My partner and I have decided we’re ready to combine our households and move in together. I can’t wait to start this new chapter together, and to share all the chores, stresses and expenses that come with home ownership!
Our trial period of living together went great; we worked out our routines since we both work from home; we’ve talked about how we’re going to split the finances… it’s now time to actually get that ball rolling and sell my house.
I have a huge amount of anxiety about dealing with estate agents, buyers and solicitors! Buying a home was overwhelming enough, but selling one just seems like it’ll be even more fraught with issues.
I have already had a near-existential crisis over step one – picking an estate agent! While I am absolutely in no way an expert (on anything) I’ve done so much reading on this and devoted so much thought to it, that I decided I might as well share what I have learned as maybe it’ll be either helpful or cathartic to anybody else out there going through the same decision process!
So here we go, how did I pick my estate agent?
- Do I need an Estate Agent?
- What do they do?
- What type of Estate Agent?
- How to find an Estate Agent?
- Speaking to 3 Estate Agents
- How to choose one
- Why is it so hard to choose?
- My decision!
First of all, do I even need an estate agent?
Technically don’t have to use an estate agent to sell your house. However, if you want to use Rightmove, Zoopla or one of the other portals which are undoubtedly where the majority of buyers go first to find a property, then you do. Those websites won’t accept listings from private sellers, so in reality yes you do need to use some type of estate agent if you want to market your property to the widest audience.
What do estate agents actually do?
So aside from being able to list on Rightmove and Zoopla, their role is to do a few key items according to the HOA:
- Market your home to find buyers
- Conduct viewings (usually)
- Manage offers from buyers
- Check the buyer is who they say they are and that they have the funds
- Ensure the offer moves through to a completed sale – they should assist with any blockages in the chain between the seller, buyer and solicitors.
Ok, so which type of estate agent?
The options then for estate agents are to either go with a traditional local agent that has a physical location in my town or use one of the online ones such as Purplebricks, Strike, Yopa etc.
Online agents are definitely cheaper, usually for a fixed fee, but you get less of a service and have to do more of the leg work yourself and likely have to chase them up more. I’ve heard and read a lot of mixed, but mostly negative, experiences of people using online agents and many buyers have had bad experiences and would avoid their listings. Saving thousands of pounds would be nice but I’m already overwhelmed with the very idea of selling my house so I am happy to spend more money on a more professional service if it will take some of the stress off me.
How to find an estate agent
I read a few articles on finding a good estate agent, and this one from the HomeOwners Alliance I found particularly comprehensive. All the advice I have read was to get valuations and quotes from at least three different agents.
I selected three local agents and filled in their valuation request forms on their websites:
- Agent 1: In my area, there is one local agent that really dominates the listings. I’d say 95% of the boards that go up around here are with this agent, and it is the one that was selling the house when I bought it so I was somewhat familiar with them from the buyer’s side. They just had listed and sold a house on the same street. We’ll call these Agent 1, and they were the most obvious choice to get a valuation from.
- Agent 2: I then went for the only other agent with a board up currently in my immediate area, so I knew they’d sold recently and they also have an office on the local high street. They are a larger chain that’s part of a large group of property agents and services. I never had a great vibe about them from my renting days when they used to charge a £500 admin fee to apply to rent! I would avoid even viewing any of their lettings. But, I thought worth just seeing what they had to say.
- Agent 3: Another national chain with a franchise, but not quite as large. They do get a good number of listings around this area, I’d viewed a house with them a few years ago and had a good experience both with how easy it was to book and how nice the agent was, and that she had followed up with me the next day.
They all got back to me within a couple of hours and I booked valuations for that week, the earliest one was the next morning with Agent 1.
Speaking to three different estate agents
They all were in agreement on what the current market value is, and gave me essentially the same market report packet. They differed a little on what they advised to list but were all in the same £10,000 range.
They all would obviously list on the main property websites; they all would do professional photos (though do note the distinction between “professional quality” and “professional photographer” which would be extra!) and some kind of video; and a floor plan as part of the package. They all promised no hidden fees. This is really what you should expect as a baseline.
He was in and out in 20 mins and didn’t spend any time on a sales presentation. He was able to give me some “insider” information on a comparable house on the same road and what offer was accepted, and how many viewings they’d had. They have the advantage of a database of the buyers who missed out on that house.
Their rate was the cheapest, though they quoted without the added VAT which when I worked it out made them 1.03% of sales which is not that far off the other agents but a few hundred pounds cheaper when you do the maths. He also offered off the bat to do the EPC certificate for free for me. The low price explains why they are the most popular in the area!
He was the agent who valued my house for the previous owners, it was fun to see the sales book from two years ago and how the house used to look before I decorated it.
They have a very prominent office in the town centre that gets a lot of foot traffic and is right where people have to wait for the pedestrian crossing.
They never followed up with me in the following week, I heard nothing from them other than an email with a letter confirming their valuation details and rate. I got the vibe that they didn’t feel like they had to try to get my business.
She gave me a full sales pitch on their services before touring my house. This involved some upselling on their conveyancing and mortgage services. She was with me for about 45 minutes.
Their rate also was quoted without the VAT but with VAT put them in line with Agent 3 at 1.2%, however, would probably have given me the same offer as Agent 1 if I’d pushed for it.
