Questions to Ask Estate AgentsJames Trafford
Whether selling or buying your dream home, your estate agent is the font of knowledge where you can go to find out all you need to know about the process. Your agent will naturally give you the relevant information that you need, but you can also gain a broader perspective on the buying and selling of your home by zeroing in on some important questions.
Questions to Ask When Selling
What is your commission rate?
With anything you buy, whether goods or services, you will likely want to know the cost beforehand. When selling your home, it is especially important to know all the costs involved because you will want to have an accurate budget moving forward.
The fees won’t be the same for each person’s property but will depend on a number of factors. Firstly, the type of contract that you agree with them. A sole agency contract is the most common one opted for because it typically offers the best commission percentage for sellers.
Ask what services are included in the proposed contract, including any specific clauses you need to be aware of. For comparison, you can also shop around with other agents to see what they are offering.
When are you expected to pay?
The answer to this question may have already been given to you, but if it hasn’t, make sure you know when you must pay. Traditionally, agents will require payment once you have sold your property.
However, now with online agents in higher numbers, fixed fee options can be paid upfront before the property is sold. Even if your property isn’t sold, upfront payments will still have to be paid, and so this will have to be taken into consideration when choosing the right agent for selling your property and how they fit into your budgetary constraints.
What is the full cost going to be?
Make sure you ask them what the total cost will be. Is the commission quote, for example, the full cost or will there be any additional costs on top?
If there are any extras on top of the commission, you will want to factor them into your budget and timeline. Such extra costs could be things like:
- Photos or drone footage
- Virtual tours
- Premium listings
- Other marketing expenses
- Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is a common added extra charge that is required to legally sell your home in the UK
What contract options and terms are available?
All contracts’ terms and types are important, and when it comes to selling your home, they are doubly important. The contract will determine things like your commission rate and the length of time you will be tied into the agreement, which can sometimes turn out to be far longer than some would have hoped for.
Contract options include terms that you may not be familiar with, so ask for clarification.
- Sole selling rights. This means that only your contracted agent is allowed to sell your property during the agreed upon length of time.
- Multi-agency. For a higher-than-normal fee, you can have the freedom to use more than one agent to sell your property. You only pay the agent that manages to sell it. One advantage with this contract type is that the agents will be competing to sell your house as quickly as possible.
- Sole agency. This contract type will still give the agent sole selling rights, but it also allows you, the seller, to be able to sell your own property if you can. If you are successful in selling it yourself before the agent does, you will not have to pay the agent’s fee.
Make sure to ask about what the tie-in period is for each type, typically being about 16 weeks for a sole agency contract, for example. During the tie-in period, you are not permitted to use a different agent to sell your home, even if you are dissatisfied with your current agent. Breaking the tie-in periods may come with a financial penalty fee, which you need to know about in advance.
Doing some research on the agent you are considering is one way you can alleviate any anxieties that you may have. Estate agents with a good reputation and quick turnaround times are the preferred choice.
What are their marketing methods?
Are they fully engaged with modern technology and the digital age? Will they utilise social media to the full and market their expansive database of contacts they have amassed over the years?
You are going to pay for a service, so you want to know what and how they intend to achieve it. If you are speaking to more than one agent, compare your answers and see which one impresses you the most.
Have they experience with selling similar houses in the area?
All properties are different, and you would ideally like your estate agent to have experience and knowledge of selling poppies in the area that are similar to your own. Ask to see samples and what price they got for them.
How was my valuation reached?
There’s no doubt the asking price for your property you settle on will be heavily influenced by your agent’s valuation. It is, therefore, a good idea to ask why and how they came to that valuation figure. The response should include data and statistics like current demand in the area, the condition of the property, and the agent’s experience with selling properties like yours in the area.
Is now the best time to sell?
Naturally, you will have personal reasons for wanting to sell at this present time; perhaps you must move due to work, etc., but ask your agent what they think about selling now and if the market conditions are conducive to getting the best price possible. If market conditions are not right for immediate selling, you could look at other options and wait a while.
What can I do to maximise my selling chances?
