How to Choose an Estate Agent

Estate Agency in the UK is changing quickly, primarily due to the Internet. There are different types of estate agents you can use:

Traditional Estate Agents

These include national chains, regional chains and independent local Estate Agents. Many of these are long established and well known, with a local office.

Typically they charge a fee of between 1.5% and 2% of the sale price when the property is sold.

Online Estate Agents

Most of these are young companies who have spotted an opportunity to offer a cheap package, mainly comprising of marketing via the Property Portals such as Rightmove. Most online Estate Agents (also called Internet Estate Agents) charge a flat fee although some work on a more results-based basis, with their fee dependant on the price achieved.

Established Estate Agents are coming under increased pressure from the lower cost model and pricing structure of Internet Estate Agents. Traditional Estate Agents have town or city centre offices and large teams of people to pay for.

As most people search for property online, and people better understand what is actually involved in selling a property, there seems little doubt that over the next few years selling property will go the way of other business sectors, such as the Holiday and Travel industry, and become primarily an online industry dominated by Internet Estate Agents.

Who to use

When weighing up which type of Estate Agency to use, consider the following:

  • Is my property a type that will benefit from a strong local presence or expertise? A unique rural property for example will be better understood, and probably more accurately priced and better marketed, by an Agent who specialises in such properties in your locality. Conversely, if your property is a standard property in an area of similar properties, will a local Estate Agent really add any knowledge or expertise that an online Estate Agent won’t have?
  • How easy is it to value my property accurately? The valuation is extremely important – too high and you’ll end up reducing the price later – and reduced properties are off-putting to many people who are sceptical about the real value or, worse, assume there is something wrong with it. On the other hand if you price your property too low you’ll lose money! If there are several comparables of similar recently sold properties, the valuation, all other things being equal, is relatively straightforward.
  • Will the property benefit significantly from a local Estate Agent’s list of potential buyers? All Agents keep details of prospects so that they can inform them when a property becomes available.
  • How do they actually perform? If you know anyone who has sold recently, ask them who they used and how they rated them. Also look carefully at their literature, and the quality of their photography and floorplans, and compare them with each other.
  • Test them as a Buyer! Ring the Estate Agents on your shortlist and tell them you are looking for a specific type of property. See how they respond. Are they friendly and proactive? Do they telephone and mail or email you details of suitable properties? You’ll get a good feel for who are the ones you will want to use if you do this.
  • Finally ensure they are a member of the Property Ombudsman scheme so you have redress in the event of a dispute.

As a general rule, for properties that are upmarket and/or unique and/or rural, a knowledgeable local Estate Agent is the best option. For other properties, unless a traditional Agent is particularly competitive, online Estate Agents can usually achieve the same result at a lower cost.

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