Dealing with estate agents
Estate agents may be under fire, but most of us still deal with them when buying or selling a home. Here's how to get the most out of that relationship.
There are few more distrusted people in the land than estate agents. But they aren’t all bad – my dad’s one, and he’s really quite nice.
Whether you’re buying or selling and you have to deal with an estate agent, follow these tips and you won’t go wrong.
Buying through an estate agent
Go and see them
The internet is the first port of call for most buyers these days. That’s understandable thanks to property portals such as rightmove and Zoopla, but going in to actually see an estate agent face-to-face can make a big difference.
There’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, you can explain what you’re looking for from the property in detail. This should cut down on the time-waster properties they suggest you go and see (though it won’t cut them out completely!)
But dealing with them face-to-face also helps you build a relationship with them. You become more than just a name in an email. And that means that when a suitable property becomes available, you’re more likely to pop into their head when they are racking their brains for likely buyers.
Keep in contact
Don’t rely on the fact that you’ve made an impression with them though. Call on a regular basis to see what’s come up and whether it’s suitable.
If every time the agent calls you to see if you’re interested in viewing a property you say no, they will soon stop calling. Yes, it can be a pain getting the time off work or spending your evenings heading to see a property which most likely isn’t the one.
But it just might be, and you don’t want to miss out on hearing about new properties because you’re too inflexible when it comes to viewing times.
Do your own research
Don’t rely on the estate agent to know everything about the area. Do you own homework about the amenities, transport links and recent house price sales in the area. This will help inform you when the time comes to working out what to offer. Check out Top 10 property websites and apps for more.
Putting in an offer
Estate agents are paid by the vendor, not you. That’s an important thing to remember. Their job is to get the best possible price for the seller, not the best possible deal for you.
Estate agents are obliged to send on any offers you make to the vendor by letter. So ask for a copy.
And keep on top of the estate agent until you get an answer to that offer. Only then can you plan your next move.
Keep in contact – again!
Getting the vendor to accept your bid means you’re almost there. But there’s still an awful lot that can go wrong, particularly if your estate agent is a little on the slow side. When I bought my house we only had a couple of weeks to complete, so we had to ensure everything moved quickly. That’s why I was on the phone to the estate agent (and the solicitor) on an almost daily basis, finding out exactly what was holding things up and what needed to happen to get things moving.
Don’t let your dream home slip through your fingers because you didn’t chase up the estate agent!
Selling through an estate agent
You don’t have to sell your property through an estate agent these days. There are plenty of sites that let you do it yourself. Check out The pros and cons of online estate agents for more.
But if you still want to use an agent, be sure to follow these tips.
Do some research
Speak to family and friends – do they have any recommendations for good estate agents in your area? Check out local newspapers and the for sale boards to see what sort of presence the different agents have.
Get a range of quotes
Don’t just get a single valuation. Invite at least three estate agents over to value your property and get them to explain exactly why they’ve come to the conclusion they have.
While it would be nice if you could get the highest valuation when you sell your property, don’t let that influence who you go for.
Find out how the property will be marketed
The estate agent works for you. So you need to know exactly what you are paying for. How do they plan to expose your home to the biggest number of potential buyers? Do they have an online presence? Will they be handling showing interested parties around your house or will they be leaving it up to you?
Make sure you’re happy about the way your property will be sold before you sign up. And hold them to it – don’t let them fob you off if they aren’t holding up their side of the bargain.
The fees that you will have to pay the estate agent are always negotiable, so make sure you haggle.
Another option is to use a ‘fee ladder’ to incentivise them to get the best possible price for you house. The higher the price they sell for, the better their fee. You can read more about this in How to make your estate agent work harder.
Complaining to the Property Ombudsman
If your experience with the estate agent has not been the best, then you’ll first need to complain directly. If they don’t deal with that complaint to your satisfaction, then you should have a few options.
Since 2008, all estate agents have been required to register with an Estate Agents Redress Scheme, which are overseen by the Office of Fair Trading. The main one in this case is likely to be the Property Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman will consider your complaint if you believe the estate agent has:
- Infringed your legal rights
- Failed to follow the rules and obligations under any code of practice they may have signed up to
- Treated you unfairly
- Been guilty of maladministration
For more, check out the complaints process section of the Property Ombudsman’s website.
Thanks to Samuel LeGood of Abbot Fox for his help with this article.