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choosing an agent


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An estate agent will usually charge you from two to three and a half percent of the sale price of your home for carrying out the sale. The actual amount is likely to be at the top end of this scale if you instruct them as a joint or multiple agent, but at the lower end if you decide they should be the sole agent in charge of the sale. Find out more about these terms here.

In the last couple of years, the Internet has begun to put downward pressure on margins, with an increasing number of websites offering to sell your home for little or no money. This hasn't really led to that many existing agents lowering the amount of commission they charge, but the likelihood is that it eventually will do. What it has done is lead to some other new entrants in the market, who are charging commission rates as low as 1 percent, so it is definitely worth shopping around if price is a major factor in your decision.

If your property is of a sizeable value then even if you are paying a competitive commission rate of just two percent, this can equate to a sizeable commission that can leave the agent smiling from one ear to the next. On the other hand it is worth remembering that where a sale price is much lower, two percent doesn't always amount to an awful lot of profit once advertising, staff costs, administration, petrol (they have to get to your house to show people round), office overheads and salesperson commission have been taken out.

You shouldn't necessarily go for the agent that offers you the lowest fee. We like clichés on this site, and one of our favourites is 'You get what you pay for'. It's not always true, as spending heavily doesn't always guarantee you anything, but where estate agents are concerned the cheapest service is certainly not always the best.

You should look beyond the price and find out what is included in the fee by looking into the following areas:

  • The terms of the contract.
  • The amount and type of advertising included in the fee.
  • Who will be conducting the viewings.

Despite our love of clichés, we regret to inform you that those people who say that 'everything in life is negotiable' are not being entirely truthful. You cannot go to the bank and say, "I am not happy with the interest rate you are charging on that account, fancy lowering it for me?" You cannot go into a post office and suggest to them that the price of a stamp is over the top, then request that they cut you some slack and sell you some for a few pence off. It simply is not true. However, estate agent's fees certainly are negotiable. You may have a hard job in getting them to lower them, especially since negotiation is part of their job, but if competition is high in an area, or the markets are slow, it may be worth your while trying to get them to lower their commission rate.

As a final point, remember that VAT is going to be added at a rate of 17.5% to whatever amount their commission payment equates to. This can amount to several hundred pounds, and is another thing that is often overlooked by people selling their home.

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