Be a savvy home seller when selling your home and get answers to these questions before you sign on the dotted line...
1. How much will you charge?
Estate agents usually charge a percentage fee, which can be anywhere between 0.75% and 3.5% of the agreed selling price for your home depending on the type of contract you choose. You should aim to get a fee that is 1% + VAT for a sole agency contract. So get ready to haggle.
2. Are there any other costs?
Then ask if there are any other charges? Does it include a For Sale Board? Additional fees for 360 degree photos? Floorplans? All these marketing costs should be included in the % fee.
It’s at this point all good agents mention the EPC if they haven’t already. Legally, you have to at least applied to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) conducted before putting your house on the market. They last for 10 years so your old one may still be valid. Otherwise, ask the agent how much they can provide one for. It is often cheaper to arrange one yourself.
3. How will you market my home?
This is where high street agents should earn their commission and reel off lots of local knowledge and experience and the fact they have people on their books right now looking for a home like yours. You will of course also expect them to say they advertise with Rightmove and Zoopla – knowing full well most people find properties online, not by trudging up and down high streets looking at agents’ window displays.
From 26 January 2015 things are set to get a bit confusing for us homesellers and buyers with the introduction of a new property portal. Onthemarket.com has been set up by a group of high street agents wanting to take control of the online market. So, you need to ask agents the following detailed questions:
i) Are you an OnTheMarket member? (The OTM logo should be in the window)
If they are, they will only be able to list your home on one of the other two leading portals – either Rightmove OR Zoopla – thus potentially halving the marketing exposure of your property.
ii) Which portal will my home be advertised on and when?
It will be interesting to hear the reasons your agent gives for going with Rightmove or Zoopla, and whether you agree.
While agents will probably tell you this happily, they may be a bit more cagey about the other policy condition to signing up with onthemarket.com. This involves advertising your property first on this portal for 48hours before putting it onto Rightmove or Zoopla. This means your home could sit for two days or more on a relatively unknown site, missing out on the influx of traffic to Rightmove, which attracts 90m visitors a month, and Zoopla, which reports monthly visitor numbers of 45m. Therefore it is worth also asking…
iii) can you negotiate a reduced % fee for the delay in your property appearing on Rightmove or Zoopla
It’s worth a try.
iv) If your main concern is optimising exposure of your home to as many potential buyers as possible then find an agent who is not with OTM and still using Rightmove AND Zoopla (Foxtons, Connells, Countrywide and others).
4. What type of contract do you use?
There are different types of contract and each has its benefits and draw backs, so make sure you know what they are and choose carefully
5. Does your contract include a tie-in period?
Lots of estate agents, even the big high street brands, include a tie in period. But if you end up not getting on with them or become unhappy with their service you will want to terminate the contract. Make sure your contract gives you the flexibility to terminate without incurring a penalty (the term you are looking for is no withdrawal fee), and go elsewhere if you’re unhappy with your agent. Check the tie-in period and negotiate this as well. These vary dramatically between agents but you should not need to be locked in for more than 4-6 weeks (including your notice period). We’ll say it again, check your contract.
6. Will I have any future liability if I take my home off the market and sell with another agent at a later date?
Imagine you were with Agent A, on a sole agency contract. You were unhappy with their service so terminated the arrangement, served your 2 week’s notice and were off. You sign up with another estate agent – Agent B – and three months later, the sale of your property goes through. You pay Agent B the commission you owe them for selling your home only to be approached by Agent A asking for a percentage as well because they argue the purchaser was originally “introduced” by them. This could happen months, or even years after you left the original contract.
So read your contract carefully and understand what continuing liability you might be signing up to beyond the term of your contract. Fight any suggestion that you should pay two finders’ fees.
7. What happens if we disagree on something?
What you’re looking for here is some charm, and recognition that you are paying the agents’ fee. We hear too often of consumers being bullied by their agents to accept a sale price or buyer they fundamentally aren’t comfortable with – but the agent wants the house sold, to the buyer they have earmarked and the commission in their pockets. So make sure there is mutual respect from the beginning.
If things did go wrong and you found you needed to resolve a dispute with your estate agent we have a guide to help you. At this stage it is worth checking they are a member of one of the grievance bodies who can pursue your claims should things go really wrong. All agents must be a member of either: the Property Ombudsman, the Ombudsman Services Property and as of 2014 the Property Redress Scheme. However, their powers are limited so don’t make the mistake of taking it as a stamp of approval.