Using an estate agent is one of the most common methods of selling a property in the UK. When you choose an estate agent to help you sell your home, you are putting your faith in them to quickly find a buyer at the best possible price, and see the sale through to completion. But what should you do if things don’t go to plan?
Estate agents charge thousands of pounds for their services, so you want to make sure you are getting your money's worth. If your current estate agent can’t sell your property, you’d be better off finding someone else who can, right? Well, that depends.
As a seller, switching to another estate agent isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. There may be practical, financial or contractual reasons why sticking with the company you are already with makes more sense. So before deciding to take your business elsewhere, it's wise to first weigh up the pros and cons of changing estate agents.
Pros of changing estate agents
If your house has sat on the market for longer than you expected, viewings have dried up and you aren’t getting offers close to your asking price, you would be right to question your agent. Whether you think they aren’t capable of finding a buyer, aren’t putting in enough effort, or you have fallen out with them for another reason, it might be time to try something different. The main benefits of changing estate agents to sell your property are:
Better relationship. If your relationship with your agent breaks down, they’re not communicating well with you, or worse – they begin avoiding your calls or messages – it's going to be very difficult for you to continue working with them. Changing agents can enable you to build a relationship with someone else who can provide all the help and support you need.
Fresh market analysis. If you’ve followed the advice of your existing agent and it’s not working out, they may have misread the market. Another estate estate agent can take a fresh look at recent price comparables, and give you a different perspective to go by.
Reach new potential buyers. Every estate agent has their own database and marketing channels. Switching can give you exposure to a new set of potential buyers who have not yet seen your property. Using a comparison tool like GetAgent can help you find agents that have a good track record of selling properties like yours.
Fresh enthusiasm. If for whatever reason your current agent doesn’t feel motivated to prioritise your property, giving it to someone else who is hungry for the sale is a good way to get more eyes on your home. It may even make your existing agent spring into action for one last push before they lose the deal to a competitor.
The marketing will get a refresh: Properties get the most interest when they first come on the market. An ad that’s been hanging around for a while goes stale as buyers have either already seen it, or think there must be something wrong with it. A fresh listing with a new set of photos and description can kickstart the interest again.
Bring new ideas to the table. Your current agent might have run through the usual playbook and be left completely stumped as to why it has not sold. Another agent with more experience, market insight or creative thinking might have a few other tricks up their sleeve to find a buyer.
You’ll discover if the agent really is the problem. If your agent is blaming the market, problems with the property, or your unrealistic expectations, they might be right. Then again, trying a different agent will soon reveal if the problems were outside of their control, or if they were just full of excuses.
Cons of changing estate agents
Before you go instructing someone else to sell your house, consider the risks and downsides of changing estate agents. The terms of the contract you’ve signed with your current agent have a large bearing on how easy or hard it will be for you to change to another, so the first thing to do is check the fine print.
You may be tied into an exclusivity period. Check if the contract has an exclusivity period. If it does, they may be entitled to commission for any sale of your property within a certain time frame – even if you find an alternative way to sell your house. The longer this exclusivity period is, the longer you may have to wait before you can give the house to another agent.
You may have to pay double commission. Another common form of contract entitles the agent to an introducer fee, where they are entitled to commission if someone they introduced goes on to buy the property. If you switch agents and a buyer introduced by the first agent comes back and buys from the second, both agents may stake a claim for a fee. To avoid this, make sure you have a list of people who the first agent introduced and that it’s clear from both agents how commission will be split before moving forward with the second agent.
Your new agent might not push your property as hard. If they think they are not getting the full commission because your previous agent’s contract means they are entitled to a cut, your property could be further down their priority list than others they are selling where they keep the full fee.
New agent may be worse than the old one. Unfortunately there’s no guarantee that your new estate agent will be any better than the previous one. If there’s two agents working on it and it still hasn’t sold, that’s not a good look when it comes to attracting a buyer. Changing agents again will be tough as it may seem to them like twice the work for half the fee.
You may lose a buyer who was considering an offer. If your first agent takes your property off the market, any interested buyers already in the process can be lost and their attention redirected elsewhere, particularly if there is a delay before it's listed with the new agent.
There may be other fees. Contracts sometimes state that you agree to pay the agents costs, such as advertising, to reimburse them if you withdraw from the agreement.
It can be a lot of hassle. Aside from having to thoroughly check the fine print of your contract with the first agent and vet new agents to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes again, you’ll also have to go through the whole process of a valuation, photos, getting a board put up etc all over again. Things can also get messy if your old agent isn’t playing ball with you or your new agent when you want to switch, if things aren’t communicated well or if there’s a dispute between who is entitled to the commission.
Should you switch estate agents?
Once you’ve checked what’s in your current contract, consider the pros and cons above and how they apply to your set of circumstances. If you are having real problems with your existing agent and your contract is not too restrictive, it may be your best option. But remember, changing estate agents isn’t always the solution. You may be able to resolve the situation with your current agent just by having an open and honest conversation with them so this should be your first point of call.
There are also several other things you can do if you can’t sell your house that don’t involve changing estate agents. It is also possible to sell your house without using an estate agent at all through these alternative ways to sell property.
Organisations such as Which, Homeowners Alliance (HOA), or The Property Ombudsman may be able to offer advice if you wish to make a complaint about an agent or feel that you are locked into a contract that is unfair.