What is an acceptable length of agreement when instructing an Estate Agent?
This is a common question and one which doesn’t necessarily have a straightforward answer, but we will try and explain as best we can, and what to look out for.
Why do I need to have a written agreement with my Estate Agent?
This is very simple, and boils down to the time & money invested by the agent to launch your property onto the market.
When you, the client, decide on an Estate Agent to market your property, that’s when the hard work starts for the agent.
Many hours of preparation, and hundreds of pounds in investment, will go into the marketing of your home, beginning with the photographs; a good agent will always use a professional photographer and they don’t come cheap. Having said that, they are worth every penny as you simply cannot put a price on the right photography to attract those viewings.
The agent will also write an interesting and engaging description (at Quarters we employ professional copy-writers to do this) which should not simply be a list of property features (such as how many plug sockets and radiators are in each room as that’s enough to send the best of us to sleep!). This write up will be used online and in the glossy brochures that they should have on their shelves.
The cost investment on the part of the agent in the first few weeks is high, which is why Estate Agents ask their clients to remain with them for a certain period of time and give them a good chance to sell their home.
What length of time should an contract be for?
In our opinion, a fair contract time is 12 weeks. Some Estate Agents insist on much longer than this (26 weeks is not unheard of) and while it may be common practice it’s worth asking why they’ll need quite so long if they’re confident they can sell your home.
A 12 week agreement gives the agent a fair crack at the whip, and also gives you, the client, long enough to decide if the agency is doing a good job.
By good job we don’t necessarily mean that if the property hasn’t sold in that time, the agents should be dropped…not all homes sell quickly, despite every effort by an agent; but you should get a feel for their commitment and level of effort in that time.
If the contract time is up and you have decided to move your business to another agent, you must check that the terms allow you to move with no ties. Some agreements require notice to leave, and some use open-ended agreements which means that if your property ever sells to a person they originally introduced to your property, they can claim commission, sometimes months or years later.
Another one to watch out for is the ready, willing and able purchaser clause. This means that you may have to pay the agency a fee for finding a buyer, even if you must later pull out of the sale for reasons unforeseen. It’s true that in this situation an agent will have done their job in finding you a buyer who can proceed with an acceptable offer but if your circumstances do change a reputable agents agreement will allow for this by reducing their fee.
What if I don’t want to sign a contract?
If you feel uncomfortable signing a contract, you could always speak with the agency who might be open to, for example, reducing the length of time on the contract or allowing you to leave at short notice.
Some agents don’t use contracts at all, preferring to tempt their clients with no-contract adverts. Find the agency that suits your needs and makes you feel comfortable. Ask as many questions as possible and don’t be forced into anything. The bottom line is that if you don’t understand your contract, don’t sign it.
What if I am unhappy with my Estate Agent?
If you are unhappy with your agent in some way, you should first attempt to sort it out directly with them. The chances are that they’ll be happy to set up a meeting with you to resolve your queries. Any good agent wants to offer excellent customer service and doesn’t want their reputation tainted, so give them a chance to sort out the problem.
If this doesn’t work, or if you have a complete communication breakdown with your agent, you can speak to the Property Ombudsman who will try and resolve your issues. Ideally, it’s best not to allow things to get to that stage in the first place.
To summarise, the best advice is to choose your agent wisely and ensure they're regulated by the National Association of Estate Agents - this way you can be sure they follow best practice and work to industry standards. Speaking of the NAEA they have an excellent guide to Choosing the perfect Estate Agent.
Ask your Estate Agent to explain the terms of their agreement and ask around your local area and see who offers the best service and has the best reputation. It’s important to trust your Estate Agent and build a good working relationship with them so that you feel you can talk about any issues that arise.
What's your experience with Estate Agents, good and bad? What happened and what was the outcome?
If you're currently marketing your home and have an agreement with an Estate Agent it’s still worth getting in touch and we'll happily give you an objective review of your current property marketing.
Send us an email at [email protected] or call us on 0118 466 0292. We are always happy to help. We'd also be pleased to welcome you to our private offices in central Wokingham.