Here are 12 questions to ask estate and letting agents to help you choose the best professional for you. In these challenging and uncertain times, a quality agent will make all the difference in terms of selling or rent price, time, customer service and peace of mind.
We all want good value for money but choosing your estate and letting agent based on price only needs to be carefully considered. It’s not all about fees, it’s about the service too. Interview at least two or three estate agents. Ask them what you get for that price, compare and choose which works best for you. Estate agents can offer different services for the same price.
1. DO YOU OFFER AN EASY EXIT CONTRACT WITHOUT CANCELLATION FEES IF I AM NOT ENTIRELY SATISFIED WITH YOUR SERVICE?
The average length of a contract is 16 weeks – 4 months – and the majority of estate and letting agencies today do not offer any exit without cancellation fees. This means that if they don’t deliver on their promise, you are stuck with them while your local market values may continue to decline. They are not accountable to you in any way and they may be too busy selling other properties rather than focus on yours. Negotiate an easy exit clause to leverage your satisfaction. They’ll take your happiness much more seriously.
2. WHEN ARE YOU AVAILABLE AND WHAT IS YOUR COMMUNICATION GUARANTEE?
Communication and proactivity are paramount to measure progress and success. How quickly do they return buyers or tenants enquiries? How easy are they to reach? Do they work on weekends to show properties?
3. WILL YOU CALL WEEKLY TO DISCUSS MARKETING STRATEGIES AND VIEWINGS FEEDBACK?
After listing properties, many agents will “disappear”, giving you no clue about what they actually do for you every day or every week. How much time will they dedicate to your property every day? Will they give you feedback after every viewing? How often will they update you on their progress?
4. WILL YOU DEAL WITH MY PROPERTY PERSONALLY OR WILL I BE DEALING WITH ASSISTANTS?
It is easier to deal with only one experienced agent from A to Z for better communication flow and to avoid loss of information. In large agencies, you often have to speak with three different persons: one for the administration, one for the viewing, one for the negotiation.
5. WILL MY PROPERTY BE LISTED ON ALL RELEVANT PORTALS?
6. WHAT IS YOUR INTERNET / SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING STRATEGY?
Do you know that very few estate agencies do use social media to its full potential? Facebook alone represents an audience of millions of people of all ages, and not just young people. The portals expose your property to “active” buyers, those who are currently actively searching regularly on the portals. Social media allows you to reach “passive” buyers, those who do not go on the portals but who would buy if they came across the “right” property. The more people view your advert, the more chances you have to attract the right buyers. And social media has also the advantage of targeting specific audiences based on keywords… which is not possible on the portals.
7. DO YOU USE PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS AND FLOOR PLANNERS?
A professional photographer costs in average £80. Is your agent willing to invest at least that to present your home in its best light? If he cuts corners there, you can expect he will cut corners elsewhere. Make sure a floor plan is also prepared, buyers want to see as much as relevant information as possible before making any enquiry. Pictures are the first thing to catch buyers attention and it is well known that a picture is worth a 1000 words. Make sure your home is cleaned, decluttered and looks its best before the photographer comes! 3D videos are proving very useful to reduce physical viewings during the pandemic.
8. DO YOU CHARGE ANY ADDITIONAL FEES?
Always best to ask in advance. Cheap commissions usually hide many extra paying fees, such as for cancelling early a contract, using the agent’s tenancy agreement, register the security deposit with a deposit scheme or serving a notice to tenants.
9. DO YOU HAVE A MARKETING PLAN THAT EXPOSES MY HOME TO OTHER AGENTS BUYERS?
If another estate agent brings a solid and able buyer/tenant, would your agent agree to work with him and share a part of his commission? A good estate agent would understand that it is in your best interest as a vendor or a landlord. This would help you selling or finding a tenant earlier than expected for a higher price. By sharing fees, estate agents should motivate other local agents to help out and bring additional buyers. This maximises your chance of success.
10. ARE YOU SKILLED AT NEGOTIATIONS?
Unfortunately there are certain estate agents who just want to sell your property at any price –they just want to make a deal, get paid and move on. It’s all a mindset. A good estate agent who knows the value of your property should work hard to get you that little extra in terms of sellingbe surprised how many times selling agents have told me for how much cheaper I could buy the property I was interested in… without me asking!
11. DO YOU PROVIDE A TRANSACTION MANAGEMENT COORDINATION SERVICE TO PROTECT MY TRANSACTION AND ASSIST IN COMPLETING THE SALE?
You have received an offer, fantastic, now what? It’s not plain sailing after that unfortunately and one third of transactions in the UK fall through, costing millions of Pounds wasted in legal fees. Your agent should still be by your side and ease the communication between you and your buyer, it’s a lengthy process and communication via solicitors can be fairly limited. His job should only be over after completion.
12. DO YOU BELONG TO A PROPERTY REDRESS SCHEME AND DO YOU HAVE “CLIENT MONEY PROTECTION”?
Estate and letting agents in England must belong to a redress scheme such as PRS and The Property Ombudsman. If you have a complaint about the agency’s services that you cannot resolve together, you can turn to the scheme. You should ask to see a copy of their membership certificate, request their membership number or search the online database on each redress scheme website.
Letting agents must also belong to a “client money protection” scheme, which compensates landlords and tenants in case the letting agent can’t repay the owned sums, for example, if the company goes into administration. Please request a copy of the certificate. A list of the six government-approved schemes can be found here.