Perhaps the most important piece of advice we can offer when it comes to working with an estate agent to sell your house is that you need to ask questions – lots and lots of questions. And when you think you’ve asked all the questions you need to ask, take a moment to think up a few more. It’s only by asking questions that you’ll get to find out exactly what your estate agent is doing to sell your house, and whether they are, in fact, the right people for the job.
Here, at O’Malley Property, we welcome the questions our clients ask because it gives us a chance to set out exactly how hard we’ll work (and for that matter how smart we’ll work) to find a buyer for their house. The other key reason for asking as many questions as possible is that you can’t take anything for granted when it comes to working with an estate agent. Never assume, for example, that all aspects of marketing your house are included in the fees being charged, or that the estate agent will be available to answer any questions you might have seven days a week. Only by asking the right questions, and understanding how to interpret the answers, will you be able to choose the best estate agent for you, and relax in the knowledge that they are doing everything they need to do to achieve a successful sale of your house. We’ve put together this quick guide outlining the kind of questions you need to be asking, and how to interpret the answers you might be given.
How long have you been working as an estate agent in Scotland?
An easy one to start with, since the more experience an estate agent has, the more likely they are to know how to go about selling a property like yours, whether it’s a one-bedroom bungalow or a detached family home with three bathrooms and a loft conversion. We’ve been selling properties in Stirling and the surrounding areas for more than 15 years, and in that time we’ve learned exactly what does and doesn’t work and gained a truly in-depth knowledge of the local market. For you, selling your house can feel like a stressful and daunting process, so it’s reassuring to know that you’re working alongside an estate agent who’s been there and done it many times before, and will know exactly how to achieve the optimum outcome.
What are your credentials?
As with many other lines of work, there are professional credentials linked to operating as an estate agent. You need to ask whether the estate agent you’re thinking of employing to sell your house is a member of one of the relevant professional bodies. These bodies include the following:
- ARLA Propertymark
- The Property Ombudsman
- The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
- The Guild of Property Professionals
- The National Association of Estate Agents
Although there is no legal obligation for an estate agent to have joined any of these bodies, the fact that they have done so indicates an adherence to the kind of strict codes of conduct involved and a commitment to professionalism and delivery. In simple terms, it helps to demonstrate that you’re working with serious, dedicated professionals.
What is your marketing strategy for selling my property?
The days when selling a property mainly involved putting a sign in the front garden of the house and an advert in the window of your high street estate agent office are long gone. A modern estate agent has a huge range of platforms, methods and strategies to call upon when making sure that your house is put in front of the right kind of potential buyers to ensure a speedy sale at the best price. Here at O’Malley Property, for example, we’ll put together a bespoke marketing plan which utilises methods including the following:
- HD Virtual Tours for prospective clients unable to tour in person
- Professional photography designed to showcase everything that’s most appealing about your house
- A social media campaign using the right channels to target the people we know will be looking for a house like yours
- Property Matching to our database of buyers, drawing on our vast experience and network of contacts to put you and your buyer in touch with each other as quickly and simply as possible
- A marketing campaign through all major websites, making sure that we don’t miss any opportunity to put your house in the metaphorical shop window
- A High Street presence – speaking of the shop window, we don’t neglect the traditional methods which many purchasers still feel the most comfortable with, so you can expect an eye-catching and punchy listing in a prime position in Stirling or Alloa city centre
Don’t be afraid to ask if a comprehensive marketing strategy of this kind is included in the service your estate agent provides, and also take into account the way in which they answer your questions. After all, their ability to ‘sell’ their own services in a manner which is calm, authoritative and believable, without becoming too high-pressure or overblown, will be exactly the kind of ability you’ll want them to apply to selling your house. If you feel uncomfortable or dubious about the way the estate agent sells themselves, then don’t think twice about deciding you don’t want to put them in charge of your house sale.
What is the current demand for properties in my area?
This is the kind of question which an estate agent should be able to answer without having to consult their notes or tap away at a laptop. Knowing exactly what the demand for properties in your area is – and having the relevant facts and figures to hand – showcases the kind of in-depth local knowledge that will help to get your house sold. Our team of experts has a total of more than 20 years of experience selling houses in Stirling, Alloa and the surrounding areas, and we’ll be able to provide details such as how local property prices have been moving recently, with reference to wider local trends, what aspects of your location could have an impact on demand for the property – such as the proximity of good local schools or an efficient transport hub – and whether there are any planning decisions in the pipeline which might impact on demand. Your estate agent should also be able to tailor this information so that it applies to exactly the kind of property your house is, whether that’s a new-build city centre apartment or a detached family home in a rural village.
