How to choose an estate agent

If you’re new to selling property the task can seem intimidating and even a bit overwhelming – but fortunately you don’t have to tackle it alone.

Working with a good estate agent who can guide you through the process can help you sell your home as quickly and as smoothly as possible, says Shaun Rademeyer, chief executive of mortgage originator BetterLife Home Loans.

However, you do need to find that agent first. Start by looking out for your local representatives of several different reputable estate agencies. If they have been working in your area for some time, they will be knowledgeable about the local market trends, which homes are for sale, which have recently been sold and what demographic of buyers you are likely to attract, such as first-time buyers, families or retired people.

“If you already know an agent, or one of your friends raved about theirs, you should consider contacting them first,” says Rademeyer.

“You can also visit the websites of the agencies you know to find the agent that works in your area – or check the online advertisements for homes in your area or the local property listings booklet and look out for the agent or agency with many sold properties.”

He says some people prefer independent agencies because they can quickly adapt to market conditions in their local markets, without being bound by rules set by a head office halfway across the country. Boutique companies may also have a stronger market presence in a particular area than larger franchises with more agents. Just be sure to check that your type of home and your neighbourhood match their area of expertise.

Other sellers will choose the local franchise of a national estate agency because of its networking capabilities and bigger advertising and technology budgets.

“A larger company may also provide more certainty when it comes to the legal processes and have a streamlined administration system to make the entire sale run smoothly.”

In any case, says Rademeyer, once you’ve identified several agents you’d be comfortable working with, there are some questions you can ask to further narrow your options before you decide who should get your mandate.

Ask how long the agent has been working in the business as they are more likely to have built a good network and reputation if they’ve been in the industry a while. However, don’t automatically overlook agents who are just starting out as they could be more motivated and able to give you personal attention.

“Next, you must make sure that the agent you work with is registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board and has a valid fidelity fund certificate for the current year.”

Of course a busy agent is usually a good agent, he says, but you also don’t want to work with agents who have taken on too much, because they’re going to have less time to attend to you.

“You should also ask each agent how many homes they’ve sold in the last six months. Whatever they answer, this will really help you compare them to other agents. Asking each for a reference or two from their previous clients is also a good idea.

“And finally, when you’ve only got a couple of agents left to choose between, ask them to create a formal presentation for you. This presentation should include a comparative marketing analysis (CMA), which lists the selling prices of houses similar to yours and is used as a guide for you and your agent to determine how to price your property. The presentation should also include an overall marketing plan for the house.

“Based on the answers the agents gave at the interview, and what their presentation looks like, you should be able to confidently choose the right agent for you. The selection process is quite a bit of work, but in the end, it will ensure that you have good rapport with your agent and are able to get through the sale process with the minimum of stress,” says Rademeyer.

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