How to choose the right estate agent?

Property for saleHow should I choose an estate agent?

You put your house on the market, but the estate agent is the one who actually sells it. Choosing the right agent is a critical decision – it can make the difference between getting a really good price, and not selling your house at all. But how do you tell the difference between good agents and bad ones?

Remember: the agent works for you

As the seller, you choose the estate agent, and the agent works for you. But the decision to accept an offer remains with you. As the seller, you are usually in a strong position with estate agents – unless they have properties to sell on their books, they won’t make any commission.

Choosing a sole or multiple agent?

You have to decide whether you are going for one, two or more agents. Clearly, if you are going for a multiple agency agreement, then you can just put your property on with any agent you like, and you don’t really have to choose between them. The following comments are only really relevant if you are going for a sole or joint sole agreement.

Select a shortlist of estate agents

  • Ask family, friends and neighbors – there is nothing better than a personal recommendation
  • For most properties, it is best to stay local – local agents know the area, and can be close to meet prospective buyers
  • If yours is a particularly unusual or expensive property, you might want to choose a REMAX Masters estate agent who specialises in homes like yours
  • Make sure the agent has experience of selling property like yours – and the best way to do that is to check there are properties similar to yours in the window. There’s no point using a agent, which sells large commercial properties, if you have a typical suburban home.
  • Go into a number of estate agents and pretend to be looking to buy a house similar to yours – are they professional? Do they seem competent? Are you impressed?
  • Look at the agent’s website – are the pictures well taken, and the descriptions clear and relevant?
  • The “sold” boards outside properties are good indicators of which agents are doing well (but beware – some agents put up boards outside multiple occupancy houses just to look like they are busy)
  • A good agent will invest in marketing to ensure they get the best price, while a poor one will just wait for customers to come to them.
  • Do not feel pressured to hire the estate agent you bought your house from. Obviously, if you were impressed how they sold your house to you, you might decide to go with them again
  • What is their viewing policy – check they will accompany potential buyers when you are out. Do they phone and send around potential buyers straight away?
  • Narrow your choices down to a shortlist of about three and invite them to do a valuation

Find out how good they are

  • What recent sales have they made of comparable properties and at what price? Ask for details so you can check them out
  • After they value your property ask them to explain their reasoning
  • Do they have any estate agency or sales qualifications?
  • Are they members of a professional trade association, such as the National Association of Estate Agents in South Africa ?
  • Can more than one person in the office talk enthusiastically and with knowledge about your property?
  • What would they do if your property was not selling as well as expected? What do you think about their answer?
  • Are they open at weekends? A surprising number of agents only work during the week, and perhaps do half day on Saturday, which means they are less accessible to potential buyers

Don’t be fooled by the valuations they give

Agents know that one of the main reasons people pick them is the valuation they give. They take two general approaches:

  • Some agents give deliberately optimistic valuations, to make you think you can get a higher price with them, and then try and talk you down after you have chosen them
  • Some agents insist they are giving a realistic price, and tell you not to be fooled by falsely high valuations

However, it is you and not the agent who decides what price to put the property on at, and how effective an agent is at marketing a property has little to with the valuation they give. You should choose an agent who you are impressed by but who gives a realistic valuation, rather than a second rate agent who gives a high valuation. You can always ask the good agent to put the property on at a higher price when you have tested the market.

Final thoughts when choosing an estate agent

Do you get on with them and trust them – you will have to spend lots of time with them, and trust them with your most valuable asset.  Remember to read the contract carefully and check your sole agency tie in period and required notice period. If you don’t understand something, ask. If you are not happy in any way do not sign the contract

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