There are plenty of tips on the internet about what you can do to improve your property ready for sale, ranging from decorating in neutral colours to tidying up the lawn and outside areas for “curb appeal.” Your agent should be able to offer additional and specific advice based on market knowledge and what people are looking for with your type of property.
The agent’s opinion will give you an indication of what the cost will likely be for any work to get your property ready for sale, something that you will need to factor in your budget.
Questions to Ask When Buying
When asking your estate agent questions about buying the property you have your eye on, remember that they have legal and ethical standards that they must adhere to, so you can be confident that you are getting sound advice. After all, you don’t want to end up buying a property that turns out to be a constant headache, and one that you have overpaid for to boot.
Why has the owner decided to sell?
This might not seem like an obvious question to ask, but you could learn a lot from asking it. It’s likely that the agent won’t know the exact reason why, but if you listen carefully, you may pick up on something that hints at why. They may, for example, have to move in a hurry due to work commitments.
Ask the agent directly: Is there anything that I should know about the property before I buy it? Many buyers will have lingering concerns if they have missed or are unaware of something that they should know, like a new road about to be built at the back of the house, or that the neighbours are not the most pleasant property around. You don’t have to restrict your enquires to your agent either; you can ask around in local shops or with neighbours. This would be a great opportunity to meet potential neighbours!
What has been the property’s value over the past several years?
You will want to know if there has been a recent drop in the property’s value and if there’s a trend. Of course, you can easily find this information by searching the UK Land Registry website, but you want to be ready with all the states.
What is the neighbourhood like?
You may already be familiar with the neighbourhood, but still ask because there’s likely something that you didn’t know. You might think that the public transport links are pretty good but not realise, for example, that the local train station is about to close, or that there’s been a recent uptick in reported house burglaries. Again, it’s a good idea to do additional independent research to see what you can find out.
Are you aware of any local plans that could affect us?
If you have your eye on a property because of the scenic views from the back garden, you will want to know if railway line is about to be constructed in line of sight, or if a wind turbine will be erected nearby. The sooner you learn about and plan for applications in the works, the better; why wait for local search results?
What does the asking price include?
You may think the answer to this question is obvious: everything you see when you visit the property for viewing. But check if the garden shed or greenhouse is included, or are the owners planning to take them when they leave? What about all the fixtures and fittings? Ask to be shown where the boundary lines are and have a clear picture in your mind of everything that is included in the sale and what you will be getting for your money.
When did the property go up for sale?
What you have seen may look good to the eye, but is there a reason why the property has been on the market for more than, say, 4 months? Be sure to ask the agent why they think the property has taken so long to sell. It could just be that the seller isn’t in a hurry to sell and won’t budge on the price, hoping to get a high price for it.
How long has the current owner lived there?
If you learn that the neighbours haven’t been living there for a long time, there could be a reason why they want to move so quickly. Do they have the neighbours from hell?
If the owners are moving out after a short while, ask about the history of the home’s passing through hands and how frequently. A pattern of frequent sales could be an indication of something you need to know about. You may be able to locate the former owners and ask them why.
How did they reach the asking price valuation?
When selling your home, ask the agent how they arrived at the valuation they gave. The agent may even hint that the asking price is overvalued. Don’t forget to look around the area at similar properties for sale and note what they are asking.
What is the bottom-line price?
Asking what the minimum price the seller is likely to accept may yield you greater results than you might think. A movement in the bottom-line price can potentially save thousands of pounds! Agents will usually give some indication of where this level could be because they are just as keen to sell as the seller is.
Have any offers already been made?
You could probably find out if there had been other offers, but not what they were. However, you may be able to pick up on some strong hints at the area you could be looking at. Remember, the estate agent wants the sale, too.
Is the seller part of a chain?
If the sellers have already found another home to move to, they are likely keen to sell up as quickly as they can. If they haven’t yet found somewhere, the uncertainties increase with the risk of being in a chain.
What are the monthly bills likely to be?
Try and find out how much the council tax is and what band the property lies in, as well as what you can expect to pay for utility bills in the area. Knowing the recurring cost of these expenses will help you create an accurate budget for the long term.