Q) I’m selling a house for the first time and need to choose an estate agent. What do I need to ask, how do I differentiate them and how much trust should I put on the initial pitch they’ll give me? 

A) Estate agents should be masters of sales patterns and yes, you’re going to be greeted by the same marketing spiel from all of the agents, but hopefully, they’ll be saying all the right things to show they are local experts.

It is important that they impress you with their local knowledge on house prices; do they know about the property that has just sold on your street? Do they know the local buyer demographic and how your house might appeal to them? They will all say that they currently have someone on their books looking for a house “just like this” but can they prove it and generate viewings with ease?

Take recommendations on estate agents from your family and friends, after all, the agent will be selling your biggest tax-free asset so you need to be able to trust them wholly. Do some research and make sure that you know the facts: how quickly do they tend to sell properties similar to yours? How often do they achieve the full asking price? How much commission do they charge? What kind of contract are you tied into?

Once you know which agent performs best, you need to get at least three of them round to your property to hear how they function and how they value properties. Do not take the valuation as gospel – ask each of them how they came to this figure. Many agents will offer a higher value to get your business, and others will go deliberately low to make their job easier if they do sign you.

Crucially, make sure you have read their terms and conditions! What tie in period do they offer? We highly recommend NOT signing any contract which ties you to an agent for more than 6 weeks!

Estate agents usually charge between 1% and 2.5% + VAT for a sole agency agreement. Will they negotiate on the commission price and if you are still not comfortable with the fee, consider another agent – unless you are satisfied that the fee represents the service, and you are happy to pay that little bit more to feel that your agent will work hard for you.
Online agents tend to charge a flat fee, but the cheapest deals will mean that you will have to pay upfront.

Make sure that you check their opening hours. Many agents are closed in the evenings and on weekends – these are the times that people are generally able to view properties!

Consider how involved you want to be with viewings as some agents will handle all of the viewings for you, and others will want you to show buyers around.

Ask how they plan on marketing your property. If they are a member of On The Market, an industry-owned portal, they will only be able to list the property on Rightmove or Zoopla. If you want your home listed on both, make sure that they are not a member.

And finally, think about which of the shortlisted agents you get on with and most importantly – trust! Having a rapport with your agent makes the whole process much easier and far less stressful.