Callaways Estate Agent & Letting Agents logo

Interviewing your Estate Agent – the MUST ask questions

Search for properties

To buy or to rent?

Property type

Minimum price

Maximum price

Minimum bedrooms

Thu 03 Dec 2015

Interviewing your Estate Agent – the MUST ask questions

Callaways Estate Agents  adopt an honest and ‘family-friendly’ approach with their customers, and willingly give advice on property matters.  If you’re thinking of putting your property on the market, don’t move a muscle or appoint an Agent until you’ve read our ‘Questions to ask your Estate Agent’.  You may have a few surprises …

You should invite 2-3 Agents to value your property, and do not be surprised if the valuations have a price differential of £10,000-£30,000.  You are at liberty to ask your Agent as many questions as you like, but we believe you should ask the basic 20 questions we’ve outlined below.

Whether or not you choose Callaways to market your home, you should be asking your Agent these questions, to make sure your Agency is offering the highest standards of service, and ensure your property is sold in the best possible time-scales.

Deciding on your Estate Agent is like attending a job interview, a very important one, at that.  Although you won’t be ‘working’ with your Agent long-term, the highs and lows of selling can be expansive and you should remain as ‘emotionally detached as possible, and let your Agent work on your behalf.  However, you may be starting on a long-term relationship of trust over the years as you move upwards, sidewards, invest in Buy-to-Let,and finally downsize …

Here are the basic questions you should ask:

  1. How long have you worked in Estate Agency?
  2. What is a realistic asking price for my property?
  3. How long will it take to sell my property?
  4. What will the property actually sell for?
  5. How do you price my property?
  6. What other homes are in competition with my property?
  7. How much do you charge for selling my property?
  8. What are your Terms & Conditions?
  9. Are you a member of an Ombudsman scheme?
  10. Is your Sales Team qualified in Estate Agency?
  11. How are viewings conducted?
  12. What are similar houses in the area priced at?
  13. How will my property be marketed?
  14. What is your Estate Agency’s sales fall-through rate?
  15. What information will you include in your marketing literature?
  16. How often will you stay in touch?
  17. How long does your average property take to sell?
  18. Are you a licensed agent?
  19. Who works with you in the office?
  20. Are you an on-line Agency?

Find out why you should be asking these questions.

1. How long have you worked in Estate Agency?

You’ll want to know that your Estate Agent is hungry for business but also offers exceptional service and feedback to you and your purchaser.  Is your Agent friendly, qualified, experienced, professional, presentable? Does he/she have passion for people and property?

Have you met Agents who, despite many years’ experience, have become disillusioned and bored with their job (or even be in the wrong job), reflected in their ‘couldn’t care less’ and ‘please don’t bother me again’ attitude?

2. What is a realistic asking price for my property?

Consider your own time-scales for selling. Do you have an urgent deadline which needs to be met? Will your Agent take this into account when extracting offers from potential purchasers?  How hard will he/she work to meet your particular timescales.

3. How long will it take to sell my property?

Your Agent will want to know the lowest price you’ll accept in order to make a sale. Remember thatpurchasers often ask Agents whether a property has been on the market a while, which indicates either a case of incorrect pricing or a seller refusing to accept realistic offers.

4. What will the property actually sell for?

Estate Agents will often suggest a marketing price – which is used to test the market.  Within a few weeks, this price will be reviewed (often downwards, but this is not always the case).  The marketing price is rarely the final purchase price, as some negotiation takes place between putting the property on the market, reports from surveyors, or general market conditions and demand.

5. How do you price my property?

Estate Agents use ‘market comparables’ to price your property – ie if several properties in the area have sold for a similar price, this is likely to be the ‘price’.  This is dependent on supply and demand.  If your property has been looked after well, you may obtain a small premium if a similar property ‘For Sale’ in your road needs refurbishment, or has less attractive orientation.

6. What other homes are in competition with my property?

The internet is a useful tool for checking other properties for sale in your area.  Your Agent should be able to produce a report showing the same information (and if he/she’s worth his/her salt, you will be supplied with such a report). Your Estate Agent should have researched the area already, because as seen above, supply and demand plays a large role in pricing your property.

7. How much do you charge for selling my property?

Commission rates vary from a fixed price to around 1-3% of the eventual sale price, depending on the service level (sole, joint, multi-agency). You can negotiate fees, but you must satisfy yourself that the price usually reflects the effort your Estate Agent will put into the sale of your home. A lower commission may harm the service you receive.

8. What are your Terms & Conditions?

Before entering any agreement with your Estate Agent, ensure all details are confirmed in writing to you.  This will save discrepancies and disputes later on.  Sales are currently taking an average of 8-12 weeks and the minutiae of the agreement may have been forgotten in the interim.

