How much are estate agent fees?
If you sell your house using a traditional high-street estate agent, their fee will usually be based on a percentage of the price paid by the buyer. This kind of estate agent's fee is called commission.
The average high-street estate agent fee is 1.3% including VAT, according to conveyancing firm MyHomeMove.
However, this figure can vary from less than 1% to as much as 3.5%, depending on a number of factors including how many estate agents are selling your property.
Estate agent fees used to be quoted 'plus VAT' most of the time (meaning you had to add on another 20% of whatever you were quoted), but new rules from the Property Ombudsman which came into effect in October 2016 state that quotes should now always include VAT. If your quote doesn't make it clear either way, always check.
Should you choose the cheapest estate agent?
While the estate agent's fee can seem like an eye-watering sum, it's not always advisable to choose the company offering to sell your home for the lowest fee just so you can save money.
In this short video, we ask experienced estate agents how to choose the best agent for your needs.
The best estate agents often do charge slightly higher fees than their rivals. Compare the stats, looking at who is selling property like yours most quickly and for the highest amounts.
You're likely to have a lot of contact with your estate agent over the coming weeks and months, so it's also worth thinking about who you'd be happy to do business with, and make your decision based on these factors as well as the fee (but do bear in mind that the person who actually conducts viewings and sells your property will often be different from the one conducting the initial valuation).
If keeping costs to a minimum is a priority, you might also want to consider using an online estate agent. Online estate agent fees are typically charged at a flat rate, rather than as a percentage, and range from around £400 to £2,000.
Find out more: online estate agents
Estate agent fees: how to haggle
You should always invite several estate agents (ideally three) to value your home and quote you a fee. Make sure you grill them on their recent performance and what's included as part of the service - our downloadable checklist details the key questions to ask.
Estate agents will not want to lose your business, so you can often negotiate on the fee or other aspects of the service (for example the notice or tie-in period). If one agent has quoted you a lower fee but you'd prefer to use another firm, mention that you've found a cheaper deal and see if they're able to offer a reduction.
If your favourite estate agent refuses to lower their fee, see if they'll compromise by offering a sliding scale, where you pay different rates of commission based on how much the agent gets for your property. This can act as a strong incentive for them to achieve the best possible price.
Some estate agents also offer a scaled-down service for a fixed fee that's payable upfront, whether your property sells or not.
Estate agent contracts: things to check
Despite estate agents' sometimes dubious reputations, only 16% of the 1,990 recent home-movers we spoke to for the 2015 Which? national property survey said they were dissatisfied with the service they received from their agent.
An important way of ensuring that the relationship between you and your estate agent remains positive is to read the contract before signing, and question anything you're unsure or unhappy with. The bottom line is that if you don't understand the contract, you shouldn't sign it.
A few things to check when reading the contract include:
- What happens if I find a buyer myself, for example a work colleague, friend or neighbour?
- If I'm unhappy with the service I'm receiving, how quickly can I get out of the contract? (You should ideally look for a tie-in period of no more than six weeks.)
- Can I try use more than one estate agent?
Estate agent contracts: glossary
Here are some of the typical contract terms you'll come across, what they mean and how you can make sure you get the most for your money.
Your rights with estate agents
Legally, your estate agent's contract must use clear terms. They must pass on all offers promptly in writing, reveal any financial interest they have in offers made on your property, keep records for six years and be a member of the Property Ombudsman, Property Redress Scheme or Ombudsman Services.
If you suspect that an estate agent has acted in breach of these regulations, you should contact your local authority trading standards department, which has a duty to investigate and take enforcement action.
It’s a good idea to keep detailed records of your dealings with your estate agent in case problems arise.
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