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Questions to Ask Estate Agents When Selling

Martha Lott

Written by Reviewed by Graham Norwood

19th Feb 2020 (Last updated on 8th Dec 2020) 11 minute read

Ensuring you ask your chosen estate agent the right questions before selling your home is vital. It’s important to know what your estate agent is offering and how much it’ll cost before you sign a contract with them. 

By finding out the estate agent’s accreditations, fees and contract type, you’ll have peace of mind that you’re in good hands. In this guide, Compare My Move list the best questions to ask an estate agent when selling a property.

This article will cover the following:
  1. 1. What Are Your Accreditations?
  2. 2. How Much Are Your Fees?
  3. 3. Are There Additional Costs?
  4. 4. What Kind of Contract Do You Use?
  5. 5. What’s Your Tie-in Period?
  6. 6. What Percentage of the Asking Price Do You Typically Achieve?
  7. 7. How Will You Advertise My Property?
  8. 8. Have You Sold Similar Properties in the Area?
  9. 9. Will You Conduct the Viewings?
  10. 10. How Long Will It Take To Sell My House?
  11. 11. Can I Sell My House Privately After Listing With An Estate Agent?
  12. 12. Do I Have to Pay Estate Agent Fees if I Decide Not to Sell?
  13. 13. What Happens If We Disagree on Something?
  14. 14. Do You Pay Estate Agent Fees When Buying?
  15. Next Steps of Selling a House

1. What Are Your Accreditations?

The first thing to learn about an estate agent is their accreditations and memberships. All estate agents are regulated by the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. This will give you peace of mind that they're regulated and monitored experts. 

Additionally, all estate agents must be a member of a redress scheme - either The Property Ombudsman or the Property Redress Scheme. In addition, they may be voluntary members of the leading trade bodies - the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and/or the Association of Residential Letting Agents.

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2. How Much Are Your Fees?

Another important question to ask your estate agent is how much they will charge for their service. All estate agents, whether they’re an online, high-street or hybrid agent, are required by law to list their fees with VAT included. If an agent does not comply with this law, you are within your right to complain to a redress service or the local council trading standards team. 

Traditional estate agents will charge a commission fee of the final sale price, though this can be negotiated. The average high-street estate agent fee is 1.18% plus VAT of the final sale price, data from The Advisory reports, with many agents varying between 1-3%. This means that any estate agent charging under 1% or over 3% should be viewed as a red flag.

Online estate agents will charge a fixed-price, regardless of the price your house sells for. The average online estate agent fee is anywhere between £300-£1,500 and usually must be paid upfront. This is something to keep in mind if you decide to sell your house online.

Don’t forget to factor in estate agents fees to the total cost of selling a house

3. Are There Additional Costs?

It’s important to get a full breakdown of what is included in your fee before you sign a contract, that way you’ll know if you need to factor in any additional costs. Many high street estate agents will include the full marketing service in their commission fee, but a lot of online estate agents will charge you extra for services like creating a listing, photographs and advertising, hence the cheaper fees.  

If you want to further advertise your house, you can pay an additional fee to your agent to have a featured premium listing on property portals like Rightmove or Zoopla. This will showcase your property on the first page of results, as a sponsored post.

4. What Kind of Contract Do You Use?

Finding out the type of contract your desired estate agent will offer will help you know your rights when it comes to selling your house. It will also indicate whether or not you can switch agents or cancel your contract. There are four main types of contracts to consider, some will be more beneficial to your circumstances than others:

Sole Agency

If an estate agent is offering a sole agency contract, you won’t have to pay a fee if you end up finding your own buyer. This usually comes with a cheaper fee than a multi-agency, too. Research shows that 94% of sellers choose a sole agency contract.

Multi-Agency

A multi-agency contract allows you to use more than one estate agent to sell your house, but you will only pay the estate agent that gets the sale through. The fee is usually higher than a sole agency contract but gives you more freedom.

Sole Selling Rights

A sole selling rights contract means that only one estate agent will be allowed to sell your house, not multiple agents. However, you will be expected to pay your estate agent even if you end up finding a buyer privately.

Ready, Willing and Able Purchaser

This type of contract means you have to pay your estate agent when they find a buyer, even if you don’t go ahead with the sale. This isn’t a recommended estate agent contract type to go with.

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5. What’s Your Tie-in Period?

A tie-in period is a fixed amount of time you must stick with your estate agent. This becomes tricky if you have a disagreement with your agent or want to sell your house elsewhere as you will have to pay fees to leave the contract. 

It’s important to discover the estate agent’s tie-in period to avoid a negative selling experience. Tie-in periods are commonly set between 4 and 12 weeks, you should be concerned if an estate agent has a tie-in period of over 12 weeks. Government data shows that sellers with experience negotiated fees and length of their contract, with 47% saying they negotiated the terms of their contract.

6. What Percentage of the Asking Price Do You Typically Achieve?

This question is important as it will help you determine how trustworthy their valuation of your property is. If your chosen estate agent has consistently sold houses close to the original asking price, it typically demonstrates how experienced and skilful they are when it comes to valuing properties. 

