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Estate Agent Contracts – The Facts

Estate Agent Contracts - The Facts

Having chosen your estate agent, you now need to look at their contract. Ordinarily, if you sign a sole agency contract you’re obliged to stay with that agency for between 8 and 12 weeks, no matter how poorly they perform. Go for a multi-agency contract and you’ll be hit by a bigger fee and the distinct impression that the agencies can’t really be bothered to compete with each other to sell your property. Even worse, the Estate Agents (Provision of Information) Regulations 1991 require agents to ‘make you aware’ of their terms of business and, once they have done, it could be considered legally binding even if you haven’t signed a contract! 

Personally, I take a more flexible approach to contracts. Firstly, I discuss my terms of business with clients in detail to ensure they understand exactly what they mean, then I put everything we’ve discussed down on paper in clear, jargon-free English so clients know what to expect and there are no unpleasant surprises.

Secondly, I don’t tie clients down to a minimum length of time. They are free to leave at any time if I don’t meet their expectations. And, of course, I will only go ahead and market a client’s property once they have signed on the dotted line giving me permission to do so. 

Clients stay with me because they want to, not because they have to. 

So many consumers place estate agents on a pedestal. However, if you are not completely satisfied, then you should have the freedom to go somewhere else should you feel threatened or bullied. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to mentor a client to deal with this type of behaviour. 

If you speak to any other agents, make sure the agent goes over every detail with you. Make sure the start and end dates are on the agreement. Know exactly what fees you will be paying, and remember, less is not always best.

If I do take on a client with a multi-agency agreement, I’m not going to leave the marketing to someone else in another agency. I make sure I’m the one to sell the property. If you find a really good estate agent, please give them sole agency. Good agents genuinely care about their clients. They do. 

A lot of people are under the impression that by having multiple estate agents trying to sell your house will mean you sell quicker as it makes the agents work harder. However, the reality is it can actually cause you more problems. 

As professionals we are always looking for the best buyer, not necessarily the first one through the door. If you instruct multiple estate agents, they are just going to rush the process to find you a buyer as quick as possible before their competition get in their first – regardless of the price. A lot of agents also don’t work as hard on multi-agent contracts because it can be very demoralising – they are likely to work hard for a client who they know is going to proceed right to the end.

I’ve spent years justifying assumptions that consumers make. Trust me on this one – choose the right agent using my advice and I promise you won’t need to use more than one agent. For over 20 years, I have treated my sole agency instructions with the upmost priority. Those clients have relied on me to get them moved and on to the next chapter of their lives.

Don’t get me wrong. Those clients whose properties I have sold on a multi-agency instruction still get top service. But give me a sole agency challenge any day. Ask your agent what they think about these issues.

Just as a final note also, make sure you understand the terms, especially where payment is concerned. Most quality estate agents won’t ask you to invest in their services until you complete on your sale (at the very end). However, some agents charge a fee up front and in worst cases, some agents may write into their contact that you must pay them regardless of the result, this is normally with budget agents – so be careful!

So, in summary, with Estate Agent contracts;

Don’t get caught up in fixed terms – this is not a requirement, it’s just a way for an estate agent to tie you down.

Using a multi-agent contract is not the best idea (most of the time).

An Estate Agent contract is a legal requirement and is simply put in place to say you are happy for them to market your property and that you will pay for the service on completion.