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Estate agents (property services article)

When selling a property most people decide to use an estate agent. This guide should help you answer a few simple questions about estate agents, how they work, how they are paid and how you can get the most from them.

What qualifications does an estate agent need?

Not all estate agents will have professional qualifications, although such qualifications are available. Estate agents are not like Chartered Surveyors whose exams are mandatory. It is possible to operate as an estate agent with little or no training.

The professional qualifications available for estate agents consist of NVQ levels 2 and 3 in “Sale of Residential Property”. The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) also provides Technical Awards at level 3 in Sale of Residential Property, and Residential Letting and Property Management.

These qualifications are often offered as part of an apprenticeship programme run by an agency.

What services does an estate agent provide?

It is important to remember that estate agents operate to make a profit. They are not independent of the property market, but directly benefit from rapid turnover of properties. With this in mind, their potential customers can consider the services on offer.

Establishing an Asking Price

Once an estate agent has seen your home, the first thing they will offer is a suggested asking price. This will be based on the price the agent believes the property can sell for. If the agent has researched the area and other comparable properties, it is likely that this suggested price will be based on the actual sales prices of similar property in the area, within a recent timeframe. However, there is a risk that the initial suggested asking price will be higher than realistic, in the estate agents attempt to win the instruction.

With this in mind, you can easily acquire a second opinion on the value of your offer a service where homebuyers as well as property professionals can access recent transaction prices within an area and obtain a suggested valuation for a specific property. By using this service, buyers and sellers can establish a range of potential sales prices for the property to complement the advice given by the estate agent. As well as comparing the estate agent’s valuation with sold prices in the area yourself, many people shop around and get more than one valuation, to ensure that their expectations are realistic. See our other article House Price Valuation methods.

It is important to remember that the valuation done by an estate agent is not the same as a valuation by a Chartered Surveyor. The estate agent’s valuation is supposed to tell you what the property is potentially worth on the open market and is unlikely to be accepted by lending institutions during the mortgage application procedure as a valid basis upon which to lend you money. Banks and building societies will typically demand a survey of some kind performed by a chartered surveyor because this is more comprehensive than the estate agent’s valuation.

Publicity and Marketing

The Estate Agency you use will be responsible for photographing the property and producing publicity material. It will then advertise your property in their window, through “For Sale” boards, via mail-outs and possibly in newspapers and online.

Managing Viewings

Organising appointments for prospective buyers to view the property and showing people around your home can be a key part of an estate agent’s responsibilities. Bear in mind that this part of the process may be quite disruptive as a large proportion of this will take place during evenings and weekends. For daytime viewings in particular it may mean handing keys over to the Agency. Be security conscious.

Brokering the deal

When an offer is made on your home, the estate agent will negotiate on your behalf.

How much will it cost me?

Estate Agencies work on a commission basis for each property they sell. Usually you would expect to pay between 0.75% to 3% of the sales price. Make sure you are clear on what services are included in the fee.

From the beginning of the process make sure that your contract clearly outlines what the role of the estate agency is to include. Some may charge an additional fee for part of the service, such as conducting the viewings, thus increasing the cost.

Can I hire more than one agent?

Normally, a property will have a sole agent. By hiring multiple agents, you could end up paying more commission. This is no rule for this, and discussions should take place directly with the agent(s).