However, if you research an agent and notice they have previously had to reduce the price of the homes they’ve sold significantly, then it’s likely they have a tendency to overvalue properties or lack the skills to successfully entice buyers.  

When you ask this question, don’t forget to ask for proof - such as examples of previous house sales and final prices.

7. How Will You Advertise My Property?

Most high-street estate agents will include a full marketing service in their fee. You should ask your estate agent prior to signing a contract what they include in their marketing service, as you may find that some estate agents might charge extra for services that are usually free. A typical estate agent marketing service includes:

  • Creating a listing
  • A detailed description
  • Professional photographs
  • Floor-plans of the property
  • A ‘for sale’ signboard
  • A listing on Rightmove or Zoopla

A small number of agents offer additional hi-tech options such as videos of the property or even virtual reality representations. They may charge more for these, however.

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8. Have You Sold Similar Properties in the Area?

Another important factor to consider when choosing an estate agent is how well they know the local housing market and area. It’s worth asking about their experience in your local area and whether they’ve previously sold properties similar to yours. Working with local agents can be a great advantage as not only will they have vital knowledge of the market, but they may already have a list of potential buyers in the area. 

If you ask the estate agent whether they’ve sold properties similar to yours or at the same price point as yours, it could give you a better gauge on the timeline of the sale. Not all transactions are the same but they will have the experience to give you a more precise average. It will also give you a better perspective on current competition.

9. Will You Conduct the Viewings?

Many buyers will view multiple properties before deciding to make an offer which is why the viewings are vital when it comes to showing off your home. Most high-street estate agents will want to conduct the property viewings themselves as this will allow them to speak to the potential buyers in person and market it appropriately. Although they’ll be using your knowledge of the property, they will also have the relevant experience. 

Estate agents are vital during the negotiation process and so it’s often helpful for them to start some kind of relationship with the buyer through the viewings. You should agree with your estate agent when you’re able to book the viewings or an open house and ensure the property is ready and presentable. 

It’s important to note that some online estate agents will require you to conduct the viewings, especially if they’re not locally based. Read the contract thoroughly before signing as they may only offer hosted viewings as an optional added fee.

10. How Long Will It Take To Sell My House?

Ask your estate agent about their selling history. Find out their average time it takes to sell a house, especially a property with a similar size and features to yours. This should give you a rough guideline of how long to expect your sale to take and whether there may potentially be any delays in the sale.

A study shows that the top factors in how long it takes to sell a house are the price you value your home, the market and the quality of your conveyancer. To speed up the sale of your house, we recommend hiring a verified conveyancer to help liaise with your estate agent.

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11. Can I Sell My House Privately After Listing With An Estate Agent?

If you choose a sole agency contract type, you can sell your house privately without paying a fee to your estate agent. This will allow you to list your property with an agent and have the opportunity to find a buyer on your own, without the worry of extra costs. 

Be careful not to confuse a sole agency contract with sole selling rights, as a sole selling rights contract means that you will have to pay the estate agent, even if you find your own buyer.

12. Do I Have to Pay Estate Agent Fees if I Decide Not to Sell?

If you pull out of the sale, you will be charged to cover the costs of advertising and any of the services your estate agent has already carried out. However, you won’t have to pay their commission fee as the sale didn’t go ahead. 

If you signed a ready, willing and able purchase contract, then you must pay some or all of the estate agent’s commission fee. It’s vital you read the small print in your contract before committing to it. Even if you’re confident that the sale is going to go ahead, you should always prepare for the worst.

13. What Happens If We Disagree on Something?

Your estate agent is there to guide you through the sale of your house, helping you to negotiate offers and keep the process moving. They will have the knowledge and experience of the property market to make well-informed choices. If you do disagree with them on the sale price, remember you should be comparing at least three estate agent’s valuations. If you’re not sure of their advice for negotiations, remember the choice is ultimately yours.

You can pull out of the sale or change estate agents if the disagreement can’t be worked out, but as mentioned above, you still might have to pay a fee if your contract says so. If the situation gets worse, you can complain about your estate agents directly through their complaints procedure. After this, you can also complain to their redress scheme.

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14. Do You Pay Estate Agent Fees When Buying?

If you use an estate agent for buying a house, you don’t have to pay any fees. This is important to know if you’re both buying and selling property. However, you should factor in the other costs of buying a house to ensure you’re fully prepared for the process.

If you’re considering using your chosen agent to also find a new home, it’s important to ask what services they can offer you. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, it’s vital you keep an open line of communication with your estate agent to ensure the process is seamless and the property chain isn’t severely delayed. 

Next Steps of Selling a House

This article is part of our selling a house guide. In our next article we discuss estate agent fees and what to watch out for. To learn more read how much are estate agent fees.

Martha Lott

Written by Martha Lott

Having written for Huffington Post and Film Criticism Journal, Martha now regularly researches and writes advice articles for everything moving house related.

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.