Selling your house can be an uncertain time and it’s important to choose an estate agent wisely when it comes to handling the sale of your most valuable asset. Take control from the start of the process by asking your estate agent these key questions during the initial valuation appointment.
How much do you think my home is worth?
After the initial valuation, it’s fine to ask your estate agent for their professional opinion on the price your property can realistically expect to achieve. If you think this price seems too low or unrealistically high, you can check whether their estimation is accurate by comparing the sales prices of recent properties in your neighbourhood, using an online valuation tool, and by taking the buoyancy of the housing market into account.
How much are your fees and are there any additional costs?
Estate agents in the UK charge a percentage of the final sale price, but you need to check whether this includes VAT. Check that fees will only apply if they succeed in selling the property. Some estate agents will also charge additional services, such as professional photographs, floor plans or for the ‘For Sale’ board.
Don’t forget to ask how much they will charge for an ‘Energy Performance Certificate’ which all properties are now legally required to have before being placed on the market. An EPC is valid for 10 years but you might prefer to arrange one yourself for a lower price.
Which type of contract do you use and what’s your tie-in period?
Estate agents offer a range of different contracts, such as sole selling rights, sole agency and multiple agency. It’s important to be aware of which type of contract your estate agent is offering before proceeding.
Sole selling rights means that no other estate agent will be allowed to market your property and you will still need to pay fees, even if you find another buyer yourself. Sole agency is less rigid and you’ll need to pay fees if you use another agent to sell your property but not if you find a buyer yourself. A multiple agency contract, meanwhile, allows you to use several agencies to market your property but you will usually be charged higher fees.
Once you have signed up with an estate agency, they will ask you to agree to a tie-in period, a minimum length of time for them to try to sell your property. These are usually negotiable; be cautious about signing up for a ridiculously long tie-in period and don’t agree to anything you’re not happy with.
What steps will you take to market my property?
Ask which websites they will use to market your property. How strong is their high street presence? Do they use local newspapers and other publications? High-quality photographs are essential. Check their website to see examples of their work. Don’t be afraid to point out selling points of your property.
Are you part of a redress scheme?
Most estate agencies are reputable and professional, but if things go wrong, it’s important to know to whom you can address complaints. In the UK, estate agencies are obliged to be members of either the Property Redress Scheme or the Property Ombudsman.
How long do you think it will take my property to sell?
It will be impossible to provide an exact timescale, but an experienced estate agent should be able to give a rough estimate based on his or her knowledge of the current demand in your local area.
Do you think I need to make any improvements before putting my house on the market?
Before you’re tempted to paint everything magnolia and spend thousands on a new kitchen or bathroom, ask the estate agent for advice about ways in which you can maximise the appeal of your house to buyers. A fresh pair of eyes can spot things you will have missed, or (best case scenario!) they might even feel your house is fine as it is.