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How to find the best estate agent for you

Your home is precious. And you’ll want to find someone who sees it the way you do. Here’s how to find the right agent for you.

Words by: Nic Hopkirk

Senior Editor

Your home has been loved, lived in, worked and played in for years. You may have invested a lot of money in it over that time. You may even have had your children while living there.

Someone who can show off all of your home's best assets, how filled with character or super slick it might be, or how the light pours into the kitchen when the world wakes up for that morning cuppa, is essential. 

Thinking of selling?

Get the ball rolling with an in-person valuation of your home. It’s free and there’s no obligation to sell if you change your mind.

Does it matter which estate agent you use?

In a word, yes. You want someone who can see all the best things about your home, just like you can.

You’ll also want someone with plenty of experience when it comes to marketing properties like yours.

Potential buyers will gravitate towards estate agents who sell the type of home they’re interested in, so you’ll need someone who knows your target audience.

If you’re looking to sell a mid-range family home, then a high street estate agent is likely to fit the bill.

If you own a high-end pad, you’ll need an agent with plenty of wealthy contacts.

When you're searching for the right agent, ask yourself:

  • do I have a good rapport with them?

  • can they answer all my questions?

  • will they guide me through the process and take some of the stress away?

  • do they seem confident they can sell my home for the best price?

  • does their valuation match up to what I thought?

  • do they know the area well?

  • have they sold similar houses to mine before?

Track your home's value

  • See how your estimate is changing every month

  • Check how your local area’s performing

  • Explore what’s on the market and what’s sold near you

  • Find out what local agents think you could sell for

Estate agents working together at a desk in an office

Is it best to use a local agent?

Yes. Local agents can really help to sell a home because they’ll know an area inside out and can highlight all of its best bits to potential buyers.

Someone who can talk about the best local latte provider or fry-up serving café, the best local schools, adventure playgrounds or gastropubs is going to go a long way with buyers.

They’re also likely to already have a good pool of potential buyers looking for a property just like yours already on their books.

Having sold similar homes in your neighbourhood, they’ll know precisely how to market yours.

Get a free agent valuation today

How do you evaluate an estate agent?

When choosing an estate agent, try to select a shortlist of three.

Get recommendations from friends, family and neighbours. If you liked the agents who sold your house to you, add them to your list too.

Invite the agents to your home and ask them for a valuation.

Find out:

  • the rate of commission 

  • all the terms of the contract 

  • how quickly these agents sell properties

  • if they usually achieve the asking price

  • if they have experience of selling a property like yours

  • what homes they have for sale on Zoopla: are the pictures clear? Are the descriptions useful and relevant? Do they include floor plans?

  • their viewings policy, including if they'll accompany viewers around your house and if they do viewings at weekends

  • what they'll do if the property takes a while to sell

A couple looking at houses through an estate agent's window

Do I have to pay estate agent fees if I decide not to sell?

That depends on the contract you've signed with the agent. Make sure you check it thoroughly and ask questions if you're unsure of anything. 

Remember, the contract you sign is for a limited period only, so if you decide to find your own buyer or change agents, you can do so once the contract term has come to an end. 

The shortest tie-in period is usually six weeks, but lots of contracts are longer than this.

The only thing you want to avoid is an open-ended contract. They're pretty unusual but they can crop up. An open-ended contract means you'll pay commission to the agent no matter when it sells, even if it's years later.

Generally, if your agent hasn’t managed to find a buyer during the term of the contract, then you won’t need to pay them anything. 

If an estate agent finds a buyer for you and you then pull out of the sale, they may be within their rights to ask you to cover the costs they’ve already incurred.

If you’d agreed to pay the marketing costs for your property for example, for the photos and advertising, you would need to cover those.

Let’s take a look at the kind of contracts available with estate agents. 

Ready, willing and able purchaser

For most people, it's best to avoid these types of contracts.

It means that you pay the estate agent if they find someone who is ready, willing and able to buy your home - rather than if the sale is completed.

So if you change your mind about selling, you would still have to pay the agent's fee.

Sole selling rights

A sole selling rights contract means the estate agent is the only one allowed to sell your home. 

If you managed to find a buyer yourself during the contract term, you would still need to pay your estate agent’s commissioning fee.

Once the contract is ended, you’re free to find your own buyer then.


With a multi-agency contract, you can use as many agents as you like and only pay commission to the one who sells your property. 

Multi-agency contracts can be more expensive, but you’ll have more agents working for you, reaching more potential buyers. 

That could mean higher offers as competition for your home hots up. 

If you know your property is likely to be in demand, it could be a good strategy for a quicker sale.

Sole agency 

Sole agency is where you only list your home with one agency. 

But crucially, if you find your own buyer, you won’t have to pay the estate agent any fees.

Sole agency versus multi agency

Can you take your house off the market after accepting an offer?

In short, yes. As long as you live in England or Wales, the contract isn’t legally binding until you reach the point of exchange.

That said, depending on the type of contract you signed with your estate agent, you may still need to pay their fees, as they have found a buyer for you.

In Scotland, the process is slightly different. A formal offer on a property is put forward by a solicitor, rather than an estate agent.

The seller's solicitor will then write a qualified acceptance letter. So, once your offer has been accepted, you can feel much more secure that the home will be yours.

The buyer's and seller's solicitors then enter into a process of negotiations with formal letters known as 'missives'.

Once the final acceptance letter has been issued, the missives are said to be concluded and the buyer and seller have entered into a legal contract.

Why buying a home in Scotland is different to in England and Wales

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.