Choosing the right estate agent

May 14, 2022

The most important factor when choosing an estate agent is how much interest in your property they can generate. Make sure you pick the agent who has the most listings similar in location, type and price to your home, as they are likely to have the most interested buyers.

Don’t be drawn in by online estate agents who offer low fees but provide little in return.

Remember that the percentage fee isn’t everything – it may be profitable to pay a little more in return for a higher selling price.

FIRST TIME BUYER? You can read our guide to looking for your first property

Selecting a great estate agent to sell or rent out your home can be a difficult and sometimes laborious task. Should you rely on reviews online? Look out for an agents marketing presence? Seek recommendations from friends or previous clients?

Our advice would be to use a range of methods, but if you’re looking for outstanding customer service and a service you can trust recommendations are the way to go. Remember flashy marketing does not guarantee good customer service

The Best Estate Agent Guide is now in its fourth year and essentially analyses…

  • How well properties are marketed on Rightmove and perform on Rightmove. [As measured by Rightmove].
  • Actual delivery of the sale or let. Time taken for the listing to go to SSTC and does it actually complete. [As measured by Rightmove].
  • How good is the customer experience on contacting the agent via email and telephone? [As measured by Property Academy mystery shop]
  • Market share

Over a 6 month period the Best Estate Agent Guide also checked the overall performance of…

  • Over 25,000 branches
  • 1 million properties listed at any point in time
  • 1.5 million transactions
  • 25 million leads
  • 1.5 billion property views

After such a rigorous independent selection process, only 20% of the best estate agents even make the grade to be included in the guide. Specific ratings are awarded including ‘Highly Rated’, ‘Excellent’ or ‘Exceptional’. In addition to the branch ratings, the very best overall companies are recognised as Award Winners based on the combined branch performance and with it the accolade of being assessed to be in the top 5% of estate agents in the country!

Choosing the right estate agent is one of the key decisions to make when selling a property. Should you use a traditional high-street agent or an online company? Appoint a sole agency or joint agents? Should you rely on customer reviews, or be tempted by websites promising award-winning service? Get it right and you stand a better chance of finding a buyer quickly, and achieving the best price – yet a lot of people choose estate agents for the wrong reasons. This is a sample of popular reasons given by sellers, according to a government report on buying and selling homes:

  • “They are located very near to my home”
  • “They charged the lowest fees/commission”
  • “They gave me the highest valuation”
  • “They have a large branch network”
  • “I used them to buy this home”

In this blog post we guide you through the most important factors you should really be taking into account when deciding how to choose an estate agent.

1. Be wary of cheap online estate agents

Online firms have muscled in on the traditional high-street estate agents in recent years. While these hi-tech newcomers might appear to offer a good deal – typically a fixed one-off fee, rather than the percentage charged by traditional agents – think carefully about what you are getting for your money. Many of the cheaper online firms do little more than submit a listing to the big property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla; some don’t even take photos unless you pay extra. Online agencies often boast of low failure rates, but this is because there is little incentive for a vendor to withdraw their property, having already paid an upfront fee. Choosing the right estate agent does not mean choosing the cheapest estate agent!

2. Choose the agent selling the most properties similar to yours

This might seem counterintuitive – some sellers are afraid that their property won’t stand out if it is listed among lots of homes in the same postcode and price bracket. However, an agency with lots of properties similar to yours is also likely to have lots of potential buyers for that type of property. The single most important question to ask yourself when deciding which are the best estate agents is: “How much interest in my property can this agent generate?” So, while you shouldn’t ignore customer reviews or personal recommendations, it makes far more sense to let the sales data be your guide. Do a certain estate agent’s ‘For sale’ boards keep popping up in your neighbourhood? Search online for listings in your area at a similar asking price, and make a shortlist of the agencies with the highest number of matches.

The single most important question you should ask yourself is: “How much interest in my property can this agent generate?”

3. Interview the agent

Once you have a shortlist, pick up the phone and ask questions. Get a feel for how proactive and enthusiastic the agent is: are they likely to motivate buyers? Ask them about interest levels in similar properties and whether they have applicants – in other words potential buyers for your home – ready and waiting. Make sure you find out exactly how your property will be advertised: which property portals does the company use? Do the photographs, floorplans and brochures look professional? For more advice, see our guide to what makes a good estate agent.

4. Get multiple valuations

It’s wise to get at least three estate agents to value your property. Opinions can vary widely, but it’s not necessarily wise to go with the highest figure. An overvalued property is likely to stick around on the market, and price reductions (which show up on online searches) can be a red flag for many buyers. Similarly, a low valuation might mean you sell your home quickly but miss out on a higher price.

5. Negotiate on the fee…

The percentage you pay is likely to depend on whether you are appointing a sole agent. Going with a sole agency means a lower fee, but you only have one firm marketing your property. Appointing multiple estate agents generally means that only the successful one gets a fee, so they may be more likely to work harder to compete with each other to find a buyer – but because they risk missing out on their commission, they will seek a higher percentage. A third option is joint sole agents: this can be a useful option for certain specific types of property, such as country houses or agricultural property, where the vendor appoints a local agent and a national agency that specialises in that type of sale. Where joint sole agents are appointed, fees are usually split between the two companies.

6. …but don’t let the percentage be the sole deciding factor

It’s easy to see the percentage as the be all and end all, but remember that it is only part of the equation. You might be put off by Agent B charging a 0.5% higher fee than Agent A, but on a £1m property that represents £5,000, so if Agent B can sell it for £10,000 more than Agent A, it makes sense to choose them. Likewise, lengthy delays in selling can often mean spending far more than you save on fees (in rental costs, for example) – or even missing out on a dream property.

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