preparation is key.
When it comes selling your property, you don't need to be an expert in the industry or a student of property law to make sure your chosen representative is as good as they say.
Having a comprehensive list of questions by your side will help you tell the difference between a rep who knows his stuff, and one who’s just trying to get into your heart (and your wallet).
Keep these close to your chest, just in case:
1. How did you arrive at the valuation?
A solid valuation will be based on the market, your individual property, and any other number of interwoven factors. If an agent tries to explain it using a basic formula, such as square footage, run a mile.
2. Have you sold any similar properties in the last 6 months?
If your agent has sold houses like yours, it’s a good sign he’ll be able to do so again. Even if he hasn’t, he should be able to pull up comparable examples from recent history, and explain how they’re similar.
3. Is this the right time to sell my house?
If you’re not in a hurry, you might want to wait depending on market conditions. Your agent needs to be knowledgeable enough to let you know if waiting for a different time of year, or until things start looking up again, will benefit you.
4. What’s your marketing strategy?
Your rep should be able to explain in-depth how they will market your property, what channels they plan to use, what’s standard for every other property on their books, and if and why they plan on doing anything different for yours.
5. Do you have an in-house social media/content strategy department?
It’s important to know whether they use freelancers or whether the rep is responsible for planning and broadcasting online updates themselves. If your agent isn’t offering these services, they're not using all available tools to their best advantage. A solid social media strategy coupled with thoughtful online content promotion is the best way to sell property online. Space Station does this in-house.
6. How will the property be photographed?
Technology has blown this sector wide open. Now, agents have 3D modelling, virtual tours, 4k video and high-res photographs at their disposal. At Space Station, we use beautiful high-res photography to create a virtual property showing experience. In some cases drones are used to capture the glorious entirety of our one-of-a-kind properties.
7. Will you host open houses?
It’s nice to know if strangers are going to wander in off the street and start going through your kitchen cupboards.
8. How do you qualify prospective buyers?
Buyers need to have stable finances (both to buy the house and any required additional work), be organised, interested, and proactive. A buyer who’s anything less than passionate about the property is either A. not going to buy, or B. be a persnickety nightmare if you try and push them into it.
9. Can you give any referrals or testimonials?
Try and get names and numbers you can follow up on your own: people will be more honest if you don’t put them on the spot. Testimonials from people with similar personal backgrounds and properties to you are a good sign.
10. What is your sale to list ratio?
The sale to list ratio is the ratio of the final sale price of a home to its asking price. This is an indication of how good the rep is at selling homes above, at, or below list prices.
11. Have you sold homes in this neighbourhood?
A familiarity with the area is key to knowing who the most lucrative potential buyers may be, any hidden issues a property may have, and any other advantages or disadvantages it may have, as well as being able to formulate a realistic valuation.
12. Have you sold homes in this price range?
Most people would get cold feet selling a million pound home. Not us. We’re not everyone, though, so if you’ve got a particularly pricey property - or you’re worried about your home being at the low end of average - you need to gauge your rep’s experience in these matters.
13. How long have you been an agent/broker?
Ideally, they shouldn’t have just left school.
14. Will I be working with you directly, or a team?
It’s frustrating to be bounced about from person to person during a stressful sale process. Find out in advance if this is the case.
15. How do your fees work?
When it comes to money, you don’t want to be left in the dark or hastily agreeing to bad small print.
16. Can you explain the house selling process from start to finish?
Trust is essential, and there are no stupid questions. A good rep will answer this without hesitation, in simple terms, without patronising you.
17. Can I do anything to increase the value of my home?
Any rep worth his salt will tell you if ripping down a wall or installing a new kitchen will be a good investment, even if it delays his pay cheque.
18. How do I get in touch with you, and when are you available?
You might need someone to sob to over the phone at 3 am... but your agent is not that person. Office hours are a standard formality, but your agent should provide some way of getting in touch and we don't necessarily keep standard hours.
19. What price will guarantee the house selling quickly?
You don’t want to get shortchanged, but sometimes you need to consider all issues, especially in less buoyant markets. Your rep should respect your prioritise and suggest a price that won’t leave you out of pocket.
20. How can we work together to attract the right buyer?
You’re part of this team, and it’s in your own interest to try and sell your own house. That said, you’re not an expert, and he can tell you if what you’re planning will do more harm than good.
21. What type of contract do you use?
Sole selling rights gives the agent exclusive rights to the property: think wisely before you jump in. A multi agency contract allows you to use as many agents as you like, and only pay the one who sells it: but beware, as this one can dilute your property’s image and make it look desperate. Sole agency is a bit like sole selling rights, but with the added safety of not being liable to pay the agent if you find your own buyer. It’s the best one.
22. What can I do to get the house ready for viewings?
Vanilla scented candles and fresh flowers still work, despite the cliches. If your rep tells you to hoover the carpet, don’t get offended.
23. Why should I hire you?
The million dollar question. The answer to this doesn’t really matter, as much as how confidently and promptly the answer comes. Selling your property shouldn’t be as stressful and expensive as it looks. All you need to do is to carry out your own independent research to find the best estate agent for you. By all means take stock of friends' recommendations, but remember the agent who was perfect for them might not be perfect for you.
All in all, trust your gut. Yours is the only opinion that matters.