Estate agents are among the least trusted professionals in the United Kingdom, and that’s because people don’t deal with them very often. As a result, many people aren’t sure what they are supposed to ask when selling a home, so they may end up with an estate agent who is right for their needs. Here’s a quick list of questions to ask before you even think about signing that contract.
“How much is your commission?”
Estate agents are either paid a percentage of the sale fee or charge a fixed fee. The former is often quoted without VAT, so you may need to ask whether the quote fees include VAT or not. Fixed fees usually include VAT, however, especially if they are from hybrid (online) estate agents.
In many cases, the commission is negotiable. If you have a particularly valuable or easy-to-sell house, you may have a good chance of negotiating a lower fee. Expect to pay between 0.75% to around 2%, depending on what area you are in.
“What is your average sale time?”
Most people want to get the sale over and done with. As a result, the average sale time is important. This varies according to local conditions, such as whether the local council offers an automated system for searches, but it should be broadly consistent throughout the area.
However, agents who have very fast sales times may be undervaluing the property, resulting in much lower offers than you deserve. Agents who overvalue the property, however, typically have very long sales times. In addition, they may be costing you a lot of money. It’s worth remembering that national agents may provide a national figure, so it may not be particularly helpful.
“How long does the contract tie me in for?”
In a few cases, contracts are not exclusive, but in most cases where commission or a no-sale, no-fee deal is involved, there will be a minimum contract length. This can range from a few weeks up to 20 weeks. Try to get it reasonably low — in most cases, eight weeks is more than enough. After all, if they are providing a good enough service, it shouldn’t matter how long the contract is.
In addition, if the agent isn’t a good fit or is being particularly lax or slow, you do have the option to argue that they are not fulfilling their end of the contract. However, it’s easier if the contract just ends.
“What fees are not included?”
For most estate agents, the answer should be “the EPC.” This is because not all homes require a new EPC, so as a result, it’s usually an extra service. Some agents, however, may have additional fees for marketing or for certain types of listing. While this isn’t a deal breaker, it’s worth considering whether you want those services and how much it would cost to add them on.
In addition, some estate agents have very restrictive contracts. Some claim that if they introduce you to someone who is “willing to buy” (sometimes called a willing buyer), you owe them a fee regardless of whether you choose to take the offer. These contracts are generally considered unethical, but there are a few who attempt this kind of trick.
Ultimately, most estate agents want to help you sell your home, as that’s how they get paid. Asking a few questions ensures that you get the right fit for you and helps weed out the ones who may not be able to give you the service you require.