In the future - Sole Agency

A sole agency seems the most sensible way of selling your house if you decide to use an estate agent. You should make clear to the agent, however, that you are not awarding them sole selling rights. If you did, this would mean that if you finally arranged a private sale, you'd still have to pay the agent's fees.

Other aspects to make clear with the agent are who pays for what in the selling process: the Tor Sale' board outside your door, for example, and any advertising. The normal practice seems to be that the board comes as part of the package, as does any small advertising suggested by the agent themselves. If you ask them to advertise the property, however, or large advertisements are proposed, they are likely to charge you for these services. They should, of course, consult you before any major additional expenditure is undertaken on your behalf.

While on the subject of sale boards, you do have a choice as to whether to have one up outside your home. I think it's a good idea. Plenty of people choose the area they want to live in first -and then drive round it looking at the sale boards. But one's enough: there's nothing that smacks of desperation so much as four or five sale boards lined up outside one house.

Estate agents normally belong to one or more professional bodies: the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers or the National Association of Estate Agents. See:

Using a member of one of these bodies means you will be protected should your estate agent run off with your deposit.

Note: The situation in Scotland is different, as solicitors also act as estate agents there. Their fees for selling property are a maximum of 1.5%, though, if you are also using the same firm for conveyancing, you should be able to get a reduction.

In the future - Using an estate agent

Estate agents generally charge a percentage of the sale price of the property. This can differ according to the area you live in. London and the South-east are generally the most expensive, with agents charging between 0.02 and 0.03 of the price. If you give them a 'sole agency' is, agree that you will instruct no other agency on the property they may charge 0.02 (plus VAT). If you instruct several agents, the commission has to be shared between them, and so is likely to be 0.005 (plus VAT) extra.

Provincial estate agents may be 0.005 cheaper in both cases. If you're selling the ancestral home, however, you may find an agent charges 3%.

Since the first action of most flat- or house-hunters is to . . .... see: In the future - Using an estate agent

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