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What does an estate agent do?

In this article, the Chartered Insurance Institute describes the role the estate agent plays in the property market.
© Chartered Insurance Institute

The role of an Estate Agent (perhaps known as a property agent) in the buying process cannot be understated.

These are often professionals with years of experience in helping people sell their property and quite often have a huge amount of knowledge and expertise in the local area.

Initial advice

The initial advice an estate agent will offer their client will involve more than just the best price at which to offer the property for sale. They also provide other general advice, including advice on if and how a property should or could be improved before it is offered for sale. For example, a house may be beautiful on the inside, with good sized rooms and many features, but if the outside looks scruffy and run down, it will not get such a good price. The estate agent may advise the client that a bit of tidying up of the outside of the property will improve their chances of a good sale.

Advising on price

The estate agent will use their knowledge of the local area and the housing market, along with the condition of the property to advise the seller of the right price to ask for. For instance, the estate agent may know that there is a high demand for family homes in a certain area because the schools are good. They may, therefore, suggest a higher asking price for just such a family home in that area. They can also advise on whether the seller should include certain fixtures and fittings in the sale.

Advising on method of sale

Apart from sale by private treaty (the most common way of selling a house) or auction, the estate agent may suggest calling for sealed bids from interested parties to be received by a set date. This may be useful if there is a lot of interest in a particular property. The seller can then choose the highest bid, or one that will ensure a quick sales process (eg the buyer does not have a property to sell).

Promoting the sale

Their main role is, of course, to market and sell houses on behalf of their clients. They do this using all of the available methods.

  • Their own website
  • Specialist property website sites eg Rightmove
  • High street branches
  • Printed media
  • Social media etc.

The advertisements, whether in the shop window, the local newspaper or a specialist website will usually include photographs of the property along with a description of the type of property, how many rooms it has, its location and the asking price.

Negotiating the sale

Let’s imagine you are looking for a house in a particular area for you and your family to move to. You spot a ‘For Sale’ sign outside a house that looks just right. What do you do? Well you would contact the agent whose details are on the sign and arrange a viewing.

You view the house and you think it will be just right for you. As the estate agent is the agent of the seller, you need to contact the agent and make an offer. In other words, tell the estate agent how much you are prepared to pay for the house. This may be lower than the asking price and it is part of the estate agent’s role to negotiate between buyer and seller on the price.

Note, however, that in some places making a written unconditional offer for a property means that you are committed to buy it – you can’t change your mind. On example where this is the case is Scotland. Is this the case where you live? If so, extra care is needed and it may be sensible to involve a legal professional at this stage.

Finally, the estate agent will keep an eye on the conveyancing process to ensure it continues to completion. Remember, their job isn’t complete until the house is sold.

Estate agents can do a number of other things too, some of which are actually for the buyer, not the seller, as the following infographic shows.

Additional services performed by estate agentsClick to expand

In many countries, estate agents are not officially regulated. However, many do follow codes of ethics and rules created by independent bodies that act as a form of consumer protection, to help improve the quality of the industry and promote good customer outcomes. Saying this, there are countries that do impose strict ‘regulation’ on the estate agency industry.

© Chartered Insurance Institute
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