If 'location, location, location' are the key words for most house buyers, 'local knowledge, local knowledge, local knowledge' sum up the essential ingredients of a good estate agent. Knowledge of location and the marketplace go hand in hand with the agent you choose to sell your property. But how do you go about selecting the right agent for you? And why bother? Surely, it isn't that hard to sell your own home?
As tempting as it might sound to cut out the middle man and eliminate the agent's fee, consider this: a good estate agent will generally be able to obtain a higher price for a property than a vendor would chancing their arm, especially with the more sluggish sales climate we are now in. as well as their ability to best assess the market, you are also investing in the hours, expertise and negotiating skills necessary to sell your property at the right price.
When it comes to choosing the agent for you, have a look at which has the most /for sale/sold' boards in your area. On visiting their offices, find out whether they've been in business for at least five years - a good yardstick; if they have polite, friendly staff, who are knowledgeable about the local area; and whether they utilise comprehensive marketing strategies like newspaper advertising, signboards, leaflets and the internet.
Invite three or four agents to value your property. The temptation is to go for the highest valuation but that's no good if you price yourself out of the market. Pick what seems realistic and reasonable. Similarly, when it comes to the agent's fee (usually between one and three per cent of the total sale price and payable on completion), don't automatically plump for the lowest charge.
An agent who probably has the best ability to sell your property will have to carry the cost of well-maintained premises, experienced staff, efficient computer systems and professional advertising. An agent with fewer overheads may charge less but may also not be able to sell your property as a result.
The test of time is a good indicator and if an agent has been working in the locality for a number of years, that can only be a good thing. Experience and local knowledge are what counts. Sale boards, local advertising and an agent's website are all excellent ways of marketing a property but the best response is usually from an agent's mailing list. In other words, marrying sellers and potential buyers for the benefit of both.
The department of trade and industry is proposing a compulsory independent ombudsman scheme to give those who receive poor services from agents a chance to seek compensation, plus stronger powers for the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to investigate and fine rogue agents. The OFT can at present ban people from acting as estate agents if it considers them unfit to carry on working. All agents must comply with the estate Agents Act 1979 when acting for people who are buying or selling property. The act doesn't cover the letting of properties.
Legislation is weighed in favour of protecting the seller against sharp practice. If you're buying via an estate agent, the Estate Agent Act offers the following protection:
Although estate agents acting for sellers don't have to reveal defects in a property, they do have to answer buyer's direct questions accurately. If you're given false information, you might have a claim against the estate agent under the Property Misdescriptions Act but if they give you false information about a property, then this may be a misrepresentation and you could seek damages.
Sellers themselves are not covered by the Property Misdescriptions Act but if they give you false information about a property, then this may be a misrepresentation and you could seek damages.
Estate agents must pass on your offer promptly - and can't hold back your offer simply because you don't want to use their other facilities, such as arranging a mortgage.
An estate agent is not allowed to invent offers on a property in order to force the price up.
Estate agents must use clear contract terms and reveal any financial interest that they have in a property that you're looking at.
As a buyer, it is worth remembering that estate agents are in business to arrange the sale of a property on behalf of the seller. Since they make their living out of the commission they charge the seller, their duty is to him or her. Saying that, it is equally in their interest to make the process as easy as possible for the buyer, who they must ensure is in a position to get the funds for the property, and if they do not have a mortgage, can recommend a broker, building society or bank.
Most estate agents will speak to people within the chain at least once a week, including solicitors, mortgage lenders and surveyors, to progress the sale along. Most, too, will assist the sellers with the contract and survey, and help in any reports that may be required. And when it is finally concluded, agents can recommend a list of moving companies. From the first enquiry to completion, experienced estate agents will bank on local knowledge achieving a satisfactory sale outcome.