Estate Agents – What & What Not To Do With Them
Estate agents often get a bad press, like the one who parked his brand new Porsche in front of the office to show it off to his colleagues. As he’s getting out of the car, a truck comes speeding along too close to the kerb and takes off the door before speeding off. He grabs his mobile and calls the police. Before the policeman has a chance to ask any questions, the estate agent starts screaming hysterically:
“My Porsche, my beautiful silver Porsche is ruined, it’ll simply never be the same again!”
The policeman shakes his head in disgust: “I can’t believe how materialistic you estate agents are. You are so focused on your possessions that you don’t notice anything else in your life. Didn’t you realise that your right arm was torn off when the truck hit you.”
The estate agent looks down in absolute horror. “Oh my God!” he screams. “Where’s my Rolex?!”
Whilst it may be true that some estate agents are materialistic, there are plenty who are professional, hard working, easy to deal with and just want to help you get the deal across the line.
They can also be a great source of useful information, particularly about the local area and amenities.
When you first start looking to buy or sell a property, the agent you choose to work with could make the difference between a great deal, and a great deal of trouble. So make sure you have a good relationship with them. Here are some suggestions.
Go for an agent that is local to the area that you are buying or selling in. It may be that you already have a good relationship with an agent, but unless they have good knowledge of the relevant area, their figures and information will not be as relevant as you will need them to be.
Don’t be afraid to shop around. Speak to a number of different estate agents.
If you are selling, get a few local agents to come in and do an appraisal, setting out what they think the property is worth. It’s very common for an agent to recommend putting it on for more, as most buyers will want to put in an offer rather than offer asking price. So, if your property is valued at £180,000, don’t be surprised if the agent recommends putting it on at £199,950, but with a view to negotiating down a bit depending on how much interest you receive.
When You Sign Up
If you are buying, there is no charge to you. If you are selling, the agent will want you to sign their terms of business, which will include setting out what fees you will pay them if they sell the property for you. Read them carefully and if necessary, come and talk to us before you commit yourselves.
Remember that you can always ask to change some of the details, the worst that will happen is the agent will say no.
If you are buying, register with as many agents as you want. The more people you have contacting you when the right property comes in the market, the greater the chances are that you’ll find what you’re looking for before anyone else does.
The fees are almost always negotiable, so find out what other agents are charging, and expect your chosen agent to be competitive.
You should also watch out for
- The length of the agreement with your agent. It’s not uncommon for them to want to tie you in to a fixed period such as 12 weeks. They will argue that it can take that long to get the artwork done, get the property listed, get people in through the door, find the right buyer for you and negotiate a deal. They may well be right. However, if after 8 weeks, there has been no progress and the appointments have dried up, you may not want to be tied in for another four weeks before you can move to another agent.
- When their commission is payable. It is usually paid from the proceeds of sale on completion. This means you need to tell us straight away what you’ve agreed to pay and when, so that if we receive the agents’ invoice, we know if it’s correct and if it needs to be paid. Occasionally the agent will say that the full amount of commission is due if you exchange, even if you don’t complete. Whilst it is extremely rare for a transaction to exchange but not complete, it does happen occasionally, in which case you should not have to pay the agent, as the sale didn’t go through.
- The difference in commission between the sole agency and joint agency. If you are going to appoint more than one agent, they are all likely to want more commission, as there is a chance that they will work hard on a sale but lose out because another agent gets a buyer before they do. Again, this is negotiable.
Once You Have Signed Up
Once you’ve appointed an agent, they will want to do various checks on you (they’ll want your proof of ID etc) and they’ll prepare details of the property. Don’t be concerned by the checks they do on you. This is all very standard, and they will do similar checks on anyone whose offer to buy your property is accepted by you. This is part of their job and can avoid time and money being wasted in the long run. In terms of the property details, make sure you check these over carefully and highlight any mistakes or discrepancies.
Make Sure You Are As Open With Your Estate Agent.
- If you are not in a rush to buy or sell, you might as well tell them, so they know not to waste time with silly offers or unsuitable properties.
- If you have a deadline, then there is a benefit in the agent knowing and then they’ll take that into account when making suggestions about available properties, advising you on what price to market the property at, and what offers you should accept.
- If you are going to want them to handle all the viewings or come with you on viewings tell them.
- If you would prefer to do it yourself, this is fine, but they’ll need to know how much notice you need to set appointments up.
The easier you make it for them, the more motivated they will be to help you buy or sell a property.
Maintain Regular Contact With Your Estate Agent
Whether you are buying or selling, make sure you keep in regular contact with your agent. Don’t be afraid to call them on a regular basis. If you are selling, and you want them to call you with regular updates, tell them at the outset what you expect, such as weekly reports. Do you want them to tell you every time there is a viewing booked, and do you want immediate feedback after viewing or just at the end of the week. If you haven’t had any satisfactory offers within a reasonable period (such as six weeks) ask the agent to tell you why this is and what they recommend you should do about it. They don’t get paid until a sale completes, so it’s in their best interests to get the transaction across the line.
Also, take a look at our 12 step guide to get your conveyancing right, which explains what you should be doing with your Conveyancer to ensure contracts exchange as quickly as possible.
Disclaimer – our articles are designed to give you guidance and information. There is no substitute for proper direct advice, particularly as everyone’s circumstances are different. If anything in this article may affect you, please contact us for advice that is specific to your circumstances.