How will you determine the asking price for my property?
Setting the right asking price will play a crucial role in making sure your property sells. Too high and you won’t get any offers, too low and you may sell quickly but be left with the nagging feeling that you’ve finished the process thousands of pounds out of pocket. Your estate agent should be able to set out a comprehensive process for arriving at the correct price, based on a valuation of the property itself which takes the form of a personal inspection, combined with an analysis of local market conditions and the kind of prices which have been achieved by comparable properties which were recently on the market. Your estate agent should be able to list the unique features of your property (good or bad) which impact on the asking price, as well as suggesting simple tips such as tidying the garden, painting the window frames and dealing with a list of snags (cracked bathroom tiles, missing light bulbs etc.) which could help to raise the asking price.
How will you handle property viewings?
Having strangers come to view your property can be one of the more intrusive aspects of selling your house, but it’s something that has to be done, so ask your estate agent exactly how they plan to schedule and arrange viewings. Here at O’Malley Property we offer the option of handling all of the appointments on your behalf or letting you make the arrangements yourself. We also include virtual viewings as part of the marketing strategy, which can help to cut-down the number of ‘time-wasters’ who just quite fancy poking around in somebody else’s house. Your estate agent might also suggest open house events as a means of enabling multiple potential purchasers to view your house in one go. The best estate agent will be one who is willing to mix and match their approach to viewings to come up with a plan which matches your own schedule and takes into account the fact that the house in question is still your home.
What are your fees and terms of service?
In simple terms, this question is all about finding out exactly how much the estate agent is going to cost you. And when we say ‘exactly’, we mean just that. Ask them what form the fee they charge takes, as it is generally either a fixed agreed fee or a percentage of the selling price. Even more important than establishing a figure or percentage itself, is making sure that you know exactly what you’ll be getting for your money, and whether there are any additional fees to look out for. The percentage mentioned by an estate agent needs to be balanced against your feel for exactly how good a job they are going to do when it comes to selling your house. An estate agent charging a higher percentage but able to command a better price for your home will end up leaving you with more money in your bank than one with a bargain rate but poor marketing skills, for example.
Just as important as the money being charged, are the details of the contract you’ll be entering into with your estate agent. Is there a sole-agency lock-in period, for example, which means that you can’t switch to another estate agent for a specified period of time, even if you’re unhappy with the service being provided. You should also ask about sole selling rights, as the inclusion of these in an agreement mean that the estate agent in question will collect their fee if the property is sold in a set period of time, even if you actually managed to find your own buyer. Ask exactly what is included in the agreement, and make sure that, at the very least, the fee being charged covers the following:
- An expert property valuation
- Floor plans being drawn up
- Professional photographs of the house being taken
- An accurate and appealing written description of the house being created
- Access to an existing list of potential interested parties
- A marketing plan involving social media and online sites
- Organising viewings of the house
- Negotiating the final sale price of the house
How will you communicate with me throughout the selling process?
Clear and accessible communication plays a vital role in making the process of selling a property as stress-free as possible. Ask the estate agent exactly how and when you’ll be able to get in touch with them to ask any questions, and indeed to just enquire exactly how the process is going. Will you be able to contact them by phone, email or social media when you need to and is this the case seven days a week? Here at O’Malley Property you’ll be able to access PropertyFile, a unique online platform which contains up-to-date information on the sale of your property which is available in real time.
What is your track record in selling properties similar to mine?
Does the estate agent have a track record of selling properties of the size and type of your house? They should be able to answer this question with concrete examples of similar properties which they have been able to sell, along with details of the prices they were able to fetch. As well as the fact of the sale and the price realised, they should be able to tell you exactly how long it took to sell the property.
Can you provide references or testimonials from previous clients?
If an estate agent has a track record of providing a first-class service and successfully selling houses, then they should find it easy to pull up numerous examples of satisfied clients willing and able to sing their praises. Testimonials and reviews of this kind should refer to the professionalism of the estate agent, the comprehensive nature of the service they provided and the degree to which that service was effective. You could also contact the people mentioned in the references personally to make sure that their recollection matches the details provided by the estate agent (any discrepancy would be something of a red flag).
How long do you anticipate it will take to sell my property?
This is clearly a tricky question, and an honest estate agent will be willing to admit as much. Coming up with an exact prediction is pretty unrealistic, and if an estate agent immediately says ‘Six weeks, three days and four hours’ then you can assume they’re not being entirely honest. What the estate agent should be able to do, however, is draw upon their experience of the local market and current market conditions, allied to their knowledge of previously selling houses similar to yours, in order to offer an estimated selling timeline.