We’ve started the process and, whilst we haven’t quite finished the house as I mentioned before, I’m glad we’re getting the ball rolling, else we might never.
Selling any home is pretty stressful and time consuming (in the UK at least!), so sometimes just getting started is the toughest bit. Last week I requested valuations from 5 estate agents. Yes, that’s quite a few and in all honesty I wasn’t that fussed about the valuation that some of them gave (I’d recommend getting at least 2-3 valuations but that should be sufficient for you to make your decision around the house price), it was more the service you’re getting from them and the cost associated with it.
I don’t think it’s fair to name each agent, but if we have a good experience with the one we’ve chosen, I’ll recommend them after we sell. In the meantime, I’ve read a lot online about questions to ask your agent when buying but not so much when selling. So, here’s some of my own tips for starting the process and choosing your all important agent.
First of all I think that this is the most important part in selling your home. Aside from making it look picture perfect and as I recently read in The Home That Made Me’s blog post, ‘show home’ ready, you’re essentially putting your most expensive asset into someone else hands. How they present it in photos, market it to potential buyers, conduct the viewings and not forgetting pushing the sale over the line with the ‘after-sales’ process, could be make or break in selling your home.
I’m not trying to scare anyone into never putting their home on the market, but I do think that there are some easy questions you can ask all agents and factors to consider that will enable you to choose the right one. After all, how many people are turned off by a house that’s been on the market for months, or re-listed after not selling. In most instances there are good reasons behind these properties not selling, but I know from scrolling through the likes of Rightmove and Zoopla that I would instantly have reservations or at least more questions. So, here goes:
- Do your research
A quick google of ‘estate agents’ with your town or surrounding town names will bring up the most obvious contenders, some of whom you may have seen with their own office presence locally. Websites like allAgents will give you a good idea of how reputable the company is (although bear in mind that people tend to write reviews if they’ve had a negative experience so the stats may be skewed – don’t necessarily discount straight away!). Scout out 3-5 agents that specialise in what you want to do (some focus mainly on lettings rather than sales) and scan through their websites to get a feel. To find the less obvious contenders you might have to search more specifically based on the type of agent (see below). When I was searching, there was only so much I could learn through their websites and most of them say the same, so never just go by what you read online, invite them over and get to know them!…
2. Request valuations
Most agents allow you to request a callback or valuation online but I found it quicker just to ring each agent direct. Even if you have your heart set on one specific agent, or a type of agency (e.g. traditional local one), I’d suggest requesting your valuations from different types if possible. In my experience I’d classify 3 types of agents:
1 – Traditional: usually with a physical local office, sometimes just the one sole agency or they may be part of a larger chain. Typically they charge a % of your house sale which used to be much higher, but to keep up with competition they’ve reduced their fees to around 1-1.25% and I have seen some at 0.75%. Be careful – most quote excluding VAT, so make sure you check!
2 – Hybrid traditional/online: The agent we used to sell our previous house had a local office and virtually the same level of service as a traditional agent, but at a fraction of the cost. They’re not usually the cheapest and you’ll usually be charged for lots of ‘add-ons’ such as professional photography or an EPC, but they worked out considerably cheaper and still just as good for us.
3 – Online: the new-comers to the market who are by far the cheapest. They usually have reps who cover a region so not very local, unless you’re lucky. I’ve heard good and bad things and having never used one I can’t comment too much, but we did request a valuation from one when we sold our last house and the reason we didn’t choose them was because of their lack of knowledge of the local area.
This time, we spoke to 3 traditional agents and 2 hybrids and the one we’re probably going with is a hybrid.
3. Get to know your agents
When they come to value your property, after giving the agent a tour and discussing their valuation, make sure you spend time asking the questions you want to know the answers to, rather than them pitching to you. Some of the main ones we’d always ask:
- How do you market the property? (Expect answers around property portals, photography…)
- How do you attract buyers to the area? (E.g. mailing lists, ‘segmented marketing’ – this is something I recently heard about and it’s all around promoting in front of the right people on social media platforms using hashtags).
- How are you better than your competition?
- Have you sold houses of a similar size/style as ours in the area?
- Who takes your photos? Request to see some examples.
- What are your views of the current property market? Is there ever a ‘right time’ to sell? (Agents have always told me that Christmas Eve and Boxing Day are popular launch days and naturally the summer months are quieter, but unless you want to wait around I’m not sure there is a right time).
- Do you have a vetting process pre-viewings? (To ensure you’re not just getting nosy neighbours round!).
- Do you have an after sales team? What is your target sale to completion timescale? If we have a request, could you meet it? E.g. to exchange before Christmas.
- What is your fee? Are there any hidden extras? Does this include VAT? (Remember, fees are negotiable but it’s always worth having a face to face chat about these and your expectations when they come over to value).
- Do you have a contract term? (typically 8 weeks+, but again – negotiate on this).
4. Make a decision
If you’re selling on your own, it’s probably worth discussing with a friend or family member to get an unbiased opinion.
For me, I’m selling with my partner and he wasn’t around to meet the agents last week, so he formed an opinion based on what I told him, then called to discuss/meet with 2 of the 5 from which we had another conversation and made a decision.
If you’re like me, the agents fee will have a big impact on who you choose, but having also met with each one you should get a gut feeling from them and know enough about their service levels and history to back it up to make an educated decision. Negotiate before you confirm to the one you’re going with, there’s always wiggle room.
It’s not just the agent you’ve got to decide on, it’s then the price you want to market the property at. You’ve got your valuations which should be in the same ballpark – if they’re not, question that with the agent(s). There’s lots of ways to do this and your agent should have discussed their recommendations with you e.g. offers in excess of, guide price, auction… Consider how quickly you want to sell and reflect this in your price.
For us, I’m happy (at the moment!) with our choice of agent, we just need to decide on how we want to price the property. Big decisions ahead…