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  1. Guides
  2. How to choose an estate agent
Estate Agents
Estate Agents
Last Updated 08 October 2021

How to choose an estate agent

Rosie Hamilton
Head of Communications
  1. What should I expect from an estate agent contract?
  2. 5
  3. 6
    Making a complaint about an estate agent
  4. 7
Table of contents
  1. 1. How to pick the best estate agent
  2. 2. How NOT to choose an estate agent
  3. 3. Do I need an estate agent?
  4. 4. Does it matter which estate agent you choose?
  5. 5. How much should the estate agent be charging me?
  6. 6. When should I change estate agents?

Choosing an estate agent to sell your house isn’t easy. There are over 56,000 estate agents and auctioneers operating in the UK alone. That’s a lot to choose from, and the fact that many look and sound the same can make your choice all the more difficult. In this article, we will highlight the best methods for picking a reliable agent.

How to pick the best estate agent

When choosing an estate agent, it’s best to avoid opinions from friends. Most people do not sell property often enough to get a real sense of what to expect from an agent. On top of this, local expertise is key to the success of many top performing estate agents. Unless your friend lives in the same area, it’s likely the agency they used isn’t the best one for you.

Like any product or service, you should compare estate agents using reliable data. To choose an estate agent you should:

1. Compare estate agents with data

You can compare agents using data yourself, but this will take an awfully long time. The Land Registry contains full details of UK properties, including their owners and purchase price. While it's possible to compare estate agents with this database, the Land Registry contains data on every property in the UK. This means you will be looking for a very long time. You'd have similar trouble comparing agents through their listings on property portals. It would take hours to collect similar properties and selling prices.

Using data from the Land Registry and property portals, our free Estate Agent Comparison tool is the best way to compare local agents. By entering a few details about your property and local area, we’re able to show you the best agents ranked by:

  • Average sale time

We track the average number of weeks it takes for an agent in your local area to sell a property. So, if a speedy sale is important for you, we can let you know exactly who is best placed to help.

  • Number of properties listed in your area

The best estate agents are local experts. An agent that’s active in your area will have already worked on properties like yours. This means they’ll be able to give a good estimate of how much your home is worth, and how quickly it will sell. They might even have contact details for buyers that have lost out on a similar property!

  • Percentage of asking price achieved

Agents that don't achieve asking prices may have a habit of overvaluing. However, if their success rate is above 100%, it could show that they have a tendency to undervalue. For your best chance at reaching the highest possible sale price, we recommend picking an estate agent with a success rate close to 100%. These agents will be the most accurate valuers.

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2. Get valuations from at least 3 agents

Deciding between a shortlist of agents can be tricky. If you’ve used our comparison tool, you might have a choice between 6. You need to be able to trust your agent and feel comfortable around them, so it’s important to choose with this in mind. Having a clear picture of multiple agents and what they offer puts you in a better position to haggle too. We recommend that you get at least 3 agents to value your property.

While the internet is a useful place to start your research, you should take a chance to visit their workplace. Hearing how their customer service speaks to buyers will give you insight into the agency’s professionalism. It takes two to sell a house after all.

Talking face to face with an agent will help you judge their expertise. They deal with properties every day, so their knowledge should be second to none. Face to face meetings will also help you decide if you will work well together. If you've spoken often with an agent, they will assume you're serious about selling, and treat you as such.

When it comes to discussing contracts, you should make sure the agent’s terms fit your needs. Check their fees to make sure they’re in line with what you agreed, ensuring no additional charges like VAT have been added.

Be wary of agencies that sign you up to their in-house services. These include conveyancers and EPC writers. You should also avoid contracts with handwritten changes. These could be attempts to get more money

3. Check which regulatory bodies the estate agent belongs to

Sometimes the quality of an estate agent is evident from their membership with a regulatory body. All estate agents must be members of an accredited Property Ombudsman scheme. Ombudsman schemes test customer complaints by the law. If an agent isn’t a member, it might show they are untrustworthy because they are unwilling to be scrutinised by a government official.

If an agent is a member of NAEA Propertymark or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), it will show they are authentic. Propertymark members commit to promoting the best business standards within the property industry. RICS members follow a specific set of rules (Blue Book: Residential Property Standards), and must update their skills throughout their careers.

All estate agents must follow the laws outlined under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, including Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). CPRs mean that estate agents must not withhold relevant information from you or potential buyers. For example, if an agent lies to a potential buyer about included amenities or lands, this would count as a breach of CPR.

4. Look at reviews but don’t rely on them

Google and TrustPilot reviews are a good way to help you choose between agents. You can see any agent’s Google and TrustPilot reviews all in one place here on our Reviews page.

Though reviews from sellers are important, a buyer’s review can also be revealing about the state of the agency. Agents can be nice to their homesellers, but if they are uncommunicative or obnoxious to buyers, it will actively put them off your property. Reviews for online estate agencies often follow this pattern. On the surface, many sellers are happy with the service, but buyers will often comment that no one returned their calls so they could not view the property.

Although reading reviews is helpful, you should make sure they are only part of your research. Choosing an estate agent relies on many factors; depending solely on other people’s opinions could mean you choose an agent that’s not suited to your property or area.

