Kirsty McLuckie: Expensive estate agents may attain a higher asking price

When it comes to selling your home, one of the biggest challenges is how to choose your estate agent.The range of deals, fee levels and contract terms vary widely so it can be difficult to compare like for like.However, despite the rise of online estate agents that offer a flat fee for a minimalist service, most sellers still use a traditional high street agency.

The extra services provided should include valuation of your property, based on detailed knowledge of the local market; drawing up floor plans and taking professional photos; producing a good written description; installing a For Sale sign at the home in question, and marketing on property portals as well as their own channels.

A good rule of thumb is to opt for an agent who is already marketing homes similar to yours, as they should already have a list of appropriate buyers to contact.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But, according to a recent UK government report on buying and selling homes, the reason many people choose their agents is not actually related to the level of service.

Image: Adobe StockImage: Adobe Stock
Image: Adobe Stock

Respondents who had sold their homes gave various prompts for their choices, including agents located closest to their property, and those with the lowest fees or highest valuation, while some sellers simply opted for the agent who they had used to buy their current home.

But none of those reasons are likely to lead to the best estate agent service and optimum value for money.

Overwhelmingly, estate agents charge a fee based on a percentage of the price your home sells for. In the UK, this can be anywhere between 0.75 per cent and 3 per cent, not including VAT.

According to property advice resource TheAdvisory, the most recent figures put the average estate agent fee for a sole agency contract at 1.18 per cent, plus VAT. This means if your home sells for £275,000, you would be paying the agent £3,905.

It may seem a lot, but UK estate agency prices are actually among the cheapest in the world.

What is more, that average figure includes the vast prices paid in the overheated London market – in Scotland the average fee is lower.

For instance, Tzana Webster of Edinburgh agent Watermans, suggests that a more typical fee paid in Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife is between 0.75 and 1 per cent of the agreed sale price.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She points out: “You can find some estate agents who may offer a flat rate. Fixed-fee agents will generally work out cheaper, but you’ll likely have to pay upfront – regardless of whether it sells fast or slow, and above or below the asking price.

“Better estate agents may command higher fees, but may also be able to attain a higher asking price. And when choosing a fixed-fee agent, there is also zero incentive for them to get you a higher sale price.”

Incentivising your estate agent is the key, in my opinion, as well as negotiating a win-win deal.

At an agreed one per cent fee, every extra £10,000 on the sale price will only net your agent £100.

So when selling, I have always tried to structure the fees so the percentage paid starts very low but rises exponentially for a winning bid well over the home report value.

My reckoning is that with that target, the agent may strive a little extra for a higher bid, but if the property still sells for less at least I will have saved on fees.

If it goes higher, the agent will get more of the slice, but I’d be so happy with the price that I’ll gladly pay up.

- Kirsty McLuckie is property editor at The Scotsman