

Online estate agents are notably cheaper than a high street agent, however, there are many trade-offs for this lower price.

An online estate agent may not be based locally and therefore would be less likely to have local knowledge of the area. Their low fees won’t include the standard service you get with a high street agent, which could mean you having to work to keep the selling process moving. When using an online agents, many sellers may have to provide photographs of the property, measure for their own floorplans and handle viewings.

Fees for online estate agents vary and they may have an option for pricing plans. If you are selling your house online, you may ‘buy in’ additional services like accompanied viewings, at an additional cost, if the agent offers this.

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Do Your Research

With the average price of selling a house sitting at £2,765 (based on the average UK house price of £234,790 as of January 2020), you will want to make sure your money is well spent. This is why a good selling tip is to do your research. You should also find out when the best time to sell your home is in your area.

Once you have decided whether to opt for an online estate agent or a traditional high street agent, you will then want to identify the best estate agent for you. It is important that you are fully satisfied with your choice of agent as they will be representing both you and your home and could be a key deciding factor for buyers.

Speak to family, friends and neighbours and see if they have any recommendations. Have a look around your area and see which estate agents are being used, and whether they are handling the sort of property you have and at your price-point.

To further your search, look online at the estate agents in your local area, taking into account third-party reviews. A local property newspaper and online property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla are also key to finding a good agent.

There are now several comparison websites with reviewers’ assessments of agents' performances - feed in the appropriate words to a search engine to find these, but remember that the reviews can be highly subjective.

What Are Their Accreditations?

Ensure any estate agents you are considering have the necessary accreditations before going ahead. Estate agents are regulated by the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

They must also be a member of The Property Ombudsman or the Property Redress Scheme. Further voluntary accreditations include the Association of Residential Letting Agents and the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Find Out What Contract They Use

There are four main types of contracts that an estate agent will offer. Some may be more beneficial to you and your circumstances than others so it is worth doing your research before proceeding.

Sole Agency - With a Sole Agency Contract you won’t have to pay a fee if you find your own buyer. With this type of contract, where there is a fee, it is usually a cheaper fee than a multi-agency.

Multi-Agency - This type of contract allows you to use multiple estate agents to see your house. In this case, you would only pay a fee to the estate agent who successfully sells your home. The fee for a Multi-Agency contract is higher but can give the seller more options.

Sole Selling Rights - As the name suggests, a sole selling rights contract means only one estate agent can sell your home.

Ready, Willing and Able Purchaser - With this type of contract, the seller must pay the estate agent if they find a buyer, regardless of whether the sale is completed.

Sole or Multiple Agents?

As we’ve mentioned above, the types of contracts include sole agency and multi-agency.

Sole agency is usually cheaper, but you are restricted to working with just one estate agent for a certain period of time. However, this does streamline the selling process to an extent, with just one agency to make arrangements with.

Although you will pay more for multi-agency, some people believe using multiple estate agents can increase your chances of selling swiftly. Once your house is sold, you will only pay the estate agent who has completed the sale. This option, however, can be disruptive with regard to viewings, with multiple estate agents showing people around your home.

However, as well over 90% of buyers now look on Rightmove or Zoopla to begin their property search, many sellers recognise that using one one agent may be enough - providing that agent advertises on one or both of those property portals.

According to Zoopla, most people start with a sole agency and only move to multiple agencies if their property doesn’t sell quickly.

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Create a Shortlist to Value Your Home

Once you have done your research on a number of estate agents, narrow down your list to around three agents and invite them to give a market appraisal and valuation. This will give you an indication of how much your house is worth.

A property valuation involves the estate agent visiting your home to review both the interior and exterior of the property before making a decision on the value of the home. They will also take into consideration the local markets and demand for your property type and size.

These valuations will play a vital role in your decision on which agents to opt for. Recently the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy found that 75% of sellers asked more than one estate agent to value their home. Inviting several estate agents to value your property gives the opportunity to compare services, market strategies and valuations.

