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7 Questions To Ask Property Agents

Jan 8, 2008
Getting the right property agent is critical to the successful marketing and sale of your home.

If you've ever sold a house with property agents who just seemed like they didn't care, you'll know how difficult the process became. Just as good agents make moving house an easier process, bad agents will slow it down.

When it's time to put your house on the market, you should always get quotes from at least three agents. Use these seven questions to quiz your prospective agents and find the one that you feel most comfortable with, and trust to do the best job.

1) Have you dealt with similar properties to this one?

There's no point trying to sell your three bed semi-detached with property agents who are more used to selling commercial property. If they say yes, test their knowledge of the local area by asking how much similar properties have sold for recently. They should know the answer straight away. Whether the agent can answer the question confidently is more important than the answer they give.

2) How will you market my house?

One of the key roles of property agents is to get potential buyers into your house. They do this in a variety of ways. Advertising in local newspapers is important, as is placement of your home in a wide number of online property portals. A town centre shop can also help grab passing traffic. The best agents maintain lists of potential buyers so they can do some direct marketing. They build these lists through people enquiring in the branch. The efficiency of the agent and the sophistication of their contact system will determine how quickly they can match potential buyers to your property.

3) Who will handle the viewings?

Some agents prefer to show potential buyers round themselves so they can better control the selling process. And research does show that houses shown by property agents sell more quickly. But there is something to be said for showing people round yourself. It can keep the viewing process as a more relaxed and natural process.

4) How long does the average property stay on your books?

The quicker properties sell, the better for everyone. But you should be wary if houses seem to fly through an agent's books very quickly. This could mean they have a habit of undervaluing properties which are quickly snapped up. That's obviously not good for you. Ask the same question of the three agents; their answers should be broadly similar.

5) How much will you charge?

Commission rates can vary wildly from agent to agent; anything from 1% to 3% of the sale price achieved. It's OK to haggle. In a buoyant local market there will be plenty of healthy competition among the property agents, and they will be much more open to a deal to get your business. Only agree arrangements on a 'no sale, no fee' basis. Check how long you will be tied to an agent for, and what their notice period is. And be aware you will pay more commission if you have more than one agent representing your house.

6) What percentage of your sales fall through?

It's an unfortunate fact for estate agents that a fairly high percentage of sales don't happen, normally because the buyer just changes their mind. Some estimates put this as high as one in five sales. Check with your prospective agent and see what measures they have in place to reduce failed transactions.

7) Are you a member of an ombudsman scheme?

There's no compulsory regulatory scheme for estate agents in the UK at the moment. So ask your property agents if they belong to a body such as the National Association of Estate Agents or the Ombudsman of Estate Agents. These both require members to stick to strict codes of conduct, and deal with customer complaints in specific ways.
About the Author
Further information about property can be found at the Property Today website.
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