But how much you can benefit from an agent often depends on asking the right questions.
So, what should you ask your estate agent?
Here are 10 key questions to ask estate agents when selling or buying…
Questions to ask estate agents: Sellers
1. How much is your commission?
If you’re selling your property then you’ll certainly want to know what the services of an estate agent will cost.
Often, estate agent fees will vary depending on the type of contract you go for.
Most of the time, agents push for a sole agency contract and this can often result in the best value commission percentage for you as a seller.
Once you’ve asked the question, don’t be afraid to haggle.
And speak to more than one agent for a valuation and price.
2. Are there other costs involved?
It’s important for you as a seller to be certain what you’ve been quoted as a commission is what you will pay when your property is sold.
So, ask the agents you speak to about any additional costs.
Added extras could include a For Sale board, special photos, or drawing up floorplans, so make sure all of these marketing costs are included in your commission.
Agents will often charge for Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), too, so ask them about this if your property needs an updated EPC – you can’t sell it without a valid one!
3. What kind of contracts do you offer?
It’s important to know, as a seller, what kind of contract you’ll be signing with your chosen estate agent.
This will often impact on your commission rate and can also see you tied into one agent for, sometimes, longer than you would like.
So, ask your agent to explain each contract option in detail.
These could include:
- Sole selling rights: The agent is the only person permitted to sell your property during a certain timeframe.
- Multi-agency: You can put your property up for sale with more than one agent and you only pay commission to the one that sells it. This contract usually means a higher fee.
- Sole agency: This is the same as ‘sole selling rights’ but one major difference is you don’t have to pay the agent’s fee if you find a buyer yourself.
4. How long will I be tied in for?
Often your contract with your agent will see you tied in for a period of time.
Sole agency contracts, for example, often last for 12 weeks, during which you cannot use another agent to sell your property – even if you are unhappy with the service you are receiving.
Ask your agent about tie-in periods and look for a ‘no withdrawal fee’ clause in the contract as this could mean you can terminate your contract should you be unhappy.
And as with the commission fee, don’t be afraid to negotiate when it comes to tie-ins.
5. How will my property be marketed?
It’s 2019 and we’re fully into the digital age.
So, ask your agent how they intend to market your property.
If the words ‘Rightmove’, ‘Zoopla’ or ‘OnTheMarket’ aren’t included in their answer then your alarm bells should be ringing.
But they should also be marketing your home to their database of potential buyers, as well as using more traditional methods like newspaper and branch window displays to capture the attention of potential buyers.
Questions to ask estate agents: Buyers
While you are not tied in to a contract or facing any estate agent fees as a buyer, it’s still important to ask the right questions so you can be certain a property is right for you.
Agents should always be honest with their answers, despite having a contract with the seller, so don’t be afraid to ask the most pressing things on your mind.
1. Why is the vendor selling?
This is often, and probably should always be, the number one question on your list as a buyer.
Of course, the agent doesn’t have to answer.
But finding out a buyer’s reasons for selling can be beneficial to you in several ways:
- It can help with price negotiation if you know how ‘keen’ the vendor is to sell quickly
- It can sometimes reveal potential issues that can’t be seen with the naked eye
2. What’s included in the sale?
Of course, this will all be ironed out in the sales process once an offer has been accepted.
But it can be good to have an idea of what you would get with a property before you start throwing offers around.
Ask about fixtures and fittings and about property boundaries. Is the garden as large as it appears or is there a boundary you can’t see?
3. How long has the property been up for sale?
Ask the vendor’s agent about the property’s time on the market.
If it’s been up for sale for some time, or has had its price reduced, ask why it’s not selling.
Are there issues you should know about? Is it overpriced?
Answers to these questions can help you make a decision on whether to offer, what to offer or whether to walk away.
4. How long has the vendor lived in the property?
Maybe they have an issue with their neighbours.
Or perhaps it’s just an unexpected change of circumstances.
Either way, finding out how long the seller has been in the property can reveal key information to you as a buyer.
Ask, also, how many owners the property has had in, say, the past 15 years. If it’s a higher than normal turnover of owners, that could reveal an issue.
5. How did you come to the asking price?
A good agent will be able to confidently justify their valuation of the property you are viewing – with confidence and without bluster.
If they can’t then you should make a call if you think the property is overpriced.
6. What is the minimum offer the vendor will accept?
This is quite blatant.
But property hunting is not an activity where time can be wasted.
If the vendor is unlikely to budge on price and you don’t want to pay it, move on.
Asking this early in the process could mean you get yourself in front of a more suitable property quicker.
Do you have a property to sell? Get in touch with your local Whitegates branch who will be happy to talk to you about how they can help you sell your home.