How To Change Estate Agents
If you did not know it before, you are getting a crash course now! Selling a house is complex. On the surface, it seems like nothing could be more simple. You have an asset. You want to sell it. Someone else wants to buy it. Perfect!
Except there is hoop after hoop through which you must jump. From listing and setting prices to staging and viewing to solicitors and conveying to contracts and completion, there is an entire industry worth of processes, procedures, legalities and technicalities with which to contend.
Doing so on your own can be challenging, particularly if you’re not in the habit of flipping houses regularly. For the average person, it is a foreign world. An experienced estate is often an invaluable guide through this unfamiliar terrain. They know this space inside and out; they have connections and contacts; they’ve seen everything – literally everything – when it comes to properties and the various states of repair they are in.
Initially, the first phases of a relationship with an estate agent are characterised by hope and the prospect of selling a house and moving on to bigger and better. But what if weeks and months go by without any discernible progress? Yes, it could be the market – but it could also be your estate agent. Are they failing to live up to your expectations and their promises? Are they missing steps that could put your listing in front of the right buyers? Are they prioritising other properties over yours? Are they ‘phoning it in,’ so to speak, rather than working aggressively on your behalf?
Unfortunately, this happens. They may promise the world but cannot or cannot be bothered to deliver something as simple as a few well-attended viewings. You are waiting, putting your future on hold, as your estate agent does… what exactly?
You may not be sure, but you do know that you want to make a switch. This guide will cover how to change estate agent so you minimise hassle, frustration and inconvenience (not to mention expense) while maximising the potential your property holds.
Is Your Estate Agent Earning Their Fee?
For a sole agency agreement, the average estate agent fee is 1.18% + VAT. Be aware, though, that in some areas, such as London, fees are higher and can reach up to 3.6%. Multi-agency agreements tend to deliver higher asking prices, but their fees will reflect this and you’ll pay more.
While you want to minimise costs, going with the cheapest option (fees at 1.00% or less) is not a failsafe solution. There is a reason their rates are so low – and it does not bode well for you.
In addition, your estate agent may charge for services such as photographs, marketing, managed viewings and key services. When selecting an agent, be sure all of these expenses are captured by the one overall fee. You don’t want to deal with ‘nickel and diming’ yourself into debt, as they say in the United States. You also don’t want to pay if you don’t complete on a sale. Always go with a ‘no sale, no fee’ agreement.
Your agent may have been stellar at selling themselves but has proven less than effective at selling your home. Are they earning their fees? The answer may be ‘no,’ if you are experiencing:
- Excuse after excuse. ‘The market is so volatile; nothing is selling.’ ‘It’s not a seller’s market.’ ‘It’ll pick up in a couple of months.’ ‘Lenders are tightening regulations.’ ‘Buyers aren’t flocking to this area.
Excuse after excuse after excuse. Yes, the market may not be hot. Yes, it may well gain steam in a few months. But what about now? What are they doing now to sell your home? A great estate agent will have an extensive network of contacts and connections (including potential buyers) and move aggressively to market your house. Listen to reasons; do not accept excuses.
- ‘You should really drop your price.’ In some cases, absolutely. It makes sense given a host of factors, such as the state of the market and/or the condition of the home. In others, this is a huge red flag. The house isn’t moving for whatever reason (which could include subpar marketing efforts on the part of the estate agent), so the quick and easy solution is to reduce your price. This is lazy. Your agent should have been intimately involved in setting the price in the first place – and then going after buyers who are the right fit.
- ‘Just Take the Offer.’ Are they too keen to jump on the first offer, even if it is not in line with your asking price or goals? In some cases, estate agents will recognise that this is, in fact, the best you’re likely to get. In others, they just want to clear you off their books so they can grab juicier, lower-hanging fruit.
- Hello? Hello…? Are you finding it increasingly difficult to get a hold of your estate agent? Let’s face it: no one’s out of the office all the time, and declining a call is as easy as a swipe of the finger. Sure, there will be times when they are not able to be reached – but if it is becoming a clear pattern, they may be avoiding you.
- Viewings are dwindling. At first, you had five or six viewings a week. Then three. Then two. Then nothing. If your estate agent cannot or will not work to get people in to see your house, there is cause for concern. How much of it is an issue of lack of buyers and how much of it is an issue of lack of effort, experience or skill?
How to Change Estate Agent
If you notice these signals, you need to make a change.
Review Your Contract
The last thing you want at this stage is to be two commissions, one for your previous estate agent and one for the new. Check your contract. Your first estate agent may try to recoup some of the costs they incurred from marketing your house and there may be a clause which states that you owe them a commission if the property sells within a certain period of time, regardless of who handles the sale. You may also be under obligation to use a single estate agent and that your first choice has exclusivity to sell your house.
(When entering into agreements, look for terms and conditions like this that can potentially limit your ability to change agents.)
Speak with Your Estate Agent
Now, because you do not have an obligation to accept any offer on your house, most agents will not keep you as a client if you are this strongly dissatisfied. It’s not worth it to them, especially as they’re not making any money as is. Typically, they will allow you to cancel your contract and you can part ways.
Again, be aware that if your house sells, they may argue they are entitled to compensation. And, if they did and can show that they have incurred costs related to marketing and advertising your home, you will likely be required to pay this back.
If you can, seek advice from a solicitor to ensure your bases are covered.
Explore Other Options
If your current estate agent is not performing to your expectations, consider alternatives going forward. You may not want to replace them with another agent for whatever reason, from escaping some cost to creating a faster sale. You may consider:
- A Property Auction. This is a particularly attractive option if your house is not in great condition. Auctions appeal to a different type of buyer, and they’re looking for a bargain! You can sell in six to ten weeks while paying about 2.5% of the sales price as a fee.
- For Sale By Owner. You can sell your home independently via a private sale. This works well if you have a buyer in mind (e.g. neighbour, friend, associate, child, parent etc.). Reach into your network. You won’t have to pay fees but you will have to make a concerted effort to the market, stage, arrange viewings, handle conveying issues and the like. This can be quite complex.
- Cash House Buyer. A company that specialises in fast cash sales can mean that you complete your sale within one to three weeks, walking away with cash in hand. Typically, you will receive between 80% and 85% of the total market value. Keep in mind that you do not have to pay for or arrange anything. All you have to do is decide to accept or reject offers, leaving you in complete control.
If you are not satisfied with the level of work and effort on the part of your estate agent, it is time to make a change. Your financial and personal future is on the line.