5. Decide whether to go local or online

Here at GetAgent, we always compare local estate agents (sometimes known as high street estate agents) instead of online estate agents. While we cover their differences extensively in our guide, ‘Online v.s High Street Agents’, it's worth going over a few facts about online agencies:

  • In most instances, an online estate agent’s fee must be paid whether your home sells or not.
  • Unless you pay a higher fee, most online agencies will not organise viewings.
  • Over 50% of properties listed by online agents do not end up selling.

Online agents charge a fixed fee before they evaluate your property, while local agents charge an average rate of 0.75 - 3% of a property’s sale. Some people might find this a hefty sum, but local agents make up for their commission in a variety of ways:

  • No sale no fee: Local agents are commission-based, which means their fees are deducted from your property’s sale. If your property doesn’t sell, your estate agent won’t ask for money.
  • Your sale is in their interest: As your property’s sale is their livelihood, they will do everything in their power to help it sell. The more your property sells for, the greater their commission, so they will ensure your property sells for as much as possible.
  • They pay for themselves: Research by independent advice service, The Advisory, shows that good high street agents could charge a 4% fee plus VAT, and still achieve a better walk away figure than an online agent.

6. Ask your estate agent questions

Meeting agents for valuation is a great opportunity to ask questions and get to know them a bit better.

  • How much interest are properties like mine currently getting?

This is an opportunity to test your agent's local knowledge and see whether they have a strategy to sell your home. A thoughtful answer will show your agent has a good understanding of the market’s current state.

  • Where do we need to position my home to make it stand out in the local market?

This question will help discern your estate agent's marketing plan. There could be a large number of properties being sold on the local market, so it's useful to learn how they plan to make your property stand out from the competition. They should be able to tell you where they advertise properties online and if they use offline tactics like newspapers.

  • How often will you communicate with me?

Some people like to be updated throughout their property’s sale, while others prefer as few updates as possible. Personal preference matters, so knowing how well you’ll work together is useful when making your final decision. If your agent provides an ambiguous answer, it’s possible they will be engaged when you need them most. They are juggling multiple sales after all, so make sure your agent is clear about their availability.

  • How do you record feedback from viewings?

After every house viewing, it’s important that your estate agent takes immediate feedback from viewers. An estate agent should hold nothing back in their notes, because you need to get a good idea of how viewers are receiving your property.

7. Decide whether to use sole or multiple agents

It’s perfectly legal to market your property using multiple estate agents and make them compete to sell your property. While your property will probably sell quicker than usual, you’ll likely have to pay more in agent fees and you may be subject to a sole agency contract with some agents. If you're selling using 3 or more agencys you'll also need to consider multiple agency agreements. For more information on using just one estate agent vs several, check out our blog, ‘Can I use two agents to sell my house?’.

How NOT to choose an estate agent

Without reliable data, it might be tempting to pick an agent based on the following factors:

1. The fee

It seems like common sense to pick the agent offering the lowest commission. However, lower fees do not guarantee a better deal. You should also take an agent’s performance into account.

One agent might charge 1.2% commission, and sell your property for £450,000. This would translate into a fee of £5,400. Another agent might charge 1.4%, but be able to achieve a sales price of £470,000. Their fee is larger, at £6580, but your property has sold for a higher price, making you more money too!

Look for the best performers, not the lowest estate agent fees, when choosing a good estate agent.

2. Valuation

Another common mistake is assuming that the agent offering the highest valuation will achieve the best selling price. Properties are often overvalued by estate agents. This can either be due to a lack of experience, or worse, deliberately optimistic valuations can be a tactic to win your instruction.

An experienced agent will know that overvaluing can actually damage a commission-based business. An overpriced property will need a greater number of price cuts to encourage a sale.

This means your home could end up selling for less than if it had been accurately priced from the start. Zoopla recently found that overpriced homes sell for an average of £12,000 less than their list price.

If you’re a smart homeseller, you will get more than one property valuation. If one valuation seems way out of proportion of your property’s worth, you will be able to tell straight away.

Do I need an estate agent?

In a nutshell, yes you do. Some people like to control their property’s sale themselves, but this can get overwhelming. Marketing and selling property is a complicated process, and you will need all the help you can get. Even with the help of an estate agent, there's plenty of other things to do, like sorting an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

You can check if your property has an EPC with our free EPC Checker.

Does my house already have an EPC?

EPCs are valid for 10 years, and you can use the one purchased by the previous owner.
So, you may have an EPC and not know it!

Does it matter which estate agent you choose?

Yes, your choice of estate agent matters. Your property is your largest financial asset. Making sure your sale goes well is extremely important, so choosing who will handle it is a big decision and a good agent will ensure you get the best price.

Choosing the right estate agent is important

Many homeowners choose the estate agent with the smallest commission fee. Others take the sale of their property into their own hands and list with an online estate agent. Both of these options may end up costing you more in the long run. It’s important to consider a range of factors, and not just the fee, when deciding on the best estate agent to sell your home.

How much should the estate agent be charging me?

You should expect fees to be around 0.75% - 3% of the final sale price of your property, but this will vary depending on where you’re selling. Check your contract to see what's included and for any extra or hidden costs. You can see more information on our estate agent fees page.

When should I change estate agents?

You can switch estate agents at any point in the property selling process up until exchange and completion. Some estate agents have a clause in their contracts which states they should be allowed a certain amount of time to market your home before you dismiss them. Typically, they're for 6 weeks, with a required notice period between 1 and 4 weeks.

Making a complaint about an estate agent
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