Sole agency versus multi agency

Sole agency versus multi agency

By Esther Shaw

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Should you hire one agent to sell your home – or go with multiple agents in the hope of getting a speedier sale? Let's take a look at the pros and cons of sole and multi-agency deals.

When putting your home on the market, you’ll need to decide whether you’d like to sell it with one estate agent or through several agencies. 

Sole agency is where one firm has the exclusive rights to market your home for a fixed period, multi agency is where you get more than one firm to help you sell.

The choice you make will affect the amount you pay in fees and could also potentially have an impact on the amount you receive for your home.

Sole agency is the most common type of estate agent contract, and most people start with this arrangement, but here we take a look at the pros and cons of both.

1. What does sole agency mean?

Sole agency means just one agent acts for you for a certain period. 

They receive all the commission on a sale, but if the property hasn’t sold at the end of this period, you’re free to use other estate agents.

What are the pros of using a sole agent?

The charge is usually between 1-2% for a sole agency agreement, making it a cheaper choice than multi agency. 

The average estate agent fee in the UK is 1.18% + VAT (or 1.42%).

With most estate agents now registering their properties on sites like Zoopla, it's become less necessary to register with multiple agents to gain exposure for yours. 

Agents will sometimes agree to lower their commission with a sole agency agreement, as there's a higher chance they'll make the sale, so it's always worth negotiating on the fee.

Make sure all of the key services are included in the fee when speaking with agents, including photos, floorplans, marketing and managed viewings.

Always choose the 'no sale, no fee' option – estate agents only sell about 50% of the properties on their books - so registering with one doesn't always guarantee a sale.

If you find a buyer yourself privately, there's no commission to pay unless you have agreed sole selling rights with the agent. 

It's an increasingly rare arrangement, but if you have agreed sole selling rights with your agent, you must pay them commission, regardless of who finds the buyer. 

What are the cons of using a sole agent?

Historically you’d receive less exposure than you would with more than one agency. 

However, with most buyers using sites like Zoopla, this is now less of an issue.

You may end up with lower offers than you would with multiple agents.

You will sign up to a ‘lock-in’ period, which can range from four to 12 weeks, meaning it will be hard to switch agents if you’re unhappy.

If you do sell through another agent while still under contract, you could find yourself having to pay commission not only to the agent who sold the property, but also to the original sole agent. 

2. What does multi agency mean?

With multi agency agreements, you can instruct as many agents as you like. They will all act for you at the same time and the one who finds the buyer earns the commission. 

What are the pros of a multi agency agreement?

More agents pushing your property historically used to mean more exposure, but thanks to buyers predominantly using sites such as Zoopla, this is now less pronounced.

You may receive higher offers.

As agents will be competing against each other, this can speed up a sale.

What are the cons of a multi agency agreement?

The fee will be higher, between 2% and 3.5%. On average, it's likely to be around 3%.

All agents will be competing against each other, potentially making the process quite chaotic.

An inherent risk is that some agents may try and get you to accept a lower offer, so they can secure the commission.

As several agents will have keys to your home, the viewing process could be more disruptive.

If buyers see multiple listings for your home with different agents, they may be put off.

Top tips for selling your home

Most people start with sole agency and only move to multiple agents if their property doesn’t sell quickly.

While the normal lock-in period with a sole agent is 12 weeks, shorter periods of six to eight weeks can often be negotiated.

Multi agency may be the better option if the importance of a fast sale outweighs the increase in commission.

Joint agency is another option. 

This is where you instruct two agents, who will come to an agreement over commission. ie. It may be shared irrespective of who finds the buyer. 

It’s a more common option for selling overseas property, when you want to appoint a specialist national agent as well as a generalist local agent. 

The fee for joint agency tends to be around 2%.

To help find the right agent for you, our Find Agents tool features the UK’s most comprehensive directory of estate agents and letting agents to help you with all your property needs.