Choosing the right estate agent

Selling your home, which in most cases is the most valued asset you will own, can be quite a daunting process. However, with the right estate agent at your side, this process can be made a lot simpler.

When you have made the decision to sell your home, you will want to get the best possible price for it and sell it as quickly and easily as possible. The only way to do this is by choosing a skilled, passionate and well-versed estate agent, says Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

“Before contacting any agent, take some time to drive around your area on any given Sunday, and take note of which estate agents have the most “For Sale” boards up in your neighbourhood. Visit some of these show houses and ask the agents questions, as if you were a buyer. You will very quickly ascertain which agents are doing the best job at selling the properties you were viewing,” says Goslett.

He says another good tip is to look at the property pages in the Saturday newspapers, read the various adverts and check out the quality of the photos and copy in these adverts: “Marketing is an essential tool when it comes to selling your property, and your agent should take this very seriously.” Other things to consider is whether the agents will be listing your property on a national website, and what scope the agency will have with regards to giving your property the maximum possible exposure.

Once you have narrowed your choice of agents down, it is time to call them in to value your home. “Everyone wants to get the best price they can for their home, but it is important that the estate agent you choose makes a realistic valuation based on the area you live in and what other houses of a similar fashion have sold for in the suburb. Beware of agents who offer unrealistically higher valuations in order to dazzle you into giving them the mandate to sell your home, as this can be potentially very harmful to the selling process. Over-valued homes often lead to the properties stagnating on the market for too long and not selling in the long run at all,” warns Goslett.

When you are interviewing the agents, Goslett suggests that you ask them to show you a list of all the properties they have sold in the last six months and what they sold for. The more properties an agent has sold in your area, the better, as it indicates excellent selling skills and a good understanding of the market in your particular neighbourhood. He also recommends that you ask the agent to show you what other homes they have for sale in your area, what they are selling for, how long they have been on the market and what kind of response they have got.

In general, most estate agents will charge a commission of between 4% and 7%. This should be negotiated upfront and should be based on the level of service you can expect. Goslett warns: “Do not always choose the agent that offers the lowest commission, as this will not always be the better option. It is also important to consider quantity versus quality here – agents from larger, reputable agencies offer the backing, experience and considerable marketing benefits that only a large company can offer.”

He says that in order to get the best possible price for your home, it is essential that the property looks its best. An experienced agent should be able to offer recommendations on how to do this: “Ask all the agents you have interviewed what they think you should do to your property to perk it up a little and help to make it more appealing to prospective buyers – an agent that knows the business will tell you very quickly what needs to be done. If you have to spend a small fortune to get the property into a state that will reach the asking price, then you know that the asking price is too high.”

Feeling comfortable with the agent is essential in the entire selling process. Says Goslett: “The communication channels need to be free and open the entire time, and the agent needs to constantly communicate the feedback from potential clients. Selling a home can be nerve-wrecking and it is important to have somebody by your side that you trust and who has your best interests at heart.”

Deciding on what kind of mandate you will be comfortable to give the agent you selected is the final thing that needs to be settled. Goslett notes that if you are trying to sell your property in a buyer’s market, the mandate may need to be longer than usual. He advises that you speak to your agent and come to an agreement that works for both parties. The good agent will not try and hold onto the mandate for longer than necessary.

Goslett concludes: “Always ask yourself these three questions when selecting an estate agent: Are they good at what they do? Can I trust them with my most important investment? Do they care about the needs of me and my family?”

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