Your Agent is expected to conform to various legislative regulations, and is not asking you for the ‘fun’ of producing loads of documents, but to ensure everything is fair and equitable.

9.  Are you a member of an Ombudsman scheme?

In theUKthere are no compulsorily legislative regulation schemes. Membership to a body such asARLA (the Association of Residential Lettings Agents), the NAEA (National Association of Estate Agents) or the OEA (Ombudsman of Estate Agents), OFT (Office of Fair Trading) is essential (this list is not exhaustive). These organisations ensure their members follow strict guidelines and have comprehensive complaints measures in place.

10. Is your Sales Team qualified in Estate Agency?

If your Agent is a member of ARLA or NAEA, it proves that the members of staff have completed a course of study in the relevant property area.  Following a professional qualification helps to ensure that all areas of relevance are covered in some depth, so that you, the Client, is advised correctly.

11. How are viewings conducted?

Obviously you know your property better than anyone and will want it shown at its best. However, not all sellers want to conduct viewings themselves. Research has shown that properties viewed in the presence of an Estate Agent sell quicker, and your Agent should be available to offer accompanied viewings at all times. Often a balance of the two will maximise the viewings and increase your chances of a sale. Your Agent should give feedback to you on all viewings, ‘too small/large/far away from the station/expensive’ etc so that amendments to the price can be made accordingly.

12. What are similar houses in the area priced at?

A professional Agent will be able to answer this question knowledgeably, especially with the range of on-line reports available on historical and current pricing. Although the answer to this question may vary greatly due to market fluctuations, its purpose is not really to gain a figure but work out the level of knowledge possessed.  Unique properties are harder to value, and some ‘marketing’ activity may need to take place to establish a selling price.  Remember, price equates to what a purchaser is prepared to pay, not the expectations of the seller.

13. How will my property be marketed?

Property Portals and Estate Agency websites are increasingly being used in the industry and to maximise the chance of a sale, online marketing is essential. Local, regional or national media still has a place, but so too do your Agent’s window displays, the fullness of their database of worthypurchasers, and their pro-activity in selling your property.  Increasingly social media, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, is playing a greater role in property marketing – it is worth finding an Estate Agent who is up to date with technological developments to enhance promoting and advertising your property.  Technology should not be used just for sake for it, but to help in seeking out potentialpurchasers.

14. What is your Estate Agency’s sales fall-through rate?

According to research it is estimated that 18% of sales fail to reach completion. This is normally due to buyers for a variety of reasons  - a figure below this percentage will reveal how devoted an Agent is to pursuing a sale, or at least identifying early on when there is a problem, and quickly finding another buyer.

15. What information will you include in your marketing literature?

While your Agent is inspecting your property he/she will be looking for strong selling points – a west facing rear garden, an en-suite to 2 bedrooms, off-street parking, plus a garage etc. You want to be sure your Agent has looked around properly to be able to fully market it.  The Agent has also to overcome objections to a small bedroom, out-dated kitchen, no parking – and needs to have the answers prepared in advance of those difficult questions posed by your prospective purchaser.

16. How often will you stay in touch?

Selling your house can be stressful and not being able to get hold of your Agent can make the process more so. Test your Agents to see which ones deliver the service you expect, before and after instructing them. You should agree with your Agent how often, and by which method, you want to receive feedback – is daily, weekly, monthly appropriate? It really depends on the point where you are in the sale, and will vary over the months.  Your Agent should keep you informed of how the sale is proceeding, doing a lot of background work which you are unlikely to notice.

17. How long does your average property take to sell?

If properties are on the books for only a short time, it may be an indication that your Agent is underselling. If properties are on the books for extended periods of time, they may be overpriced if the vendor has unrealistic expectations, or they aren’t being marketed appropriately.

18. Are you a Licensed Agent?

Your Agent will be able to explain why this is important to you.  To remind you, the bodies involved,ARLA, NAEA etc, impose a strict Code of Conduct and have a redress system if things go wrong.  Hopefully, your Estate Agent will have its own self-imposed good business practice, of which you should ask for details. For example ‘Do you have a Client Account’?  ‘What is your Complaints Procedure?

19. Who works with you in the office?

Agencies vary in size from small independent, to multi-branch, and franchises.  You will want to be assured that the staffing levels and spread of knowledge and experience is sufficient for your requirements.

20. Are you an on-line Agency?

The face of Estate Agency is constantly changing as technology makes its mark on all aspects of communication, marketing, and customer relationships.  Some Agencies are purely ‘on-line’ ie they may not have an office or offer any other service apart from promoting your property on-line. So ask yourself ‘Who do I call when things appear to start going wrong?’