What to Ask an Estate Agent When Selling a House

what to ask estate agents when selling

Whether you’re selling a house for the first time or you’ve previously had a negative experience of the process, knowing what to ask estate agents when selling can help things run smoothly from day one. 

Asking the right questions will also help you choose the best estate agent and decide on the most suitable route to sale — a property auction? A traditional on-market sale? Or selling to a quick house sale company?

1. What are your fees?

The average estate agent fee is 1.42% of the sale price achieved for a property. On a home selling for £271,000, the national average house price in November 2021, the average fee would be £3,848. However, commission rates vary wildly between agents and may be as low as 1% or as high as 3%.

Some agencies charge a fixed fee, which typically works out cheaper than paying a percentage of the sale price. But make sure you check what is included in the fee. What looks like a great deal could work out a lot more expensive than you’d hoped if the agency charges extra for key services you need. Also, an agent whose commission is calculated as a percentage of the sale price is likely to go all out to get you the best offer possible! 

2. Is VAT included in your commission?

In 2015, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) made a ruling that all estate agents, whether they operate online, on the high street or in a hybrid model, must quote their fees inclusive of VAT. Some estate agents previously quoted their fee without VAT to make it appear more affordable to potential clients. 

This ruling only applies to agencies that advertise their fees. It’s always worth asking the question to double-check that the figure quoted is the final price you will be expected to pay.

3. When do I pay your fees?

Most estate agents’ fees are payable upon completion of a house sale. The agent will send their invoice to your solicitor, who will pay them out of the proceeds from your sale. 

However, some estate agents will require payment upfront. This is more common for those who operate on a fixed-fee basis. 

Whatever the contract says about when the fees are due, if you are late in paying them, interest will probably be charged. Always check the terms and conditions to find out when interest will begin to accrue — typically around five to 10 days after the due date — and at what rate. 

4. What type of contract do you offer?

“Sole agreements” are the most common type of estate agent contracts. A sole agreement gives your chosen agency the exclusive right to sell your property for the fixed period stated in the contract unless you decide to take your home off the market. 

There are two types of sole agreement. A “sole agency” contract gives the agent exclusive rights to sell your property, but if you find a buyer independently, they will not charge their fee. A “sole selling rights” contract also grants the agent exclusive selling rights, but if you find your own buyer, you’ll still have to pay their fee.

Alternatively, you could opt for an agent who offers a “joint agency” or a  “multi-agency agreement”. In a joint agency agreement, two agencies are appointed to collaborate on finding you a buyer. A multi-agency agreement allows you to appoint multiple agencies to sell your property. This type of contract is less common and attracts a higher fee than sole agency agreements.

5. How will you advertise my property?

Listing your home on the major property portals, Rightmove and Zoopla, is standard practice. What else can the agent offer? Will they also market your property on lesser-known portals such as OnTheMarket?

How familiar with the local area are they? Do they have experience selling properties like yours? Have they recently sold similar properties in your area? The latter will be especially important if your home is unusual or hard to sell for some reason, for example, if it is a non-standard construction.

You’ll also need to decide whether to host viewings yourself or let the agent do it. If you opt for the latter, they may suggest advertising an open house event, whereby multiple potential buyers are invited to view on the same day. This can drive competition between buyers and encourage strong offers.

6. How much is my property worth?

Several factors will affect the value of your house, including its size, location, condition, type and the health of the current property market. It’s a good idea to ask several estate agents to value your property before appointing an agency. Don’t be tempted to just go with the agent who quotes the highest price. They may just be doing this to get your business, and an above-market-value asking price is the top reason why a house does not sell.

If you need a quick house sale, you’ll need to set a competitive asking price. 

7. How quickly do you expect to sell my home?

Of course, there are no guarantees with an on-market sale. If the market is slow, even a perfectly-presented home in a desirable location could take months to sell. But an established agent should be able to tell you how long it has taken them to sell local properties similar to yours recently, which will give you an idea of what to expect. 

If you need to sell your house fast, the only way to get a guaranteed sale in a timescale that suits you is to sell to a cash house buying company.

8. How can I prepare my home for sale?

An estate agent should be able to advise you on minor improvements that will add value and boost your chances of securing a quick house sale. They may also offer staging and presentation tips, such as opening curtains and blinds to let in as much natural light as possible, putting fresh flowers in the rooms and setting out patio furniture to demonstrate how the garden space can be used.

9. Is there a withdrawal fee?

If you sign a contract that grants an agent, or multiple agents, the right to market your home for a fixed period, they may charge a “withdrawal fee” if you change your mind before this term ends. Whether you decide to move to a different agency or you want to take your home off the market altogether, this fee will apply. Not all agents charge such a fee, and the amount can vary significantly. Some charge thousands of pounds, so it’s definitely worth asking the question.

10. Is it worth adding a virtual tour to my listing?

Many agents will charge extra for creating a virtual tour, so asking what this adds to your listing is a valid question. A virtual tour gives potential buyers a much clearer idea of the space and layout of your home than photographs alone. Adding one to your listing can help reduce time wasted hosting viewings with people who have unrealistic expectations of your home.

If you want to bypass the stress and expense of selling via an estate agent, talk to House Buyer Bureau. We are a genuine cash house buyer with the funds to buy your property in as little as 7 days or a timescale that suits you. There are no estate agent fees to pay and no need to host viewings. 

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