Choosing an estate agent should be a relatively straightforward task but are some simple parameters to consider.

Unless you’re a first time buyer, you’ll have some experience of estate agents already. Many sellers use the same agent that sold their home to them, but only do this if you genuinely consider them to be the best agent you met. How do you decide that?

  1. Remember, the agents you meet as a buyer were acting for the seller. As salesmen, it’s important that they are likeable, or and respected for their professionalism. Ask yourself, “Would I want this person acting for me in the sale of my most valuable asset?” If you feel uneasy, go elsewhere.
  2. Are they ‘qualified’. For some unknown reason, estate agents do not have to be qualified to practice as an estate agent. That said, the industry has been trying to improve professional standards for over 50 years and there are a few bodies that your estate agent should belong to. The primary body is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Estate agents don’t have to be RICS qualified, and many are not, but if your agent is a Chartered Surveyor you know that she will have spent at least five years qualifying and is regulated by a well established professional body. Another body that oversees estate agents is the National Association of Estate Agents and there is also a nationally recognised ombudsman programme which many agents belong to.
  3. Do they have experience in your area and do they sell the same sort of property you are selling? Some agents specialise in country property, some in waterfront property. Many others do not, but nevertheless, some agents seem more active in certain areas and property types than others.
  4. How and what do they charge? Most agents charge a commission which is only payable once a sale has completed. Others, more notably online ‘estate agents’, charge a one-off listing fee. The latter seems cheaper, but bear in mind that an agent that only gets paid on the sale is more motivated to sell than one who’s getting paid anyway! And an agent who gets paid a percentage of the sale price has an incentive to gain the best price possible for his client (you).
  5. Who wants the work most? Like all businesses, it’s better to employ the hungry looking for work than the somewhat less enthusiastic!
  6. Do they genuinely like your home? It’s hard to judge this because no-one trying to be instructed to sell your home is going to readily admit they don’t like it, but you can usually get a feel if they do. It’s much easier for a salesman to sell if they like their product. Why not choose that salesman?
  7. Be cautious on market appraisals. Anyone that has employed an estate agent will know that some will ‘dangle’ a ridiculously high valuation in front of them just to secure an instruction. It’s cynical - but it works, because none of us want to give away money. Try and be even-handed when considering the market appraisal and if the suggested price seems to high or two low ask the agent to support his thinking with comparable evidence of other recent sales in the area.

Remember, an estate agent is acting for you, the seller. If the agent that sold to you was pleasant, but gave you a hard time through the negotiation, that might just be the one for you. After all, wouldn’t you want him in your corner when selling?

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