In simple terms, the role of an estate agent is to facilitate the sale of a property. Whether they are acting on behalf of the buyer or seller, it is the estate agent’s responsibility to provide honest and informed guidance that is fully aligned with their clients’ needs.

Each property sale is different, so the precise responsibilities involved will naturally vary. However, there are some core professional duties that are universal for all real estate agents, whether that’s in the realm of residential or commercial property.

The following list of responsibilities should act as a checklist for anyone looking to employ the services of (or is currently working with) an estate agent. These itemised duties will help even seasoned property owners understand exactly what should be expected from a prospective estate agent.  

When selling a property

·      Set the value of your property – your estate agent should know your local property market intimately. This will allow them to provide a realistic market appraisal to ensure you get the best price for your property. Your estate agent should be able to back up their valuation with sales records from within the last 12 months.   

·      Market your home – whether it’s newspaper ads, mailing lists or online listings, your estate agent should advise on the best marketing strategy. This may include photographing your property, creating a virtual tour, preparing flyers, installing a “For Sale” sign, etc. Before hiring an estate agent, it’s crucial that you discuss your marketing options to ensure you follow the best strategy for your property. It’s also important to find an agent who has sold (and is listing) properties that are similar in type and value to yours. The resulting wealth of experience and accumulated list of registered applicants interested in your property type will significantly increase your chances of selling at the best price. 

·      Conduct viewings – one of the duties of your estate agent is to arrange and conduct viewings of your property once potential buyers have shown interest. In order to do this efficiently, it is their responsibility to know the ins and outs of your property in order to answer any questions that they may be asked by prospective buyers. Your estate agent should also be proactive in showing your property to as many potential buyers as possible. A property is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it and therefore it’s important to get feedback from buyers about how your property compares to others on the market. It’s also not uncommon for buyers to end up buying something they didn’t think they wanted to look at. This emphasises the need for estate agents to encourage potential buyers to explore all of their options.     

·      Vet potential buyers – one of the key responsibilities of an estate agent when it comes to selling a property is to ensure that any potential buyers are serious. Under the Property Ombudsman Code of Practice, real estate agents need to take reasonable steps to ensure the buyer has the available funds to actually buy the property. Are they selling a property themselves? Do they have an agreement in principle from their mortgage provider? Are they paying cash up front and, if so, what is the source of these funds? These are all questions that your estate agent must ask. Also, under the same aforementioned Code, they must pass on any and every offer made on your property.

·      Manage the admin of the sale – arguably the most important duty, your estate agent should help negotiate any offers, execute a purchase contract with a viable buyer and generally work on the seller’s behalf when managing the transaction process. This includes processing, delivering and explaining the associated documentation. As this final stage involves a great deal of paperwork and legal jargon, it’s crucial that your estate agent keeps you informed with any developments right up to and including closing.

When buying a property

·      Help find an ideal property – it is your estate agent’s responsibility to fully understand your needs when looking for a property. This is easier if you know the exact specifications of your ideal property but, even if you aren’t exactly sure of what you want, your estate agent should ask the appropriate questions to identify your preferences.

·      Arrange viewings – once your agent has found a handful of suitable properties, it’s their duty to arrange for you to view them. (Bear in mind that a good estate agent will visit all of the shortlisted properties to make sure there aren’t any hidden surprises). This will typically involve liaising with the property’s owner or overseeing estate agent to agree on a date and time. While you can attend these viewings on your own, it’s advisable to ask your estate agent to attend as they will have the knowledge and experience to ask more technical questions that may not cross your mind.  

·      Produce a buying offer – once you have your sights set on a particular property, your estate agent should help you craft an initial offer and purchase agreement. Based on previous experience and market insights, your estate agent should be able to advise on an appropriate offer that is most likely to be accepted.

·      Manage the admin of the purchase – after negotiating with the property seller’s estate agent (or the seller themselves) to achieve a purchase agreement, your estate agent should then oversee all admin associated with the transaction process. This may include coordinating inspections, reports and repair negotiations, as well as keeping the buyer in the loop throughout the whole process, right up until they finally take possession of the property. 

Dealing with a bad estate agent

If you feel that your estate agent is not acting in your best interests, you should raise the issue with your estate agent first. If you cannot resolve your complaint with the agent directly then you can escalate your grievance to either The Property Ombudsman or the Property Redress Scheme. Ask your estate agent which of these two schemes they belong to. 

Find the right estate agent

When it comes to choosing an estate agent, refrain from opting for the person who promises the best price or offers the lowest fee. Base your decision on the facts.

Which estate agent is discussing an asking price that they are visibly justifying based on recent deals they have done? Which estate agent estate agent is willing to drop their fee “for you”? What does that say about their negotiating abilities? And could you rely on them to defend your asking price in the face of an obstinate potential buyer?

Helmsmen allows you to compare estate agents based on their past performance and customer reviews, as well as their local knowledge and agents fees. It’s the most efficient way to find the best estate agent for your needs.       

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