I was initially considering their Conveyancing as she’d mentioned it means they have the ability to chase up on progress more directly, but then I looked them up and they have atrocious reviews!
She followed up a couple of days later by phone and was very open to negotiation.
This guy dropped a free book the agency had produced as a guide to selling your home “trouble-free” before the valuation appointment. I thought this was very cheesy but also amused me. He gave me a complete sales pitch with a slide show on his laptop. Their market report was probably the most comprehensive (you can get the same thing for free through their website).
Their rate was quoted with VAT at 1.2%, the only one to do that. They would not negotiate on that which made them the most expensive by around £400 (based on the guide price), but they did agree to waive £70 for an EPC certificate.
This guy was young (maybe 23) and came across to me as very enthusiastic about selling my home, and I found him more approachable which I thought would be good for first-time buyers.
Their unique offering was that they make personalised full walkthrough videos rather than it being a slideshow of photographs.
He also promised that they follow up with interested buyers with more tailored summary walkthrough videos after viewings. He actually did something similar for me in the summary email I had after our meeting. For my personal taste, this is a little cheesy but I can see how it would appeal to other people and how useful tracking data from that would be to gauge interest!
They also offer a more personal service with this agency where he would be my point of contact for the whole sale process, and is available “24/7” – I thought that was a little extreme but appreciate I could get hold of him if I had questions outside of regular office hours. All the others would involve a different person for valuation, viewings and after-offer.
He followed up when he said he would after our meeting, and responded very quickly to my questions.
How to choose an estate agent
Now armed with the information from the three agents I had to make a decision.
Agent 2 I just didn’t feel a vibe with, even though they could have done me a good deal I felt like they were a bit too “corporate” and I didn’t like the upselling of their other services (especially since they have awful reviews). The lady was nice enough though, and I appreciate their openness to negotiating.
This narrowed down to Agent 1 or 3. I weighed up my pros and cons.
- Pro: Clearly have a lot of experience in my market and database of people looking for this specific type of home.
- Pro: Cheaper rate.
- Con: Lack of follow-up indicates they’re not invested in my sale, and I’d likely have to chase them. I hate having to call people, so this is a real negative for me!
- Pro: Personal service with only one point of contact.
- Pro: I like their video walk-throughs (I watched a few on youtube and their social media), they’re a little cheesy but they give a good view of the home so more likely to get serious buyers for viewings.
- Pro: The website is very easy to use to book viewings for buyers (as I have used it myself before).
- Pro: I had a good vibe for the guy, he seemed that he was genuinely excited to sell my home.. and his sales pitch clearly worked on me without feeling like he was pushy.
- Pro: Good communication so far.
- Con: More expensive… but then they do have more of an offer that indicates they put more work in.
- Con: Is this guy too good at sales and not being honest? You know what they say about estate agents.. (perhaps unfair!)
I then proceeded to change my mind every 4 hours for the next 3 days!
Why is it so hard to choose an estate agent?
It’s a lot of money (around £3000)! I have never sold a house before so this is new territory for me. We have heard that estate agents have a reputation for tending towards dishonesty so I also have that prejudice in the back of my mind.
If I want to base my decision purely on the cost then the choice is clear. But, there is also an argument that if I pay more for a “better” or more dedicated agent that gives me a better service I might actually make more money or at least save myself some stress.
I also suffer from social anxiety, and I really struggle with having to ask people questions. The more comfortable I am with a person the easier I will find it.
I asked my family and friends for their input, especially the ones who have sold the property. Of course, everyone has a different option and this didn’t really help me!
My Dad said the cheapest; my Mum said the one I felt happiest dealing with; my friends said the one that’ll be the easiest to communicate with. One friend had a nightmare trying to sell her flat and the first agent they used was useless and uncommunicative; she said the second agent would get back to them quickly and their flat finally sold within a few weeks of appointing them.
Then again my house, in the very popular area I live in (excellent for first-time buyers and families), and will have no chain at my end, will sell… I don’t doubt that. It’s just how much for, the quality of the buyer and how smooth the process will be.
Going with my gut
At the end of the day, the advice boiled down to everyone telling me to trust my intuition (except for my Dad, who said to go with the cheapest!).
The Period Power book I read earlier this year I found had persuasive arguments for listening to my inner voice, especially when it’s persistent. My boyfriend also told me to trust my gut.
I’d circled around it several times but I kept coming back to Agent 3, and that was the one I’d definitely spoken more about to everyone.
Maybe I fell for the sales charm and I’m wasting money I didn’t need to, or maybe he’ll do the great job he promises and earns that extra fee.. time will tell!
What has your experience been with choosing estate agents? Are you struggling with a similar decision? Which one would you have chosen? Let me know in the comments below!
- Home Owners Alliance. What does an estate agent do? [back to article]
- Home Owners Alliance. Should I use an online estate agent?↩︎ [back to article]
- Mumsnet. How useful are traditional estate agents? Thinking of going online [back to article]
- Mumsnet. Online ESTATE AGENTS experience/recommendations↩︎ [back to article]
- Reddit. What are the pros and cons of online estate agents?↩︎ [back to article]