How to choose an estate agent when selling your home


Selling your home is often described as one of the most stressful experiences in life.

An essential decision that can significantly affect the outcome, both in terms of the sale price and the overall easeof the process, is selecting the right estate agent. The market is saturated with options — from local high-street agents to sleek online platforms. However, not every estate agent is suitable for every seller, or their home. Making the right choice can mean the difference between a fast, lucrative sale and a drawn-out experience with diminishing returns.

Understanding the importance of valuations

The temptation for some estate agents is to undervalue homes, ensuring a quick sale and swift commission. This has particularly been the case of late. Indeed, the average monthly sales commission for estate agents fell 23% between August 2022 and August 2023 according to residential property data and marketing company TwentyCi, thanks to a decline in both house prices and property transactions amidst the on-going impact of rising mortgage rates.

But while a rapid sale might sound appealing as a vendor, especially if your next property purchase is dependent on the proceeds, selling below market value means leaving money on the table.

When it comes to knowing your home’s worth, online valuation tools have become increasingly popular in providing an instant preliminary estimate based on a comprehensive cache of house sales data. However, it’s important to remember that these tools are a starting point. A home’s unique features, its current condition, and local micro-market trends cannot be entirely captured by an algorithm.

To avoid falling into the undervaluation trap:

Get multiple valuations: Always approach several estate agents for valuations. This not only gives you an idea of the potential selling price but also allows you to gauge the agent’s approach and professionalism.

Question their justification: Ask agents to explain their valuation. What comparable properties have sold recently? What trends are they observing in the local market? Where some agents will undervalue for a speedy sale, others may overvalue to get your business with the intention of dropping the price once you have signed on the dotted line. Request evidence of similar property sales to justify a higher-than-expected valuation.

Factors to consider when choosing an estate agent

Once you have a clear idea of your home’s potential value, you’re in a better position to choose an agent. Here are some factors to consider.

Track record: Does the agent have a strong history of selling properties like yours, in your area, and at the right price? Look at their recent sales, average listing times and the pricesthey have achieved on sites like GetAgent and Zoopla, which will also show where a property has been reduced in price.Property portal Rightmove provides comprehensive data on UK sold prices by region and local area too.

Fees and contract terms: High fees don’t always equate to better service. It’s essential to understand what you’re getting for your money. Also, watch out for lengthy tie-in periods that might lock you into an agent even if you’re unhappy with their service. Try and seek a ‘no sale no fee’ contract as well, so you aren’t paying for a service you don’t receive.

Local presence: Locally based estate agents (either high street only or an online hybrid) often have a deeper understanding of the market, access to local buyers, and can be more hands-on in facilitating viewings and negotiations.

Marketing strategy: How will they market your home? Which online platforms will they use, and will they provide professional photography and floor plans? Presentation is a significant factor in attracting potential buyers so make sure you are clear on the marketing strategy.

Communication: How frequently will they update you, and how will they keep you informed about viewings, feedbackfrom potential buyers, and offers? As a rule, you should generally expect your estate agent to touch base on a weekly basis while your home is on the market.

The Rise of online agents

Online estate agents have been growing in popularity in the UK. They often offer lower fees than traditional agents, as they don’t have the overheads of high-street branches. If you’re considering this route, be clear about what’s included in their service. Some online agents offer a full service, while others might charge extra for essentials like accompanied viewings or negotiation services.

Choosing the right estate agent requires a mix of research, instinct, and due diligence. While the potential selling price is crucial, the agent’s approach, communication style, and marketing strategy are equally as essential. Online tools canprovide a very useful benchmark, but the insights and expertise of a seasoned professional are also invaluable.

Remember, the best agent for you will understand your goals, respect your home’s value, and work diligently to achieve the best possible outcome. Don’t feel rushed into deciding; after all, your home is likely to be one of your most significant assets. Invest time in making the right choice so that you don’t sell yourself (or your home) short.