Beware Inflated Valuations

Be aware that some estate agents may over-value your property in a bid to gain your business, only to reduce the price further down the line. A higher price sounds ideal, be it may be unrealistic and put off potential buyers. Having valuations from multiple estate agents can give you options and get a better idea of what the true value of the home is.

An investigation by The Times in 2019 found many estate agents who overvalued properties also charged the highest rates of commission. The research showed that homeowners who used estate agents who overvalued their properties ended up reducing their asking prices, but still ended up paying higher fees than they would have done elsewhere.

Prepare Questions

Being prepared with a set of questions for the estate agents to be beneficial to your search. You may also want to get an idea of their reputation via third-party reviews or by word of mouth if local.

How Much Are Their Fees?

Every estate agent, by law, is required to list their fees including VAT. Traditional agents charge a commission fee on the final sale price, with the average as of early 2020 at 1.8% plus VAT. This can vary between 1=.05% and 3.0%.

Online estate agents differ as they will usually charge a fixed price fee, regardless of what the house sells for. - as they charge you even if the house does not sell at all. This must be paid upfront and can be anywhere between £100-£1,500.

It’s important to factor in estate agent fees as these will contribute to the overall cost of selling your house.

What is Their Tie-in in Period?

A tie-in period is the fixed amount of time you must stay with a particular estate agent. These are usually between four and 12 weeks, however, you may be able to negotiate this time.

A longer tie-in period means the longer you are bound to that one estate agent. This will be the case regardless of disagreements or if you find a better offer elsewhere. A shorter tie-in period means you will have more options in the early stages of selling.

How Will They Advertise Your Property?

The majority of high-street agents will include a full marketing service in their fee. However, before you sign the contract, ask the agent what marketing is included to ensure there are no extra charges involved.

Typically an estate agent will provide:

  • A detailed hard copy and online description of your home
  • Professional photographs
  • Floor plans of your home
  • A “For Sale” sign for the front of the house
  • Listing your property portals such as Rightmove or Zoopla.

Ask if your property will feature in the agent's window and for how long and if they plan on having it featured in local newspapers or appropriate magazines. The better the marketing of the home, the more likely it will sell for the right price. Be sure to take this into account when deciding which estate agent to proceed with.

Some may also have the option of video tours - with some estate agencies venturing into virtual reality. These are by no means standard and if offered, may come at an extra cost: so far, it is unproven whether these ‘tech services’ give a property a better chance of selling at the asking price.

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Read the Contact

Before making the final decision on an estate agent, make sure you know exactly what their service, contracts and fees entail. Read the contract thoroughly and flag anything you are unsure of:

  • Be clear on what type of contract they are using
  • Are there any extra costs not included in the fee? If so, what for?
  • Have full clarity on the length of the agreement and “lock-in” period
  • Make sure you trust your estate agent and have a good relationship with them. You will want to be safe in the knowledge that they will represent both you and your property well - especially as they are the first point of contact for any potential buyer of your home.

Monitor Their Performance

Once you have chosen an estate agent to proceed with, be sure to monitor their performance. If your home has been on the market for some time, consider why it might not be selling.

Look at how the agency is marketing your home, the number of viewings taking place and their communication with you. Are they fulfilling what was agreed in the contract?

This is also where the type of contract and fixed period comes into play. If you have opted for a multi-agency contract, you will be working with a number of agencies and have more options available to you.

However, if you are working with a sole agency, and are not happy with any aspect of their service, you can only switch estate agents once the fixed period comes to an end.

Next Steps of Selling a House

This article has been part of our selling a house guide. We've put together a list of questions you could ask your estate agent before and during your time with them to help reassure you. To learn more read questions to ask your estate agent.

Adele MacGregor

Having written for PerformanceIN, WalesOnline, Grazia Magazine and The Olive Press, Adele now writes advice articles for home movers, first-time buyers and house sellers alike.

Graham Norwood

Reviewed by Graham Norwood

Property Journalist and Editor,

With over 15 years of experience in residential property journalism, Graham is currently the editor for both Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today.