2 - Local presence
Opt for agents with a good local presence. Good indicators of a local presence are plenty of boards, reading 'sold', a prominent office on the local high street and listings in the local papers. Speak to friends, family and colleagues about agents they have used in the past as personal recommendations are often invaluable.
3 - Valuations
Always get more than one valuation and don't always accept the highest. Quoting a high figure is one thing, actually achieving the sale is another. Try to find out from the estate agent if the figure is a result of knowledge and experience in the area or are they just trying to win your business.
Do your own research, using the internet and local papers to compare the valuation against other similar properties in the area.
4 - Sales and marketing package
Find out how the agent is planning to market your property and what the marketing collateral, i.e. brochures, adverts, website, will look like.
When it comes to selling, try to find out how good the agents will be at negotiating on your behalf. Do they appear organised, focussed and professional? Would you buy a house from them?
5 - Website
The Internet is now a very popular tool amongst people looking for new homes and it is vital that your agent has a good website to market your property with. Can the site be found on search engines, does it provide clear navigation to the property listings and are properties presented appropriately?
A number of agents also list their properties in the large national property search engines like RightMove and Fish4Homes, extending their reach to a further national audience.
6 - Trade association
Try to use agents that are members of associations, such as The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) or The Ombudsman of Estate Agents Scheme (OEA). You are more likely to get a professional service and if anything goes wrong the associations will often help you and the agent resolve the dispute.
7 - Fees
Negotiating a lower fee with the agent may prove to be a false economy. Remember the agent is working for you and by cutting their money, you will be reducing their incentive to work as hard on your sale.
Instead, try to create an incentive to benefit both parties. If the agent can get the full asking price, then let them have the full fee, but maybe you can negotiate a reduction in the fee, if they are not able to achieve the full asking price.
8 - Contracts
Read the contract thoroughly, ask questions and never sign up to anything that you do not understand. Check the period of time for which you will be legally bound. There is nothing worse than being locked in with an agent providing poor service. Insist on a time period that will allow you to change agents easily, such as monthly or even weekly.
9 - Multiple agents
To achieve a quick sale, you may want to use more than one agent to market your property. If so, another point to check on the contract is whether the agent insists on 'sole agency'. This means that they will still be able to charge you a commission fee, even if you sell your home privately or through another agent.
10 - Transparency
Estate agents are required by law to not make false or misleading statements about the features of a property.
They must also declare both promptly and in writing if either they, a business partner or relative would like to buy your property or if the agent will benefit in any way (above and beyond the agreed commission) from the sale of your property.
Don Suter is Managing Editor of the UK Property Portal (http://www.ukpropertyportal.co.uk), an online directory and magazine for UK property sales, rental, surveyors, mortgages, conveyancing, property insurance, removals, news, investment and development.
For more information on selling your home and finding estate agents, browse through our property search pages
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