The most basic answer to the question: 'What do estate agents do?' is: estate agents sell your property, or help you find a new one to buy.
The actual process of selling a property, and providing help finding a new one, is much more complicated than this simple answer suggests. For each home sale there are several steps an agent has to follow, lots of moving parts, and a minefield of legal requirements they have to comply with.
While an estate agent plays a vital role in both buying and selling property, ultimately an estate agent represents the seller - the person who pays their fee. This means the majority of their work focuses on helping homeowners to sell their property.
If you're a seller, you should expect your estate agent to take care of a number of elements of your sale, including:
An estate agent's first job is to value your property. To do this they'll use both their local knowledge, recent experience of selling similar properties, and market data from sources like the Land Registry to figure out how much you might expect your home to sell for if you put it on the market right now.
Valuation appointments are also a kind of interview. They give the seller an opportunity to see how the agent works and get a feel for their customer service. And, many sellers will book valuations with more than one estate agent before they decide who to work with.
A good estate agent will come to the valuation armed with hard data about the property market, and be able to impress you with their knowledge of the local area and experience selling houses nearby.
Once you've decided to work with a particular agent, they'll become a vital source of advice.
They'll be able to talk you through what types of buyers are looking in your area, and the sort of features they're looking for. They'll also be able to provide advice on the best things to do to prepare your home for sale - whether that's a quick rearrange, or investing some time in DIY.
Marketing homes is probably the job most commonly associated with estate agents - and rightly so. This part of their role will make up a large proportion of their work on any home sale.
As a minimum, your estate agent will include the following as part of their marketing plan:
Marketing is such an integral part of an estate agent's role. You should expect all the things your estate agent does to market and sell your home should be included as standard as part of your contract and fee.
However, you'll find that a lot of online estate agents won't include these things as standard. This is why many in the industry don't consider online agents to be 'full service agents' in the same way that local estate agents are. Check out our blog for more information on the difference between high street and online agents.
Whilst marketing a property might seem like the most important part of an estate agent's job, there's also a lot of vital work going on behind the scenes.
The financial scale of property transactions also comes with a lot of risk. Part of an estate agent's role is to mitigate this risk through a range of security measures and to check if the buyer is serious. These range from basic checks on potential buyers who want to come for viewings to, complying with money laundering regulations.
For example, it's a requirement of the Property Ombudsman Code of Practice that estate agents check the financial viability of potential buyers before they make an offer. This involved checking the source and availability of funds. So, if a buyer says they'll need a mortgage to purchase the property, for example, an estate agent will check they have an agreement in principle in place.
Potential buyers usually want to look round a property before they put in an offer. Your estate agent will take the lead on arranging these viewings, and showing buyers around. They'll provide a tour of all the main features of your property, and information about the local area too. They'll also make sure that your property remains secure during viewings.
Hopefully all the work your estate agent has put into valuing, marketing, and showing off your property will encourage potential buyers to put in an offer. At this stage your estate agent will act as a go-between, helping you negotiate the best sale price for your property - or rejecting offers that don't meet your expectations.
An estate agent's role doesn't end once an offer has been accepted. Once you've chosen a buyer your estate agent will take on the role of 'chaser'. They'll play a key role in facilitating communication between the conveyancers, and monitoring the status of the property 'chain' if there is one.
During the end stages of a property transaction where conveyancers seemingly do most of the work, estate agents don't stand idle. As buyers and sellers can't communicate through another's conveyancers, estate agents act as middle-men, providing reassurance throughout this difficult stage to keep the ball rolling.
Your estate agent may provide other services related to selling or moving house, such as mortgage brokers and conveyancers. Shop around first to get the best deal and the right match.
Estate agents' fees are paid by the seller, so while they provide a helpful service to many buyers, they will ultimately always act in the interests of the seller they represent.
However, it is an estate agent's responsibility to provide accurate and legally correct information about a property to a buyer.
Estate agents provide a lot of security and experience to a property sale that most, if not all, people would be stuck without.
When you work with a local estate agent, they're able to use their expertise about the local market to support your sale. They will have a register of interested buyers in your area, along with the knowledge to accurately value your home (and set a competitive asking price).
On top of this they have access to the most prominent marketing channels, like Rightmove and Zoopla - the property portals where 95% of buyers begin their home search.
When you start getting interest from potential buyers, your agent will vet them on their legitimacy before they come for a viewing. You won't have to worry about the security risk of strangers in your home. They will deal with house viewings, making the whole home selling process less stressful.
To cap it all off, an estate agent will work extra hard to sell your home for as much money as possible because it's in their best interests to do so. Most estate agents earn commission based on the property sale, meaning they have more to gain from selling your home for a good price.
If you're unsure about all the little details and laws regarding the home selling process, and think you’ll end up having to spend money on surveyors and marketing, or you're worried about the security risk of hosting viewings with strangers, it’s likely a high street agent is the best option for you.
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Estate agents are hired to market and sell properties on behalf of homesellers. They vet potential buyers, lead viewings and help negotiate a final selling price.
Usually, estate agents work to a base annual salary and may earn commission from house sales. Sometimes, they get a cut from selling in-house services such as EPC checkers or conveyancers.
All local estate agents have a salary, and most have one with some form of commission scheme. The average estate agent salary in the UK is £30,000 to £40,000.
To summarise, an estate agent's responsibilities are:
On average, estate agents charge 0.75 - 3% from the final sale price of your property, but this varies from city to city. For more information on estate agent fees, check out our estate agent fees page for differences between UK cities.
There are no formal qualifications required to become an estate agent, but many agents choose to do get a professional qualification as part of their training.
The most commonly recognised professional qualifications come from Propertymark Qualifications, which is associated with the National Association of Estate Agents professional body, NAEA Propertymark.
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