Read before signing with an agent

June, 2022

Locking yourself into a contract with the wrong agent could lead to hidden costs, lower offers, and a reduced likelihood of selling. There are a few key questions you can ask to identify the best estate agent to assist with your move, help you find a buyer faster, and obtain the best asking price:
What will you charge?
A high street estate agent typically charges a percentage fee (commission) based on the price of the property. A sole agency agreement can differ in fees between Estate Agents in Norwich on a no-sale, no-fee basis. You should ask the agent whether VAT is included in the commission. In addition, you should ask whether the figure is based on the valuation figure, or on the sale price achieved once your property is sold (A good agent will always be the latter). Be sure to check the minimum fee!

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How long will I be tied into the contract?
'Tie-in periods' can vary in length. As a general rule, this period shouldn't exceed 12 weeks. Anything longer puts an agents' abilities in doubt. Norwich properties are selling well, don't be tricked into signing a lengthy agreement. 
Will there be any additional costs?
By law, the estate agent must explain in detail what is included in their fees. Boards, photos, video tours, floorplans, and accompanied viewings, for example, should all be included. However, it's a good idea to check.
How will we communicate?
Selling your home can be stressful, so you'll want an agent who is available to answer your questions.
What is the preferred method of communication for the prospective agent? Are their office hours strictly enforced, or can they be contacted outside of the usual 9-5 hours? Is it possible to contact them via social media or messaging apps like WhatsApp?
Effective communication is crucial to a successful home sale. Delays and stress are often the result of poor communication. In some cases, it can even lead to the failure of a sale. 
Until an offer is accepted, the agent will broker communication between you and potential buyers. A good indicator of how the agent will communicate throughout the process is how they approach communication upfront.

Where will you advertise my home?
Online property portals are the starting point for almost all property searches. There are a number of major property websites, such as Rightmove and Zoopla, where your estate agent should list your home. In 2022, social media plays an increasingly important role in property searches. Is your agent active on social media, and will your property be featured there? Always look at their listings and ensure the marketing is of a good standard.  

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How long will the process take?
This question cannot be answered definitively by an estate agent. It should, however, be possible to provide an estimate based on how long similar properties have taken to sell in your area. You can ask for examples of recently sold comparable properties.

Ask them how often they achieve their sellers' asking prices. Perhaps you should consider your home's valuation with a pinch of salt if they rarely achieve the asking price? You should be able to get this information from a reputable estate agent.
Red flags to watch out for:

  • Ready, willing, and able clause: You will have to pay the agent for finding a buyer, even if you can't go through with the sale for some reason. 
  • Handwritten changes on the contract: This can be a way of adding hidden fees or penalties.
  • In-house services: This could be for an EPC or using the agent’s preferred conveyancer or mortgage advisor. These may not be your best choices since the agent may receive a commission. If they are, they must tell you by law!
  • Professional imagery and videos: High quality photos should be included, you should never have to pay extra. Likewise make sure that a video tour is included (Not a video slideshow of images!)
  • Floorplan – A floorplan must be included and is carried out at the same time as the photos. It only costs an agent a few quid to create one!
  • For sale sign – should be included if you want it. The agent should certainly not charge for this – it's free advertising for them, and they'd rather you have one than not!

The relationship between you and your estate agent will last for many months. As long as you are working towards the same goals, your interests should be aligned.
Throughout the process, you should both like and trust your agent. Don't be afraid to ask questions before instructing, because the agent you ultimately choose could make or break your sale.

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