How To Choose An Estate Agent

I Want To Use An Estate Agent - But Which One Should I Choose?

The mention of estate agents to property sellers elicits mixed reactions. This is because some estate agents have failed to deliver thereby creating a bad reputation for the profession.

Consequently, property buyers and sellers are advised to pay attention when choosing an estate agent that will handle this major transaction on their behalf.

Choosing the right agent is a crucial decision that you make as it can make the difference selling your house for a good price and not selling at all. Therefore, as a seller you must choose the right agent. Remember, the agent can only advice as you hold the decision to accept or decline offers.

So then, how can you single out the bad agents from the good ones?

Single or Multiple agent?

First, you need to determine whether you will work with one or more agents. If you opt for a multiple agency agreement, you can put the property up for sale with any agent without having to choose between them.

Things to consider when choosing estate agents

Here are some guidelines to get you started:

  • Seek referrals – You will do well to ask friends, family and even neighbours for a recommendation of an estate agent they have worked with before and were satisfied with the service they received.
  • Draw a comparison of the agents based on facts – You may particularly want to compare how fast they sell, how close they come to achieving the asking price as well as how successful they are generally. You can use online resources to draw these comparisons.
  • Go for a national agent – If you your property is unique, expensive or unusual then you will do well to consider working with a national agent specializing in homes similar to yours.
  • Check the agent’s experience – You need to ensure that the agent is experienced in selling property similar to yours by checking if they have any property that is similar to yours in their property window.
  • Ensure that the agent is competent – The best way to determine this is pretending to be a buyer of property similar to yours to see if the agent is professional and competent. If you are impressed with their service then you might as well work with them.
  • Look at the agents sold boards – This usually gives you an idea of how your property will fair on the property market.
  • Check the agent’s marketing plan – You need to understand the agent’s marketing structure and the price. A good agent must be willing to invest in marketing so that they get the best price.
  • Find out about the viewing policy – It is important to find out if the estate agent will accompany potential buyers when you are not in. In addition, you must establish how soon and in what intervals they send prospective buyers to view the property.

Although you may feel pressured to hire a particular estate agent probably because they sold the property to you, you must be level headed when making this crucial decision. In fact, you will do well to narrow your choice of estate agents to a shortlist of three that you can then invite to do a valuation.

This does not cost anything. Once you have received a valuation from each of them you can then vet them further to eliminate the possibility of overpricing or underpricing as you get to know them better.

If you have opted for a single agent, you will settle on one that you consider most suitable. On the other hand, if you would like to work with multiple agents then you can let them all take a shot at selling the property but only pay the commission to the agent that will eventually sell.

Estate agents cannot be wished away as they are an important link the property market. However, you will need to ensure that you do your research well so that you do not end up as a victim of some of the traps that some agents employ to win business.

Some of the common estate agent traps that you need to avoid:

  • Sole selling rights – Estate agents that insist of sole selling rights essentially mean that should you find a buyer yourself, you still must pay them the agent fee. Therefore, if you want to give away the sole selling rights then ensure that this is only for a limited period.
  • Check that the estate agent fees is inclusive of marketing as well as other related costs like preparing the property and the For Sale boards. Otherwise, some agents will double charge you for these as an extra service.
  • Refrain from signing a contract that commits you to paying the agent just for finding a purchaser that is ready, willing and able as opposed to selling the property. This is because you would then have to pay the agent fee even where the sale does not fall through because you pulled out even if for a good reason. Instead, work with the agent that only asks for payment following a successful sale through the exchange of contracts.
  • Check that the agreement has a time limit. This gives you the privilege of changing the agent in the event that you are unhappy with them. Normally a maximum of a 12-week agreement period is ideal even though it can be as little as 4 weeks.

If you are working with an online estate agent, you need to look out for the following:

  • That you are not charged for the For Sale board that you will end up erecting on your own.
  • Seek clarification on who will conduct the viewings and how it will be done.
  • Be sure that they will advertise your property on the property portals they have pledged to advertise in the agreement.

If you feel aggrieved by your estate agent, you will need to raise a complaint with them. Should they fail to address it, then you can go ahead and seek redress from the ombudsman.

How Does The Property Ombudsman Assist With Estate Agents?

For a long time, estate agents get away with fabrications and misleading contracts. Thankfully, you do not have to suffer in silence as you can get in touch with the office of the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) with any complains concerning a particular estate agent.

The ombudsman is mandated to regulate estate agents as well as solve disputes that arise between estate agents and property sellers and buyers. Specifically, the role of the ombudsman is to tame those estate agents that are breaking the law when transacting with their clients. Thus, the ombudsman acts as a police over the industry providing protection to the consumer against any malpractices.

Common issues that the Ombudsman Mediates

Estate agents usually have so much power over sales transactions hence they tend to abuse this power at the expense of the client. The ombudsman presides over a number of disputes relating to estate agents and their clients. The issues include the following:

  • Misleading and complicated contracts that leave clients paying so much when the agent was hardly involved in the sale of property.
  • Breaches in conducting business such as failure to make confirmed offers in writing as legally required. This makes it difficult for clients to lodge complains when they want to contest the offers as there is no evidence.
  • Some estate agents lie about a higher offer being rejected so that they encourage the buyer to make another offer. By this time, they would have already made their money from the initial amount in commissions.
  • Non-compliance with the OEA code of practice.

Estate agents are free to join the ombudsman scheme voluntarily. Members are required to follow its rules that seek to sanitize the industry. Agents who sign up are required to live by the code of practice that the Ombudsman of Estate Agents rigorously enforces.

Clients who have an issue with an estate agent can then get in touch with the OEA that offers a free, fair as well as speedy review of complaints covered under its terms of reference.

The OEA is independent of the member agencies and will try to settle disputes coming up with agreements between their member agencies and clients. In the event that an agreement is not reached, then they will take into account various factors before making a decision that is considered fair in all circumstances.

It is important to note that your complaint will not be considered by the ombudsman until you complain to the Members Agency and have satisfactorily gone through their internal complaints procedure.

When the ombudsman makes a decision, it will be communicated to both you and the member agency that you are in dispute with before you can then decide to either reject or accept their decision.

Ultimately, for the Ombudsman of Estate Agents to assist you it is important to ensure that the estate agent you are dealing with professes membership to the OEA scheme.

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